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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

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1,490 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,490
Reviews: 442
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 167
Gots: 598 | FT: 54
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.
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Ratings: 1,490 | Reviews: 442 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jlindros
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had at SMBDC growler/bottle tasting thanks to BlessedBeBeer.

A: Bit of a dark creamy darker head, dark brownish black colored beer.

N: Roast, choc malts, caramel malts, light vanilla, chewy malts, light oats, little syrupy, dark malts, bit earthy, slight herbal hops, touch of cocoa.

T: Chewy, slight creamy malts, thick and a bit rich, dark malts, caramel and a bit rich, dark malts, caramel, malts, roast, bit choc malts, cocoa nibs, syrupy, bit of warming booze, baker's chocolate, tingly booze, needs cellaring. FInishes a bit hot, some earthy hops, chocolate, light roasted malts, and syrupy.

M: Med to heavier bodied, decent carb, bit of warming booze.

O: Pretty good, decent chocolate, little hot, nice malts, some earthy hops, tasty but needs some aging.

Photo of silentjay
3.46/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours a dark brown/black with a smallish tan head that settles to a small film, yet laces well.

the aroma is kind of weak with some dark fruits, molasses, a bit of bitter cacao, maybe some soy sauce, a bit of black licorice. meh.

molasses is first with some dark fruits, alcohol, licorice, followed up by bitter cacao and some nuttiness. raisin, licorice, and molasses flavor is reminiscent of Night Stalker, which I wasn't terribly fond of, and the addition of cocoa nibs isn't quite heavy-handed enough to make this one much better.

full-bodied with just a touch too much carbonation and a syrupy feel left in the mouth and a bitter (licorice and cacao) aftertaste.

It's good, not great. I wouldn't have seeked it out like many others did, but I happened to see it on the shelf and couldn't turn it down. I'll put the other bottle in the cellar.

Photo of bluejacket74
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle, bottled on 3/25/11. Served in a DFH Signature Glass, the beer pours dark brown/black with a half inch brown head that didn't stay around for very long. There's a decent amount of lacing left on the glass. Aroma is mostly sweet, the brew smells like roasted malt, chocolate, dark fruit, and a bit of coffee. Taste is similar to the aroma, but there's the addition of some licorice and molasses. Also, the sweet and bitter flavors in this beer are balanced pretty well at first, then the sweet flavors take over more as the beer gets warmer. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's creamy and a bit coating with moderate carbonation. It's also smooth and easy to drink. It's a good overall beer, it'll be interesting to see how this one ages.

Photo of hotmanflab666
3.41/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

a long wait for this and all i can say is not impressed, drank from a snifter this beer has virtually no head and a strange almost cola like smell. not a very good cocoa flavor but nothing bad. big john wasn't awful but didn't really do it for me, i'll just stick with the regular bourbon county

Photo of sweemzander
3.96/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. bottle poured into a snifter. 03/25/11 bottled date. Thanks to cjacobsen for sharing!

(A)- Pours a fairly thick pitch black color. Produced a decent cap of tan froth. Surprising retention for the ABV.

(S)- A good roasted profile. Bits of cocoa, raisin, and a light spice.

(T)- Similar to the smell. A really nice combo of a green hoppy roasted profile with a dry yet sweet neutral cocoa flavor.

(M)- A good mellow carbonation level. A nice balance too of roasted, sweet, and hoppy. Just a bit too green yet for my taste.

(D)- A solid to great stout. I can see this getting even better and a great idea to try it around the end of the year holidays to see how it has developed.

Photo of Mdog
4.67/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Opaque black, big head.

Smell: Sweet chocolate, dark fruit, coffee, very nice!

Taste: Starts out sweet and fruity with chocolate mostly in the finish. As it warms up the chocolate starts earlier and earlier.

Mouthfeel: Very thick stuff, coating.

Drinkability: Not too expensive, but pretty hard to find. My bottle went down pretty easy for a strong beer.

This was some good smelling, good tasting stuff. The alcohol was hidden despite the strength. On the sweeter side, but that's how I prefer my big stouts. If you can find it, it's a good one!

Photo of Reaper16
3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into snifter @ Beer Kitchen, Kansas City, MO

Pours an inky-ass black shade. I can make out a perfect reflection of myself in the glass. Hell, it's so black that I can see the reflection of the reflection of the basketball game on in this restaurant (the reflection of the game on the TV in front of my head onto the windows behind me is further reflected in my glass). Not much head here: way less than a finger and not enough to get an accurate color read, though it did seem lighter in color than most imperial stout foam.

The nose of Big John is intense, but boring. It's like "Here are a bunch of intense aromas, how do you like them?" And I'm all "Could you have made them gel together better?" Lots of dark fruits and black licorice and chocolate cake and chocolate milk and bitter cocoa beans and bitter coffee beans. It is a little too strong and disjointed and perhaps too intense.

Big John tastes better than it smells, but it still doesn't blow me away. Lots of chocolate flavor, lots of maltymaltymalty malts. Some coffee grounds. A splash of dark fruits brighten up the licorice. I don't miss the bourbon barrel treatment that Big John's daddy -- Bourbon County Brand Stout -- has, but at the same time the diminished spirits flavor in Big John leaves the other flavors to go willy-nilly. There's nothing keeping this beer in check, and as a result it is not balances. Too much one-dimensional candy sweetness. Still, this bottle isn't as imbalanced as other reviewers' experiences speak to. It's good, there's just too much flavor to balance and refine.

The mouthfeel is as good as other Goose Island imperial stouts: thick, creamy, sticky, coating. Not a thing to complain about with Big John's performance in my mouth. Overall, this was a good bottle of beer. It is not in the same class as the BCBS family of stouts from Goose Island, nor is it in the same realm as fresh Goose Island Nightstalker. Still, it's worth purchasing, especially for fans of Southern Tier stouts or Dark Lord. Put a bottle or two away for a few years. It has too much sweetness and needs to mature. Right now, though, it still drinks quite well.

Photo of alleykatking
3.62/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 22oz bottle.

A- Pours a oil black color. One and a half finger tan head shows light retention. Lacing from this beer is light streaks here and there.

S- Roasted malts come in first in the aroma. Chocolate comes in next but not in the full force that I thought. Molasses also come through in hints. Darker fruits do come in the backing with another dash of chocolate. Alcohol heat shows up throughout the entire aroma.

T- Alcohol first off shows up through the entire beer. This beer really needs to be set aside for awhile. Ok now that I said this lets get on with the rest of the review. Roasted malts come in the front with hints of molasses right off the get go. Chocolate does come in next but once again it is not as standout as I thought it was going to be. Middle of the beer shows a little bit of alcohol along with hints of caramel and toffee malts. Darker fruits show up in the ending first that is soaked into a light chocolate covered ripe darker fruit. Alcohol is very in your face in the very ending killing off most other fruits.

M- Medium heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Light chocolate, darker fruits, and alcohol are left on the palate. Aftertaste is heavy alcohol heat, darker fruit, and light chocolate flavor. Flavors are a little off balanced but only because of the alcohol heat that gives off somewhat of a off flavor. Heavy alcohol drying on the palate after each sip.

O- This beer first off will only get better I think over time. The alcohol really needs to cool off which like I said before will. The chocolate needs to come out a little more for this to be more enjoyable to me. A very good beer that I am glad to have a couple sitting in the cellar.

Photo of biggred1
4.08/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dark, chocolate brown with some of the darkest russet colored foam I've ever seen. Molten fudge, cocoa powder, anise, dark fruit and rum with black strap molasses in the aroma. Semi-sweet chocolate, anise and raisin flavors with warming alcohol and a dry finish. Full bodied with velvety smooth carbonation. Big John is a monster Stout and I really like it a lot. It's not quite up to the level of most of GI's big Stouts but not many are.

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

Appearance: Black pour with a large tan head, perhaps a bit over-carbonated

Smell: Roasted malt and rich, sweet chocolate. Touches of molasses also.

Taste: Rich, sweet chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, fudge and brownie batter. Almost too sweet; very rich.

Mouthfeel: Slightly over carbonated, otherwise very full and rich

Overall: Rich, chocolaty, and sweet. Enjoyable but a touch over-carbonated.

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

A: Poured into my pint glass, this stout pours a rich black oil with a larger, sturdy tan head.

S: The aroma is full of deep roasted malt and rich chocolate. Medium notes of molasses and alcohol notes.

T: The flavor reveals a roasted molasses soaked brew with chocolate and deep caramel/toffee notes. Alcohol is definitely present and could be better hidden.

MF: Mouthfeel is large and rich.

Overall, not the best stout from Goose Island, but many other breweries can't brew a stout at this level. I would have liked a smaller ABV, a really some more chocolate.

Photo of Lunch
3.11/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Received from a generous trader, aasher at DLD 2011. Thanks, Al!

Poured from 22oz. bottle into a Jester King snifter. Looks fairly thick and almost black, but nowhere near any of their Bourbon County Brand Stouts or Night Stalker.

Smell is so far from where that I thought that this beer would be. Where is the chocolate? This is all dark fruit and alcohol. Taste is all dark fruit as well. No chocolate to speak of. As the kids say "wtfuck". Medium-bodied, but less than what I expected.

This is a very disappointing beer that I am glad now that I was unable to find any locally on shelves. Truly sub-par for Goose Island.

Photo of ShanePB
3.99/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle split between myself and two friends. We let the bottle warm up a bit from the fridge and poured into three snifter glasses.

A: Pitch, motor oil black on the pour, sludgy and thick. Really no head whatsoever, even with being quite vigorous, a small ring of brown bubbles tried to cling around the glass. I would have appreciated more of a head on this one, but I guess for 11.5% it isn't too bad. Easily improvable but alas...

S: Rich, pungent and sweet chocolate morsel notes fill the nose. This lingers for quite some time before a bit of roasted coffee beans, vanilla and caramel malt come through. It immediately screams 'dessert beer' with how sweet it is.. no notion of hops, finishing with a slight twinge of grain alcohol in the back.

T: Cloyingly sweet, milky chocolate notes up front. The flavor turns a bit bitter and let's through some vanilla and coffee but not much as chocolate is truly the dominating flavor here. There is some noticeable heat from the rather high ABV but it's nothing detracting from flavor or experience...it's just there.

M: Creamy, thick, full-bodied and lower on the carbonation. Nicely done here.

Big John definitely surprised me with how sweet it was, but it was rather balanced for how big and chocolatey it is. It's nothing like other big stouts made with chocolate in that respect, instead this is a rather graceful blending of flavors, both sweet and bitter.

Photo of Ryan011235
2.7/5  rDev -33.8%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter on 5/16/11

Bottled 3/25/11

Deep brown color that is all but jet-black in the glass. No light gets through this one. Determined to get a decent head, I pulled the classic slow drizzle card (no dropped bottles; you're welcome). I was pleased enough with the resulting cap: one thumb of toasted brown foam. Of course, retention is thin though a skim and some bubbles remain. A few globby strands of lace have held thus far.

Undergoing shifting aromas and upheaval, the nose is suspect. Calling it unpleasant is a half-hearted gift. Weird things are going on here. Once in the glass, the first thing I smell? Tomato Paste. No lie. What the hell is this, Hop Henge IPA? Bare Tree Weiss Wine 2007? Get right out of town. A few minutes later, it starts smelling like a proper imperial stout. Roasted chocolate, dusty cocoa powder, and undertones of tangy dark fruit. Reminds me of Hersey's powder chocolate milk mix. Guess what? Yep, the tomato comes back, this time with leafy hop friends. It goes back and forth in this manner. At least it doesn't smell boozy. Yeesh.

Once set to sipping, the beer tastes far more enjoyable than it smells; not a hard feat to accomplish. That said, it isn't spectacular. The powdered aspects of the cocoa nibs flow along in a stream of semi-sweet, burnt dark chocolate. At times it seems rather sweet; other times not so much. As the temperature nears room, the sugars start to crowd the burnt notions and things start to get messy. While some alcohol heat was had on the first sip, it wasn't too much. However, in conjunction with the burnt sweetness the booze moves toward obnoxiousness. Finishes with char, sticky sweetness and some mildly numbing heat.

Full bodied with a moderate, viscous resistance. Make no mistake, Big John is still a heavy imperial stout in a world filled with heavy imperial stouts (a notion room temperature ascertains). Ah, who am I kidding? It's like cake batter once it warms up. While it was still cold, the cocoa nibs translated to a powdery, granular feel. As the beer warms, that granular feel wanes. Carbonation is appropriate, doing its best to hoist this critter. The latter half is slick and coating.

The John Hancock Center is my favorite skyscraper. Alas, for an imperial stout, Big John doesn't even come close.

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

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: black with a 1 finger mocha head

smell: roast, molasses, chocolate,

taste: bitter chocolate, dry, thick

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, full body,

overall: wish it was a bit sweeter but overall not a bad stout.

The cpj

Photo of waltonc
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Visited NYC this past weekend and chanced upon a bottle of this at a Whole Foods. Pours a Bourbon County Stout dark brown. Smells as advertised - lots of roasted malt and chocolate. Flavor is outstanding - velvety chocolate, somewhat sweet and very malty. Balances great against the fairly thick mouthfeel and medium carbonation. Overall, I was a big fan of this beer and wish I had a few more bottles.

Photo of greenmonstah
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle labeled 3/25/2011

A - Pitch black with half a finger of brown head. Dissipates quickly.

S - Surprisingly fruity. All three of my tasting group picked up hints of banana or banana peel. Too boozy. Some fig as well. Far too much boozy, should be better hidden. Must get better with age.

T - Again pretty boozy. Finish of sweet milk chocolate. Cocoa throughout. Up front some dark fig. Adore this finish, but the rest isn't too impressive.

M - Silky smooth and creamy. No carbonation and a touch of alcohol heat.

O - Interesting take on the BCBS base. Definitely needs time in the cellar. I've had 1 year old Nightstalker, and that was certainly a better experience. I think with that much time on it, this bottle could have easily kept up with that beer.

Photo of drabmuh
3.5/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Even though I recognize that I should have eaten something or stopped drinking before we opened this bottle I have to say that Big John was a mild disappointment to me in my fragmented memory. Thanks to Big Paul for opening this, I was really looking forward to it.

Beer is dark brown / black with a tan head with very little retention, no lacing low carbonation.

Aroma is coffee, nuts and some roast, not getting any chocolate in the aroma really.

Mild chocolate on the medium bodied palate but overall the star is a coffee like roast in the back half of the mouth. It is a decent stout, I'm not trying to bad mouth it, it's just not as interesting as I was hoping, not as good, not as unique. Any of the bourbon stouts are way way better in my opinion.

Photo of Brent
3.6/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The cocoa nibs on which this is aged lend an interesting coco note to the beer, which, in conjunction wiht a moderately creamy mouthfeel, tip this a bit toward the chocolate stout realm. Big malt body with an assertive candy sugar sweetness that, unfortunately, tended to dominate the beer and eventually became oppressive as simply too sweet.

Photo of Gosox8787
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 22 oz. bomber bottle with a date stamp of March 25, 2011. Huge thanks to Sully62601 who basically gave me two bottles. Served at room temperature and poured into my Cigar City tulip in a couple parts.

Appearance: Almost pitch black in color. A dark brown, one finger head with not much retention. Very similar to the other Goose Island barrel aged stouts, except the lower ABV makes for a slightly better head and retention.

Aroma: Dark chocolate notes are front and center. The chocolate profile from the cacao nibs is very dry and a tad bitter. Some coffee and milk chocolate notes underneath.

Taste: The cacao nibs again provide big chocolate and cocoa flavors. Dark chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and brown sugar all in decent balance. Some underlying heat from the booze, but it's not at all overwhelming. The cacao nibs so a nice job of balancing the booze. By the end of the bottle however, the chocolate was definitely becoming overwhelming and tough to drink. Half a bottle would probably be a perfect size in my opinion.

Mouthfeel: Big and smooth, with very little carbonation.

Overall, a nice, big stout that really highlights the cacao nibs. However, this is probably my least favorite of all the Goose Island imperial stouts. The chocolate flavors can grow a bit tiresome though. Definitely worth a try.

Photo of dc55110
3.88/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours slightly thicker than cough syrup. Tiny bubbles rise, find their way to the edge of the glass and are gone sooner then they came. A faint ring of head clings to the outer edge of the glass and leaves a fair amount of lacing. Dark black in appearance, but still penetrable by strong light.
The smell is typical of heavy stouts; molasses, raisin, roasted coffee beans, malt. The alcohol is very present. I try to find hints of cacao, it's there but only slightest hint of the bitter delight is there.
The cacao is only slightly more present in the flavor. I still get mostly molasses, raisin, etc. This is very sweet, almost by not quite cloying. The alcohol, as in the aroma, is present and not well hidden.
It coats every surface of my mouth. It feels like it pours, like cough syrup, this is not a bad thing. Stouts should remind you, well after you last sip, what you recently enjoyed. Very little, near nil, on the the carbonation.
I recently had GI's Dishonest Stout @Clybourn, I think the addition of cacao would have been better suited to a stout of that nature. The bitterness would have played well with the sourness and the barrel aging. I guess I expect a lot from GI when it comes to stouts. Big John is a fine stout, I just don't think it is up to snuff, when it comes to GI!

Photo of infi
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber, shared with BAs NYManc, AceEbron and a close friend.

Poured into a snifter.

Typical stout appearance: jet black and thoroughly dark. Very thin off-white head with no lacing on glass. Smell carried a nicely malt roastiness with TONS of dark chocolate everywhere. Good amount of general sweetness, but the chocolate was really forefront of the aroma. Basically one of those 70% pure dark chocolate bars liquified. Really appealing on the nose.

Taste was equally as roasted with espresso and burnt coffee being the first identifiable aspect. It then segued into the bittersweet characteristics of the dark chocolate and ended with a nice hum bitterness. Some dark fruit-type sweetness found its way into the beer also. Really nice overall. Pleasantly surprising as to how well the beer was done.

Mouthfeel is big on flavor and just about full-bodied. Not too thick, but not as carbonated either. A nicely tasting beer, especially in the shadows of GI's flagship stouts in the BCS. Personally, not as good as the BCS or Night Stalker, but still holds its own. Well worth the pay.

Photo of perrymarcus
4.47/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle served in a snifter.
bottled 03/25/11.

pours a mostly opaque used motor oil black with a short lived mocha colored head; some lacing. good looking imperial stout, but then again so are dozens of others - doesn't necessarily set itself apart.

nose is replete with bold notes of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, roasted malt, and a bit of coffee. enough to get my mouth watering.

flavor follows the nose perfectly. loads of chocolate and roasted malt with subtle, secondary notes of dark fruits. alcohol shows up in the finish. a truly delicious beer.

viscous, full-bodied mouthfeel with adequate carbonation.

overall, color me impressed. this is a really tasty brew. pricey, but worth it.

Photo of johnnnniee
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid thick black color with a smallish tan head that disappears too quickly. Smells sweet with an alcoholic edge. Heavy dark bitter chocolate and tons of molasses dominate the aroma. Mix in some dark fruits and alcohol for good measure. Taste is again thick sweet and alcoholic. Lots of dark chocolate mixed with brown sugar and molasses. Long lingering alcohol burn after each sip. If not for the alcohol I think this would be a bit overly sweet. Thick viscous body with a sweet velvety smooth mouthfeel and low level of carbonation. I really enjoyed this one but I think a little time will help the flavors meld together a little better.

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

A-Black as night, a little hint of head.
S-Fresh roasted malt with mild cocoa.
T-Roasted malt, hints of raisiny sweet character.
M-Full bodied, but yet not heavy. A touch on the syrupy side
D-Above average for style with just a hint of an alcohol burn/bite at end
O-My favorite Imperial stout from Goose Island because every drink does not taste like a shot of whiskey. Prefer to BCS beers.

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,490 ratings.