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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

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1,500 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,500
Reviews: 443
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 167
Gots: 594 | FT: 52
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:
Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011

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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,500 | Reviews: 443
Photo of Gushue3
3.63/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A- looks black in my plastic cup. No head but a little lacing left on the side.

S- cocoa and rich malt. Thats all in really getting from this one.

T- same as the nose. Chocolate and smoke are definately in the front and most dominant

M- thick mouthfeel with lower ammount of carbonation. Goes down pretty well.

O- nice stout has nice chocolate and smoke. Other than that pretty one dimentional stout.

Photo of dcloeren
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured as dark as the chicago night in "Adventures in Babysitting"! 2 fingers of foamy tan head

Smells like a dark chocolate/ milk chocolate malted milkshake with some booze slipped in there like a naughty Dairy Queen employee making a mudslide on the downlow to enjoy the late night shift

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, coffee and borderline burnt malt. Very delicious to say the least

Full bodied, adequately carbonated, chewy and then some! Great dark chocolate bitter aftertaste.

This beer is the exact opposite of a try hard. Its a delicious full bodied excellent tasting stout without trying to do to much. This beer has taken some serious hits on this site and I think that people are just hype crazy on here and rate based on that. I will openly except anyones bottles of BIG JOHN today! I wish I had more bottles!

Photo of amphion1065
3.16/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks to vande for this bottle, which was in short supply in Boston. Bomber poured into a tulip.

Thick, thick pour that's black as could be, with a two-finger mocha head. The appearance is very reminiscent of BCBS, with a slightly bigger head that leaves some very nice lacing on the glass.

The smell is quite sweet and fruity. Prunes, raisins, dates, and a hint of banana are all in the nose. This is a very sweet aroma, and though I can't say I detect much chocolate there's plenty of toffee and caramel.

Those cocoa nibs certainly come through in the taste. Plenty of bittersweet chocolate here, with a full complement of dark fruits as well. That said, there's a distracting harsh bitterness that overpowers this sweetness. The hop profile is somewhat similar to Nightstalker, though not quite as pronounced. It definitely lasts though, and absolutely detracts from the overall flavor of the beer. As it warms, there's some alcohol heat that adds to the unpleasantness.

The mouthfeel is the strongest part of this for me: thick and creamy, and the carbonation is spot-on. This is pretty close to chocolate syrup.

At this stage, Big John seems a little young. It's not terribly hot, but the flavors seem disjointed - it could have used some more time in the bottle. As it stands, this is a pretty middle of the road imperial stout.

Photo of kawilliams81
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a 16 oz snifter.

A- Jet black with small tan head, and some lacing.

S- Cocoa, molasses, licorice, and a hint of vanilla.

T- Sweet chocolate, with just a little dark fruits? A nice bitterness comes through near the end and finish.

M- Thick and creamy with a slight alcohol bite at the finish.

O- A good imperial stout. Like the sweetness with the thick mouthfeel and abv content. Cocoa nibs are a nice addition to this beer.

Photo of generalnotsew
3.96/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Extremely thick oil sludge chug pour. 2 finger creamy chocolate milk head with a jet black body. First thing I smell is sweet, sweet chocolate followed by chocolate covered raisins and plum. Has a pinch of roastiness to it. Could be a bit stronger all around. Has a LOT of burnt, roasty characters in the flavor. Very bitter coffee on the end. Sweetness is downplayed a lot except for the first taste. On the second drink I really do get a lot of creamy dark chocolate that ventures closer to milk chocolate territory. Twist in some dark fruit and there you have it. Mouthfeel is creamy and chewy as anything I ever had. It is very smooth and rich. But yikes this beer is HOT on the throat! Almost feels like a shot of whiskey was dropped in it. Pretty good brew that most likely needs some time to lay down and chill a bit. I say hold off for now.

Photo of Spider889
3.01/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle opened at our Goose Island stout tasting on 5/7/11, this one is thanks to MbpBugeye I believe.

Looks similar to Night Stalker. Thick, dark, with a short toffee colored head. Perhaps a little thinner than Night Stalker actually.

Smells sweet. Boozy alcohol provides some harsh dark fruit aromas, while all of the chocolate just adds more unnecessary sweetness. The roasty grains do poke through, and it doesn't smell unpleasant, just unbalanced. Also some vanilla and char in the aroma.

The taste was very disappointing, especially after all of the hype surrounding the initial release of this beer. The cocoa doesn't add much chocolate flavor for me, but rather just sweetness. this tastes like sweetened, aged Night Stalker.

Carbonation was too low imo, this seemed thinner and less carbed than Night Stalker to me.

Overall I wasn't impressed. I have a bottle aging, maybe it will improve in a few years... I really hope so at least.

Photo of Mississipping
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours completely black with almost no head. A thick brown ring and patchy film remain for most of the glass. Decent lacing is left behind after each sip.

S: Lots of chocolate ... delicious baker's chocolate, not too sweet and not too bitter. More subtle dark fruit and roasted malt are behind the chocolate, but are both fairly subtle. Missing a little complexity, but what's there is really pretty nice.

T: Again, lots of chocolate, almost fudgey. Dark fruit (fig, plum, slight cherry) are present, but they're on the subtle side. Slightly roasty, but that characteristic is quite toned down too. It's really tasty, but somewhat one-dimensional. On the other hand, though, it's nice that this is different from most of the other GI stouts.

M: Pretty thick, and slightly chewy. Soft carbonation provides just a little life and creates a gentle, smooth, creaminess. Slightly drying at the finish. Booze is hidden quite well.

O: Again, it seem one-diminutional, but it's a different experience from the other big GI stouts. Would like to have seen a bit more complexity, but the chocolate characteristic is certainly there, and is very delicious.

Photo of AgentZero
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Black beer, dark brown head that didn't really rise up to anything. No stick on the sides.

S - Tons of chocolate on this one, with a little bit of roast, molasses, and char.

T - Taste is really in line with the nose. Lots of cocoa and chocolate, roast, char and molasses. Some booze cuts through the sweetness.

M - Little carbonation bite on the end. Full bodied.

O - Not a bad beer, but nothing overly complex, and not fantastic by any means. Had this on tap as well, felt about the same as I do now.

Photo of Gtreid
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber poured into my CCB snifter.

A: Jet black. Pretty typical for an imperial stout. A small tan head appears, fades to a thin rim and retains well. No lace to speak of.

A: Chocolate all the way. Dark, milk, bitter chocolate, with slight notes of dark fruit and small bittering hops.

T: Taste is chocolate all the way as well. I can't tell if the small bitterness is from hops or from bitter chocolate. Really no depth of flavor here, it is what it is, a chocolate assult on the palate.

M: Decent levels of carbonation, and on the lighter side of full body.

O: I knew this wasn't going to be a complex example of the style going into it. Pretty one dimentional, but I think they do that one dimention pretty well. I liked it, and would have again. Not world class by any means, but worth the try. Skal.

Photo of pitasoup
3.95/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

thanks to neorunner for this bottle.

A: pours pitch black, perhaps the faintest of light coming through the edge when held to the light - about as dark as it gets here. very little tan head that disappeared immediately. this flowed like sludge, the thickness very reminiscent of bcbs.

S: chocolate, sweet sweet chocolate. cocoa nibs i guess but otherwise i'm not getting much else. barley sweetness and a touch of fusel alcohols.

T: dark chocolate, toffee, then some hop bitterness. this reminds me of kbs without the barrels. vanilla, anise, and barley come through as well. molasses and sweetness at the end, almost cloyingly so. the alcohol is certainly present, but sufficiently masked by what should only be described as chocolate syrup.

M: thick full body. hot on the tongue and warming as this sips. everything you'd expect from a big stout.

O: going to recap the bomber for tomorrow night. a slooow sipper at best.

Photo of axeman9182
4.19/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one was on tap at the Rattle n Hum for their Goose Island event 6/21 and served in an 8oz goblet.

Big John pours a standard solid stout black. There's but a faint wisp of tan foam capping the beer, and as a result, neither any head retention nor lacing are to be found. The nose is a straight up dark chocolate bomb. For the life of me I can't find a suggestion of any aroma that doesn't scream chocolate. The nose is good, but it's a one trick pony, and that keeps it from being truly great. There's a mild bit of roast that shows up in the flavor, and that keeps things interesting, but overall the beer is just about as chocolate heavy on my palate as it is in the nose. That roast does liven things up a little bit, which is only to the beer's credit, but god damn if it still isn't easily the most chocolaty beer I've ever had. The body is full and quite rich, though restrained enough that that and the quiet, yet present carbonation keep the beer from turning into chocolate syrup in my glass. I'm surprised that I will have scored Nightstalker higher than Big John, as I definitely prefer the cocoa nib treatment of the BCS base beer, but I guess I have to chalk that up to refining my palate and becoming more particular in my scoring over time. Bottom line is that Big John is a great beer, and one that I hope becomes a regular part of Goose Island's lineup.

Photo of NODAK
3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Aroma is quite chocolatey...a pretty roasted dark chocolate maltiness. Definitely some thick molasses sweetness too. Rather thick.

Pours midnight black with a small dark brown head.

Mouthfeel is incredibly viscous...as thick as any beer I've had. Like a cream, really. Body is certainly full of a monstrously sweet chocolate malt and molasses sweetness, tempered by a roasted chocolate malt note in the background. At the finish, the roaste helps finish the beer off with a slight bitterness. A small lingering note of coffee/roast hangs around after the swallow.

It's like a meal of a beer, really. Quite a thick beer, and tasty as well.

Photo of GbVDave
3.97/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into three snifters. Thanks to pops and HeatherAnn for the assist!

Bottled: 03/25/11

A: Pretty typical pour of GI's big stouts except this one generated barely any head. It had ample carbonation, but the foam was wafer thin and disappeared immediately.

S: Big roasty malt with gentle aromas of cocoa, dark chocolate, and a tiny bit of green hops. Smells a lot like aged Nightstalker.

T: As it warms the cocoa and chocolate become more pronounced. Tastes a lot like aged Nightstalker.

M: Big and slick and slightly cloying. Hmmmm. Could've used more in the way of some spicy bitterness from hops or alcohol or something. Not bad at all, just...

O: Is this year old Nightstalker? No, year old Nightstalker is a lot better. Hopefully this will evolve a bit.

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tasting notes from 6/18/11. Thanks to korguy123 for this bottle.
Poured in to Duvel tulip.

A - Dark brown/black colour with half a finger of medium brown head that slowly dissipated.

S - Cocoa, bitterness, sweet molasses, roasted malts. Very bold and robust overall nose.

T - Bittersweet cocoa, intense licorice, sweet molasses and dark fruit. A touch hot but that seems to nicely balance out the sweetness.

M - Medium to full body; thick and chewy at times. Light to moderate carbonation.

O - An excellent imperial stout. I loved this one.

Photo of nova009
3.61/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bomber into a snifter

A- pours a pitch black reminiscent of motor oil, a small mocha colored head appears and quickly dissipates down to a brown ring, small bubble stream to the surface, leaves a decent amount of lace behind, looks really nice

S- not the kind of nose one would usually expect out of an imperial stout, roasted and chocolate malt are pretty standard, this is much sweeter smelling than im used to, some vanilla, Im getting dark fruits as well which is surprsing, burnt sugar comes to mind as well, the boozy alcohol hits the nose harder than i would have liked, not sure how i feel about this so far

T- the falvor is pretty close to the nose, chocolate and cocoa bring in the front, sweetened out by vanilla notes and i think caramel as well, a lot sweeter than i am used to, im getting roasted coffee in the later sips, the dark fruits add an odd tanginess to brew, the alcohol is present but its not overwhelming like in the nose, not sure if this is a great combination

M- oddly enough this big 11.5% ABV beer has a medium body, slightly chewy, low carbonation works well with it, smooth and creamy even though the body lacks, slight alcohol burn that warms you nicely

D- overall this is a decent beer, def not my favorite from GI considering the standards set by Night Stalker and BCS, a little sweet for my taste, the dark fruits leave a weird taste in your mouth that doesnt quite fit, not bad but i probably wont run back for this one

Photo of klewis
2.67/5  rDev -34.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

A: Pours a solid black with a bubbly, tan head. Brief sustain and light lacing.

S: A big malt aroma with a soft, gentle roastiness. Caramel and light vanilla aromas.

T: Malty and quite sweet - almost cloying. Molasses dominates the palate followed by honey and burnt cocoa. Missing any substantial roasted character that might balance the sweetness.

M: Full-bodied with light carbonation. Smooth.

D: A pretty big miss by GI. Little evidence of the cacao nibs and well outside of the typical flavor profile for a big stout. Perhaps some time on the shelf will benefit this one, but now - it's a chore.

Photo of Daniellobo
4.32/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Rich, hefty, and thick chocolate laden stout.

Presentation: 22 oz brown capped bottle. Simple black and grey silver design with an angled geometrical pattern making a reference to SOM's John Hanckok tower in Chicago. Side notes with bottling date, (03/25/11 1658) and dedicated glassware. Notes Alc. by Vol. (11.5%) Served in a snifter.

A - Black pour with small dark brown-ruby edges, short brown frothy head. Average to small retention with almost non-existent lacing.

S - Chocolate sense over boozy malt, faint hint of coffee. Characteristic sweet roastness with the chocolate growing in intensity as it moves.

T - Outstanding roasted notes, nice lingering bitterness, coffee is a hint as well, and then the chocolate shines, softer at first and taking full control in the end embracing the bitter touch with a nice roasted malty support.

M - Full body, creamy and thick, lasting palate with little but adequate carbonation, and a warming finish.

O - Rich hefty sipper. It grows on the palate as it progresses with a distinct Goose Island stout sense.

Notes: Nice twist with the base of their rich stouts BCS style, without the barrel aging. Logically the bourbon notes are absent and instead a chewy chocolate sense grows and permeates the palate nicely as it progresses. Pity about the way that this released come in such a limited, and hype ridden vibe. I like it but still would stick to the standard BCS. Wondering about how that merger with the big macro will affect their production. On a personal level, and for a variety of reasons, I'm not too big a fan of the building that the brew makes reference to. But that is another story…

Photo of mdaschaf
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Review from notes.

A: Pours incredibly black with a one finger dark tan head. Some lacing forms, but dissolves rather quickly.

S: Dark roasted malt, a good bit of dark chocolate, and hints of vanilla and coffee.

T: Chocolatey for sure, but was expecting a bit more, was hoping for a fudgy brownie, but instead got a plain hershey bar. Not bad, just not amazing. Also some roasted malt, vanilla, coffee, and a bit of sugary sweetness.

M: Medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation. Slight heat from the alcohol.

O: Pretty good, but not the chocolate monster I was expecting. Have another bottle in the cellar and will revisit it sooner than later.

Photo of beerprovedwright
3.7/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours like liquid tar, black like used motor oil. One finger head of dense foam of light brown color. Moderate cling from the lace. The color of this brew is the black hole, I held it up to a strong light and still no light passed through it. It is a 40 on the SRM beer color chart. Complex smell, with aroma of chocolate, vanilla, caramel, wimpy coffee, banana, and oatmeal. The taste is much like the smell reveals, with flavors of semi sweet chocolate, molasses, vanilla, caramel, watered down French roast coffee, banana, and something close to whole wheat bread. Good mouthfeel, it is full, and creamy, but lacks just a little in zing, with a bit of drying in the back of my throat, will I guess that would be expected with the amount of alcohol. This beer has a good taste and a wonderful warming effect from the massive amount of alcohol in this bomber. I would have another, but I can't find my butt with both hands. Maybe not perfect, but a must try.

Photo of dirtylou
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle, split

from mental notes

appearance: served in an oversized snifter, big ebony body, creamy chocolate head with moderate retention

smell: huge roasty aroma, very dark chocolate, licorice, smoke

taste: extremely rich - liquified dark chocolate, burnt malts, dark roasted coffee, licorice, espresso. Too much of a good thing - lacks balance and complexity

mouthfeel: big and rich

overall: good, but definitely the worst of the GI imperial stout line

Photo of colt45n
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a pure black color no light light at all! slight brown fluffy head which is hard to get.

S: The chocolate nibs are definitely present getting mostly dark chocolate in the nose.

T: The chocolate is what I am getting mostly very creamy mouthful, there is a little bitter hops in the back.

Overall a good stout offering loving the chocolate upfront.

Photo of bsp77
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Snifter. Bottled on March 25, 2011.

Appearance: Pitch black with large initial brown head that leaves some light lacing.

Smell: Molasses, soy sauce and booze. Chocolate is pretty light.

Taste: Chocolate is certainly more noticeable in the taste, but this is still driven by molasses, soy sauce and booze. Light indiscriminate hops at the finish. Little one dimensional.

Feel: Velvety smooth and creamy, but the finish is a little off. Very warming.

Overall: Nice and smooth Imperial Stout, but a little disappointing considering what Goose Island is capable of.

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.57/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottled on 3/25/11.

Pours an opaque black with a small 1/2 inch head that fades to an oily cap. Small legs of lace drip back down into the remaining beer. Smells of chocolate syrup, vanilla, dark malt, and interestingly enough I get a distinct banana aroma. Taste is of sweet chocolate syrup, vanilla notes, and roasted malts. The sweetness is extremely cloying. Very low carbonation with a very thick and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer but it's extremely sweet and sticky.

Photo of prototypic
3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big John pours an onyx color. Looks pitch black. No light cutting through at all. Very ominous…and impressive. Unfortunately, there were only a few mocha colored bubbles that collected on the top. Just enough to cover the surface. It disappeared quickly, leaving trace amounts of lace behind. Love the color though.

The nose is alright. It kicks off with a healthy amount of chocolate malt. Cocoa is definitely noted, but it also smells quite sweet and sugary. Roasted malts and light coffee follow. There’s a host of secondary scents – dark fruit, molasses, caramel, vanilla bean, black licorice, and a bit of a burnt smell. It really is quite the mix. Alcohol is a little stronger in the mix than it should be. Smells boozy. I’m hopeful it’s a little less apparent in flavor.

The flavor is pretty good. It’s actually quite consistent with the nose. Chocolate, caramel, and roasted malts kick it off. The chocolate variety features a little cocoa, but it seems to be masked by the sweet presence of caramel and milk chocolate. It is very sweet and sugary. A little too sweet, if you ask me. Secondary flavors include a little coffee, tangy dark fruit, molasses, and licorice. It has a slight burnt flavor, but it’s very subtle. Alcohol is definitely noted in flavor. It’s a little boozy and runs just a tad warm. Finishes with a sweet combo of caramel and chocolate.

Big John, incidentally, has a medium body. It’s not quite as full and chewy as it probably should be. Edit: warming helps a little. Light carbonation helps to smooth it out some, but more body is needed. In any event, it’s still a sipper. The alcohol certainly lends to its ‘big’ stature moreso than the body.

Big John is an okay release from Goose Island. It’s not bad. But, given the loft status of Night Stalker and Bourbon County Stout (and its variations), I knew Big John probably would not live up to its siblings. It most definitely does not. I’m not a fan of the tangy dark fruit presence. There’s also the overly strong alcohol, very sweet flavor, and deficient body. That all probably makes it sound worse than it really is. I’m probably being hard on it because Goose Island has done a wonderful job with its other stouts. For what it's worth, it's pretty good. Not great, but not bad either.

Photo of Adrianized
3.56/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

Pitch black.  One finger creamy tan head with good retention and nice lacing.

Nose is boozy, molasses, licorice, dark fruit, and strong roasted malt.  Smells tasty.

Taste is mostly roasted espresso, bitter dark chocolate, and black licorice.  Aftertaste is more black licorice and is quite bitter.  Still pretty hot.

Mouthfeel is dead on in my opinion.  Thick and full bodied, but not quite syrupy.  A sipper for sure.

This is the first stout I've had by GI, I anticipate I'll love BCBS when that time of year comes.  Overall I thought this was a pretty standard stout, but I bet it'll balance out nicely with some age on it.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,500 ratings.