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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,397 Ratings
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(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,397
Reviews: 435
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 11.06%
Wants: 160
Gots: 597 | FT: 51
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
Brewmasters Notes:
Inspired by the epic skyline of Chicago, Goose Island's brewers set out to craft Big John; a tall, bold slugger of a stout that stands out vividly against the little soft beers out there. Epic amounts of roasted malt and an addition of cacoa nibs give Big John a massive chocolate flavor and aroma. With a body as substantial and black as the building to which it pays homage, Big John is sure to inspire a sense of awe with each sip.

(Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,397 | Reviews: 435 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of JohnnyChicago
4.15/5  rDev +2%

Split a 22oz bomber; poured into a snifter.

A: Pours nearly black, with just a bit of red around the edges. Light brown head fades and leaves lacing.

S: Rich roasted malts and dark chocolate.

T: The chocolate is very heavy and aggressive in this beer. There is smoke and booziness that continues the flavour.

D: Big and demanding, its a sipper for sure. That being said, it is very complex and balanced for its size.

Overall: Goose Island has made another damn tasty stout! One of the best "liquid chocolate" type beers around. Its aggressive, but rewarding. That being said, if you can get your hands on BCBS instead, drop the extra couple of bucks and buy that.

JohnnyChicago, May 09, 2011
Photo of MrTopher
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%

Got a few of these in a few different trades, this one was served in a Duval Tulip.

A: Dark as night, would call it black but it has a little brown to it, so maybe DARK brown would be a good description. Carbonation was present, but very limited. Small dark down bubbles came to the top, almost no head also. Lacing was decent also.

S: Lots of chocolate and lots of roast, in the back there was a little coffee, but it was limited. Also some spices came also, but they didn’t over power.

T: ROAST, it was a blend of coffee and chocolate. The chocolate was almost dark but has some mingling of milk. Also a little spice from what could be described as pepper. This is very complex and well rounded, only at the end is there alcohol flavor.

M: A little north of medium, not super thick, but still really well executed. Has a oily almost syrup like consistency, wouldn’t call this as thick as Ten-Fidy.

O: This is good, enjoy this. The nibs as a lot to this and make it pretty awesome, just sad well never see it again, and if we do it won’t be purchased because of the present situation of the brewery. Oh well, enjoy them if you got them.

MrTopher, May 09, 2011
Photo of ferrari29
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%

Beer poured from bottle into Snifter glass

A - Pour formed a thin beige colored head; black colored body; good color; plenty of visible carbonation

S - Licorice; chocolate and some coffee; roasted malts and smoky scents; pleasant; subtle hints of spices like coriander

T - Coffee and chocolate; smooth earthy taste of roasted malts; slight touch of caramel; raisins

M - Thick/viscous; soapy rinse and slightly effervescent; great flavor; perfect blend of stout ingredients; well-balanced tastes and aromas

D - I love this drink; would highly recommend to others; would be fantastic with desserts

ferrari29, May 09, 2011
Photo of beerhan
4.15/5  rDev +2%

22 oz Bottle poured into two snifters

A-Pours a very black color with little to no head. There is some brown lacing but not much. Does not appear very thick but is quite opaque.

S-Not the most aromatic beer but does smell a decent amount like dark chocolate. There is some licorice or some sort of candy that comes through but its not that strong.

T-Very chocolatey, but not at all creamy. A very bitter but not too hoppy stout. Very different from the hop forward aspect of night stalker, instead of the hop forward you have a cocoa forward. I am kind of reminded of a hot chocolate made with dark chocolate. There is also almost some fruit flavors coming through with a little licorice and toffee. Quite good overall.

M-Very nice carbonation and rather light bodied for being as big a beer as this is. I think that the alcohol may mellow a little with age but nonetheless it is quite drinkable.

O-I was very impressed with this beer. I think it holds its own against the other Goose Island stouts by being the most tame of them all and frankly I think this would make a better 4 pack than a bomber. It is very drinkable but not by yourself. The alcohol is also a little too noticeable at times.

beerhan, May 09, 2011
Photo of zep9865
3.98/5  rDev -2.2%

Poured into New Belgium snifter. Pours like motor oil with a hint of brown in this beer's dark hue. Complemented with a nice one finger cocoa foam head

Smells of dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and toffee. Whether or not you thought you could taste the alcohol, the smells gives it away anyway

Tastes like the 70 percent cocoa chocolate that you eat with red wine...plus 11.5 percent alcohol in slightly carbonated form.

The wonderful chocolately beginning of the beer segues quickly into a malty, dry finish. The notability of alcohol in this beer reduces it to a sipper for some.

This beer is superb. Goose Island makes legitimate bombers and this is no exception. Russian imperial stouts have really grown on me, and Big John is a solid effort from Goose

zep9865, May 09, 2011
Photo of scanny79
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Appearance: Very dark, think black oil look too it. Seemed to pour thick and left about a 2 finger dark tan head to it. No light penetrated the glass when held to the light.

Smell: Almost seemed to have a hint of liquid smoke sense to it, not overwheming tho. A sweeter molases smell could be there as well.

Taste: This is the first time I have tried Big John. I was surprised at the first taste that there was a lack of the sweetness I have heard and read about. Had a stronger taste of "smoke", but not nearly as bad as some other beers I have tried. It does leave a nice coffee aftertaste in my mouth even if not recently taken a drink.

Mouthfeel: It is smooth like other reviews have said. It had some carbonation to it, a little more than I was expecting. Fairly nice over all.

Overall: I really like the Stout style of beers. Big John didn't totally disappoint, but I did have some big expectations for it to live up to. B. John is definetly drinkable and re-drinkable, but when it comes to the dark thick beers, I'll still take a Darkness anyday of the week. Good beer however. Definetly worth a shot.

scanny79, May 09, 2011
Photo of AmericanGothic
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%

Poured from a bottle into a Unibroue tulip.

A: Very dark brown, totally opaque. Minimal tan head, good retention and some lace.

S: Chocolate and roasted malts. Good, but not strong. Touch of banana pokes through from time to time. Towards the end, the alcohol itself comes forth.

T: Roasted malt, vinous pepper/alcohol, and semi-sweet chocolate. Great! Complexity is low but the flavors are true. As the beer warms, a whisper of smokey licorice joins in.

M: Heavy enough, but not too much. Smooth and slightly oily/syrupy. About half way through, it develops some creaminess that is very nice.

O: Not as good as the BCBS, but still very good. I'll be grabbing a few more from the store before they disappear; I suspect they will age for a little while. Try it if you can.

AmericanGothic, May 09, 2011
Photo of yeahnatenelson
3.58/5  rDev -12%

Appearance -- Pours a deep, dark brown with chestnut highlights and a creamy tan ring about the glass.

Smell -- Very rich and roasted: roast malt, burnt toast, dark fruits, burnt raw sugars. There's definitely alcohol in the aroma, but not harsh or medicinal. Overall, sweet and roasted.

Taste -- Dominant flavor characteristics are of roast malt, burnt bread crusts, and burnt sugars. Additional malt-derived flavors of figs and anisettes. Not much detectable hop flavor.

Mouthfeel -- Full-bodied, moderate carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but no sharp burning. Solid.

Overall -- My first question is: where is the cocoa?? The flavor profile is totally dominated by burnt sugars and anise - no chocolatey goodness to be had. I guess this is the closest I'll get to a proper Cook County Stout. Good, if slightly underwhelming.

yeahnatenelson, May 08, 2011
Photo of Duff27
3.68/5  rDev -9.6%

A- One inch mocha head atop a dark brown/black beer. No lacing, decent head retention.

S- Dark chocolate. I smell bourbon for some reason??

T- Can taste the cocoa nibs and for whatever reason seems to have a hint of bourbon, who knows? A little heat but not intolerable.

M- Very vicisous, smooth.

D/O- A middle of the road sipper. Most will want to split with a friend or two. Thanks a lot PTMcB!

Duff27, May 08, 2011
Photo of shawnp
4.5/5  rDev +10.6%

Bomber poured into a duvel. 4/25/2011

A: Ink black pour with a small deep tan head. There wasn't much lacing or retention during consumption

S: In my opinion, Big John has a nice aroma to it, very sugary, sweet chocolate and black liquorish. A minute amount of molasses hidden in there.

T: Thick but smooth. The taste is very similar to the aroma for me with a small amount of coffee on the back end.

M: Smooth and low carbonation with a mid range alcohol burn.

O: I really enjoyed this brew from GI. I am not huge into Russians but I think Big John was very good.

shawnp, May 07, 2011
Photo of tewaris
3.65/5  rDev -10.3%

Pours silky and dark with a small brown head. Sub-par retention and lacing, but forgivable. Dark brown highlights are seen.

Not a whole lot going on in terms of aroma -- the typical stout aroma with ample amount of alcohol, but not harsh. Smells sweet and perhaps too much so because of the alcohol.

Not a huge fan of the taste either: this one seems a lot like BCS in terms of its shortcomings, without any of the awesomeness that BCS brings to the table. Still, quite "rich" with a strong dark fruit acidity (think raisins) and substantial roast. It should be noted that the roast is still way less than your average RIS, and I don't resent it.

Mouthfeel is a killer -- silky, smooth, coating and low on the carbonation. Overall, I wasn't as impressed as I was with Nightstalker, that is vastly underrated IMO.

tewaris, May 07, 2011
Photo of badboyrsl84
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

Pours a black as night with a beautiful tan head

Smell - tons or raisins but with a further investigation I get some super dark chocolate and a hint of alcohol.

Taste - follows the nose really well. The raisins are upfront with a follow of that dark chocolate. The raisins are big as it warms but in the end it's the coco nibs that pulls through. The finish is amazing lots of throat lacing chocolate that leaves me wanting more.

Mouthfeel - its very well balanced with a little alcohol burn in the end but the 11.5% abv burn.

Overall - a very very good beer I'd love to have a couple glasses of. I'd like to see how the taste would play out with some age to this. Solid all the way around.

badboyrsl84, May 06, 2011
Photo of AnPiobaire
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

I poured this brew from a 22 oz bottle into a tulip glass at about 56 degrees. The bottle was dated 3/25/11. I know I should let this age some but I have been wanting to try this for awhile.

Big John poured a viscous deep dark brown/black with thin dark khaki colored head.

The smell is earthy and of roasted malts with notes of cocoa and some subtle floral notes.

The taste is very nice and balanced with the beginning taste of roasted malts and cocoa to a deeper choclatey note that I can only equate to my childhood when I would take a spoonful of Bosco chocolate syrup while making a chocolate milk. It has very subtle similarities to that taste. It then fades to a hoppy bitter dry and clean finish.

The mouthfeel is thick and chewy with a nice warming affect from the alcohol.

Overall this is a very nice example of a stout and surely one that I will look to stock up on, when I see them around. I can't wait to taste this again after a year or so of aging on it. Enjoy!!!

AnPiobaire, May 06, 2011
Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%

A: The beer is nearly jet black in color—some traces of amber are visible near the edges of the glass when it is held up to the light. It poured with a finger high tan head that slowly died down but did not completely fade away.
S: Sweet aromas of roasted malts are present in the nose along with notes of chocolate and raisins.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell, although the strength of the flavors is slightly stronger. Raisins stand out in particular; there are some hints of bitterness towards the finish.
M: It feels very full-bodied, somewhat smooth and has a light to moderate amount of carbonation. A bit of dryness is present in the finish.
O: The beer is very drinkable considering its strength because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste. There’s no way that I could drink more than one of these in a night because it’s filling and the alcohol will soon catch up with you.

metter98, May 06, 2011
Photo of ne0m00re
3.73/5  rDev -8.4%

04/21/11- Review of a 22 oz bottle bottled 03/25/11 2017.
A: opaque black with a strong caramel head and lacing.
S: WHiskey alcohol, pleasantly smokey chocolate, raisins, and a slight green hops.
T: Sweet chocolate with a smoked wood character, acidic coffee, obvious whiskey alcohol... decent.
M: Thicker and syrupy with some crisp alcohol and frothiness.
O: OK.

ne0m00re, May 06, 2011
Photo of dimenhetfield
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%

750ml bottle shared with some friends. This was very much like Bourbon County, but with the twist of the added cacao nibs. Thick and dark, boozy and chocolately. A slow sipper for sure. It was a great beer but sort of wore me down a bit. I might search this one out again and let it sit for a while

dimenhetfield, May 06, 2011
Photo of ngeunit1
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

A - Pours a dark black color with just some slight brown hues and a finger of frothy brown head. The head fades down to a thin ring with some spots of lace.

S - Aroma is full of tons of sweet chocolate and malt. Also some coffee and a ton of roasted notes. Really potent.

T - Starts off with a lot of rich slightly sweet chocolate flavors and lots of roasted flavor. Also has some dark fruit flavor in there. Through the middle, some oak and sweeter dark fruit flavor. The finish gains a bit of coffee flavor and bitterness and some booze that lingers.

M - Full bodied with low carbonation. Really thick and creamy. Alcohol flavor warms the mouth a bit, especially at the finish. Overall, bold but still smooth.

D - Pretty drinkable. Super bold flavors make this a bit more of a sipper (as well as the 11.5% abv), but there is a lot to enjoy. Lots of chocolate flavor from start to end really goes well with the imperial stout base.

ngeunit1, May 06, 2011
Photo of Mavajo
4.63/5  rDev +13.8%

I believe this is the same base beer as Nightstalker and BCS -- so it's no surpise that it looks much like either of those beers. Dark body with a brown head.

Aroma is nice subtle cocoa, roasted barley, etc. Good, not great -- but then the taste comes in. Definitely great! Delicious -- nice powedered cocoa taste with big roasty malt. The roastiness is done exceptionally well. It doesn't leave you feeling parched or dry-mouthed like many heavily-roasted beers do (like Yeti, for example).

Mouthfeel is spot-on. Thick body, good carbonation.

This is really an exceptional imperial stout. Delicious.

Mavajo, May 05, 2011
Photo of SkunkWorks
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%

22 oz bottle, shared with my girlfriend, poured into a Southampton Imperial Russian Stout release day snifter after we let it warm from the refrigerator temperature for about 15 minutes. I was torn as to whether to drink this fresh or age it, but I thought since it was aged on cacao nibs that I would drink it fresh to get the full cacao effect.

Look: an aggressive pour yields no head other than a thin layer of deep reddish brown bubbles along the sides of the glass and a bit of a bubble slick on the top of the beer. The bubbles stick around for a long time and don't leave behind lacing, though some bubbles stick to the sides of the glass for a few seconds in a quasi-lacing experience. The black bodied beer looks thick as could be when pouring it and no light gets through. Good looking imperial stout.

Smell: roasted barley, molasses, alcohol, hints of chocolate and coffee. Truthfully, much more subdued than I expected it to be. Still, fairly good.

Taste: heavy roasted malt flavor, alcohol, a bit of alcohol soaked dark fruit, and a little bit of vanilla. The chocolate taste is incredibly subdued and I have a hard time finding anything that the cacao nibs would've imparted. Its good, though not as complex as I would've liked and not as chocolatey either.

Feel: full bodied, thick like motor oil, smooth and silky, with a slight warming effect from the alcohol. Very slight carbonation, just barely enough to remind you that this is a beer and not a port wine. The mouthfeel on this one is perhaps the best part. Drinkability wise, its a sipper.

Overall: a good imperial stout but nothing really stands out about this one. It tastes like a less complex Bourbon Brand County Stout, owed to the lack of barrel aging, and the cacao nibs really didn't add anything that I could taste. Still, a fairly good imperial stout and worth a try... but not worth going nuts over. Cheers!

SkunkWorks, May 05, 2011
Photo of AlCaponeJunior
4.53/5  rDev +11.3%

Nice looking, diesel motor oil black with a creamy brown head with some staying power and fair lacing.

Smelled and tasted wonderful! Quite fruity actually for a big stout, with lovely cocoa and milk chocolate, along with tons of roasted malts and a bit of coffee.

Feel was simply spectacular! So rich, so thick, so creamy, the full body was accented with a great lingering lightly bitter chocolate aftertaste.

Drinks fantastic too. I'll always be looking for this one when it comes around again.

AlCaponeJunior, May 05, 2011
Photo of Lerxst
4.47/5  rDev +9.8%

Much thanks to LockeSD for this one! A very generous extra he provided.

A-Pours black with a half a finger of coffee colored head that has fair retention and leaves spotty lace. Very viscous, I hate to use the old simile, but it pours like used motor oil.

S-Chocolate and booze hit me first then some nice roasted malt notes come in along with hints of coffee. Smells very decadent.

T-Huge chocolate notes, a bit boozy (I'm liking it), roasted malt, coffee, dark fruit. If I didn't know better, I'd think some Hershey's syrup was put in my glass without my knowing. I like chocolate flavors in stouts and this one isn't as sweet as ST Choklat, but it is one of the more chocolatey ones I've had.

M-Viscous, thick, coating, full bodied.

O-I really liked this beer. Its a sipper for sure, but every sip was a pleasure. If you like "dessert" beers, this one should be right up your alley, but if you don't enjoy the sweeter/more chocolatey brews, pass on this one.

Lerxst, May 05, 2011
Photo of DNICE555
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%

Picked up at B Deccicio’s. That store is gangster.

Motor oil body with a tan head that fades very quickly.

Smells of chocolates, roasted grain, coffee, and caramel.

I didn’t want to cellar this one too long and have the chocolate fade on me. The cocoa was rich and delicious. Right amount of bitterness in there with the coffee and hops to balance out the chocolate and sweetness.

Thick and cream. I Ran a lot less hot than their other stouts.

Very tasty overall. I drank it pretty quickly for the abv… yet it was thick and creamy enough to savor.

DNICE555, May 03, 2011
Photo of DoubleSimcoe
4.03/5  rDev -1%

Goose Island Big John, bomber bought at New Beer Distributors in Manhattan for $10 (I was paying for my beer purchases and saw a bottle of Big John displayed on the window with a note, "$10, limit one per customer; I had to buy one).

Cool, sleek bottle design, with what appears to be a diamond-shaped window of a Modernist building in Chicago (maybe the John Hancock, or a Mies design). I love that this stout is inspired by "the epic skyline of Chicago".

Bottled on March 25 2011, Bottle number 1950.

Appearance: Served in my Sierra snifter, it pours thick and demonically black with barely a brownish tone around the glass. Huge two-finger head that doesn't last. Absolutely no lacing!

Smell: Wood, stable, horse piss, chocolate. Spice, booze. Sugar. This smells like a farm-to-table restaurant and gourmet Middle-America.

Taste: More chocolate, this time in liquid form and mixed with milk. A tad of wood and bourbon and heat follow. A subtle-but-firm bitterness prickles the tongue and lingers in the mouth at the end of the sip. Very heavy feeling all around, but not overtly sweet or chocolaty like others have noticed.

Mouthfeel: Full body and flavor, very low carbonation. Sweet, thick, chocolaty. It could wear you out if you let it warm up too much. Alcohol is not too prominent, even though it comes with a shot of heat. Finishes woodsy and dry, slightly bitter.

Overall: A nice Imperial Stout, not super great or earth-shattering but very enjoyable. Could use more carbonation and "oomph"/excitement, but it works good as it is.

DoubleSimcoe, May 03, 2011
Photo of ShogoKawada
2.68/5  rDev -34.2%

22oz into bell's pint.

A- Fantastic pour- deep brown/black body, tons of tiny brown bubbles form a nice thick oatmeal cookie colored head that settles quickly. Minimal lacing. Great color.

S- Pretty heavy chocolate cake and coffee. Nice, inviting aroma.

T- Very chocolatey, some dark fruit. Very sweet, chocolate syrup and then some. Mild coffee. The flavors aren't off... they're just overbearing. This has the dreaded triple bock/dark lord sweet sludge taste/mouthfeel combo going on. Not a fan.

M- Thick, syrupy, too sweet. More carbonation needed.

O- Eh. Meh. Not worth the price. Would not buy again regardless of the price, actually. Doubt I'll have a 2nd glass.


ShogoKawada, May 03, 2011
Photo of Blanco
3.55/5  rDev -12.8%

dark black typical stout color with weak brown head. moderate lacing appears on the glass however, in a clear film reminiscent of wine lacing. big malt smell, along with molasses and a touch of chocolate, although faint. taste is bitter upfront, slightly hot, with more sweet molasses than chocolate. thick motor oil mouthfeel. this is my first goose island stout. It's decent, but not the best double I've had. Hides the alcohol well despite the ABV, but that's really the best thing going for it.

Blanco, May 02, 2011
Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,397 ratings.