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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
91
outstanding

1,398 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,398
Reviews: 435
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 11.06%
Wants: 160
Gots: 598 | 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:
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: 1,398 | Reviews: 435 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of younger35
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%

Just picked up a bottle of this from Princeton’s and need to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday correctly. Drank from my Darkness Snifter.

Appearance- Pours a pitch ass black with a small half finger dark brown head that bubbles away fairly quickly. A teeny tiny collar remains along with zero cap and zero lacing.
Smell- Well it’s definitely chocolaty smelling that’s for sure. A mixture of fudge and milk chocolate sort of ooze out of the glass. Dark and roasty with a deep coffee char that is fairly intense. Some caramel and whiffs of vanilla sneak in along with a bit of alcohol. Good smelling stuff.
Taste- Tons and tons of milk chocolate along with bitter ultra roasted malts. Like super roasted. I’d love to know the grain bill for this bastard. I don’t particularly get that sort of gritty raw chocolate that one would associate from cocoa nibs but I think the beer is just slightly too sweet to let that come aspect come through. A touch of hops in the finish adds a bit of dark fruitiness. A bit of warming too but nothing serious.
Mouthfeel- Silky smooth and creamy as hell. Seriously amazing mouthfeel. Perfect.
Drinkability- A little too sweet for my liking but its good. Definitely chocolaty but I would have liked the roast and sweetness to have been toned down just a touch. Sort of let the nibs show. The mouthfeel is amazing though, absolutely amazing.

younger35, Apr 24, 2011
Photo of OldIronLungs
3.9/5  rDev -4.2%

Quite excited to try this one - poured into a Duvel tulip a thick black with very little chocolate milk-like head that quickly falls back to the rim as a bubbly ring.

Nose is lightly burnt chocolate and roasted coffee with a touch of alcohol.

Big and sweet chocolate up front, slick feel, and dry roasted malts and light tobacco through the finish. Mostly smooth with very light carbonation - the alcohol makes its presence known with lingering heat. This is pretty intense sweetness, it's going to be a long sipper.

Glad I got two, but this isn't my favorite from GI - I think I liked the hoppy balance of Night Stalker more - a bottle of each will sit in solitary confinement for a while before I take them out.

OldIronLungs, Apr 24, 2011
Photo of InebriatedJoker
4.15/5  rDev +2%

Poured from bomber into pint goblet - Bottled 3/25/11

A: Poured a deep black with one finger head that dissipated into a thin tan lacing,decent carbonation.

S: Roasted malts , slight coffee and chocolate hints.

T: Deep roasted malts upfront , strong chocolate -slight coffee - licorice and anise - decent mouth feel ,nice finish and aftertaste-
the high abv% is well hidden in an abundance of flavors.

O: Overall I enjoyed this , lots of complex flavors that seem to express themselves as it warms - well blended and balanced .

InebriatedJoker, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of homebrewhawk
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%

22oz. bomber served in a snifter. Poured a deep brown with a thick tan head. Aroma of chocolate, but kind of a synthetic note. Also a bit of alcohol. Full bodied and rich. Flavor is much more chocolate rather than roasted barley. Long dry malty finish. Very smooth, pretty easy drinking for 11%. This beer didn't really make a big impression on me.

homebrewhawk, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of Gmann
3.73/5  rDev -8.4%

Pours a pitch black color with a very small tight tan head that settles into a light ring.

The aroma is disappointing for an imperial stout. There is some light chocolate, light roast notes and some alcohol vapors, thats about it.

The taste is heavy on the roasted malt with hints of chocolate. There is a brownie batter flavor, fudgey. Not quite like ST Choklat, though. The flavor seems to stay true to the roasted nature of an imperial stout but adds a velvety chocolate note. There is a punch of a sour berry flavor.

The beer is full bodied with soft carbonation, finishes with a slight roasted bitterness. A nice smooth texture. There is an odd heat coming from this beer. There is a raw feel and the ABV is coming off a bit harsh.

I expected much more than what I got from this beer. It feels raw and the booze flavor needs to settle down some.

Gmann, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of SFLpunk
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

22oz brown glass pry-top bottle. Thanks to my man John for bringing me a Big John from Chicago! Bottled 3/25/11.

Pours super thick black with very little head. Nose immediately reminds me of Dark Lord! Big, angry and rich as hell. Charred notes, black-strap molasses, & Marmite comes to mind. Very "malty" (think malta goya) and loaded with umami.

Palate is big and thick ("that's what she said"). Lots and lots of malt(a) flavors and a lot of things that remind me of asian delicousness: umami, miso paste, and dank nori. Black patent leather, dates, plums, wet mulch and oily, sticky coffee beans. Super lush on the palate with a pleasant astringency (maybe just a bitterness) on the finish.

Notes: Didn't really get the cocoa nibs. Not the first cocoa beer that I've missed them. I suppose I don't really get the flavor. In any event, this is an epic beer and I believe rivals Dark Lord in style and character. Can't get DL? Grab this one.

SFLpunk, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of WYVYRN527
4.1/5  rDev +0.7%

22 ounce bottle, poured into my Darkness snifter.

A: Pours black as night with no light shining through. Head is thick and eggshell colored, but settles quickly to a thin surface film. Lacing is minimal, but is to be expected from this style.

S: Faint nose up front. Some espresso notes and slight chocolate scent, with a strong alcohol prescence.

T: Much better than the smell. Bitter chocolate and coffee, along with toast and dried dark fruits. Raisin and prune are present mainly. Finish is dry, with more chocolate, and a slightly herbal hop note.

Notes: This is a pretty sturdy brew. Alcohol and body definitely make their prescence known. Big, chewy, and complex, I would like to see how this brew evolves over time. A great effort by Goose Island, and one I will definitely be buying more of.

WYVYRN527, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of scotvega18
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

Poured into a southern tier Tulip

A- Pitch black with very little head. any light penetration makes it dark brown.

S- i smell a lot of alcohol, but it still takes a back seat to the chocolate and bitter coffee smells and dark fruit that dominate the brew

T- Very smooth and velvet-y, chocolate malt and roastiness up front, with vague alcohol and then some hop and coffee bitterness, then finally some sweetness and some dark fruit flavors.

notes - this would do well with age and would probably develop into a world class brew. Now it is a bit too hot but very nice and complex while still being quite smooth.

scotvega18, Apr 23, 2011
Photo of BarrytheBear
3.63/5  rDev -10.8%

22 oz bottle sporadically poured into a snifter while pondering a dreary rainy day in April and continually asking myself, all beer related rationale considered, why I choose to remain in the Midwest.

Big John pours black with a very short lived tan head that finds security along the edges in the comforting presence of a thin caramel colored ring.

Dark chocolate, splash of hops, bitter roast, and a touch of booze heat and plastic

Dark chocolate bitterness, milk chocolate sweetness, creaminess of a milk stout, with a hop twang at the finish and a healthy alcohol bite to seal the deal. These characteristics seem to describe a pretty outstanding stout on the surface, but there's something here that doesn't quite feel finished. It's the beer analog to the movie Inception. Solid pedigree and concept but there's just something amiss in the production and the payoff doesn't reach expectations while digging below the surface doesn't yield the expected results.

Mouthfeel is spritzier, that's right...spritzier, than the look and feel of the pour would dictate. Bubbles and fiz in the mouth contradict the stillness of the beer.

Overall, a mixed bag.

BarrytheBear, Apr 22, 2011
Photo of Jparkanzky
4.13/5  rDev +1.5%

Poured at cellar temp. into a stemless wine glass.

A) Deep black, thin 1/2 inch mocha head that is quite thick, that leaves decent lacing.

S) Smells like bitter chocolate, and perhaps some vanilla

T) The chocolate is much more pronounced here, but there isn't really much sweetness that often overpowers other chocolate stouts. Some alcohol undertones lead me to believe that my case (with a bottled date of 3/24/11) will benefit from some time in the cellar, but the alcohol is certainly not overpowering making this very drinkable now. Very tasty indeed.

M) The highlight of this beer for me by far is the thick velvety presence on the tongue, the carbonation that is apparently absent in the glass comes to life in the mouth subtly and enjoyably.

O) I'm not sure if comparisons are encouraged, but compared to Goose Island's Nightstalker, which is also very much enjoyed by me, this beer is better on all accounts. The smooth and thick texture, with flavors that are present but not overpowering are the keys attributes I look for in big stouts, and this is a great example of that.

Jparkanzky, Apr 22, 2011
Photo of Frankcost
4.13/5  rDev +1.5%

Poured into new Belgium snifter. Pours pitch black and thick with a mocha colored head that goes away pretty quick it looks very good.

I get chocolate, coco bean and maybe a slight vanilla scent on the nose.

Nice thick syrup mouthfeel, really thick and silky It coats your mouth.def get the bold chocolate and some malty taste in the mouth. As It does warm up I am tasting more and more of the alcohol

Once again I am pretty satisfied with goose island they rarely disappoint I would and will be picking up a few more of these.

Frankcost, Apr 22, 2011
Photo of jcnd9803
4.97/5  rDev +22.1%

(A) - Pitch black and very thick. It even looks syrupy with a slight mocha brown head that fades fast to a small ring.

(S)- Heavy dark chocolate, some caramel and roasted malt. As it warms, I'm picking up more of the booze.

(T)- Very sweet right away and then moves into bitter dark chocolate. I was worried this was going to be too sweet, but I think they add the right amount of hops to balance and temper the sweetness.

(M)- Very thick. Par for the course with GI stouts. In my opinion, perfect.

(D)- I'm a big fan of the BCB family of stouts. Given this, I'm going to make a bold statement and say this is my favorite GI beer. It strikes the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness to achieve a perfect stout.

jcnd9803, Apr 22, 2011
Photo of cosmicevan
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%

ah, viva la NY distribution...

a - opened the bottle and poured into a darkness tulipy snifter. poured a silky shiny black like night stalker and all the bcbs varieties...thin head showed and vanished leaving just the rim on the surface. slippery lacing and swirling the glass rebuilt the head for another few moments.

s - not dark chocolate, but milk chocolate. i was really excited to try this one fresh since i wanted to see how it was before any chocolate flavors vanished. bit of subtle coffee. nothing too much in any direction, good balance. the milk chocolate is a nice balancer to the nightstalker base. crisp smelling and i even get an almost pretzel type of a smell from it...like them chocolate covered pretzels.

t - yum. here's where the chocolate comes to life. much more roastiness in the flavor than the nose. a nice dark chocolate roastd coffee...like a godiva coffee.

m - good carbonation and nice body. a big step up from nightstalker's over sweetened vibe. cooling after taste and an almost chocolatey coating to the mouth. after a while the booziness really started to become noticeable.

o - overall, i'm rather impressed with this beer. i was not expecting the chocolate to add as much as it does. it is not overbearing like baker's chocolate or dark chocolate, but more of a silky hershey's milk chocolate. it really compliments the base beer and i'm happy to have a few more bottles of this to sit on. as i drank the beer the booziness came out and the chocolate seemed a bit in my face, but still a really big improvement on night stalker.

cosmicevan, Apr 22, 2011
Photo of mcallister
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

Jet black yielding a mocha colored foam cap that quickly fades to a ring around the glass.

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, vanilla, black fruits, heavy cream, light tobacco and leathery notes.

Nice creamy mouthfeel, good amount of carbonation keeps things light on the palate. Big cocoa, dark chocolate, cream, mocha latte like, bitter chocolate on the finish with black fruits through the middle. Blueberry on the finish is very nice and adds a layer of complexity. Vanilla is driven and sweet. Some sugary sweetness throughout. Another great stout by the Goose. Will they last?

mcallister, Apr 21, 2011
Photo of BEERchitect
4.47/5  rDev +9.8%

A lush and savory stout with intense chocolate flavor, rich heavy body, and dense malty richness. A most desert-like beer.

The beer creeps from the bottle and into the snifter with a high viscocity that coats the glass like motor oil. Very froathy and rich, the beer's head falls underneath the enormous weight of the beer. No lace but brandy-like legging is evident with each swirl- the black film coats the sides of the glass and is nearly intimidating. Dense, dark brown, the beer carries a complete opaqness.

Chocolate, roast, burnt molasass, walnuts, and malted milk round out the nose that favors the power of a few key aromas over complexity. Alcohols give a warm tingle to the nose in a very rum-like way.

Rich chocolates, roasted grains, espresso coffee, and over caramelized sugars all add to the rich molasass and malted milk flavor. Robust and with a multitude of depth, the beer teases with rum boozy taste, and with walnut bitterness and oils. The cocoa nibs give a genuine cocoa taste and without the refinement of milk chocolates.

The cocoa additions further build the body of the beer towards a very thick and chewy beer. Beers don't really get more lush, viscous, or creamy. Finishing warm, but the brunt of 11.5% abv is never really felt; tempered well by the malty richness and velvety smooth simmer.

Delicious throughout, the sheer weight and richness of the beer make it both a delicacy and limit its drinkability. The full force of chocolate and sweetness, sometimes aspirtame-like, scream about the focus of the beer while balance and complexity are underscored.

BEERchitect, Apr 21, 2011
Photo of beesy
3/5  rDev -26.3%

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a pint glass around 50F.

A - pours a deep brown with a light brown 2 finger head. Not as dark or inky as I was expecting for 11.5 abv and all the hype. Had a small waterfall effect from a hard pour.

S - not impressive. Some dark malts, some roast and a slight touch of cocoa.

T - serious letdown. Tons of carmel sweetness with little roast or hops to balance it. The small amount of roast is drowned by the crystal malt sweetness. Small amount of cacao noticeable, mostly in aroma and not flavor. A slight alcohol not that becomes a liitle more open as it warms. I'm calling Goose out that this is not 11.5 abv and not 60 ibu.

M - thick - really thick. I took a gravity reading and it looks like it finishes around 1.040for the bombers bottled on 3/25/11 I bought. I am willing to bet they had a fermentation issue.

D - low. The high finishing gravity of this beer leaves it cloyingly sweet and hard to put down.

Overall, a pour result from a beer I've been waiting for. I guess this is what happens when you become consumed by a selloff instead of focusing on brewing good beer.

beesy, Apr 21, 2011
Photo of Thickfreakness
4.15/5  rDev +2%

A- Pours oil black with little too no head. Just a hint of brown creaminess and traces of lacing.

S- A ton of fresh roasted coffee and deep, dark, rich chocolate. Toasted wood, hints of vanilla.

T- Rich, and thick like a Mocha shake! Tons of charred coffee, rich hot chocolate!!! Gets so much better as it warms up! The vanilla and wood really open up. Just a bit of darkfruit on the finish followed by the alcohol. Just a touch hot, but I'm sure this one is gonna age beautifully!

M- Really rich and thick. Really coats the tongue and doesn't go away. Just a touch sweet, just bitter enough... Well done!!!

O- I guess this is the last hurrah for the original GI... and what a way to finish! Coffee, Vanilla, Rare, and a Chocolate finish... Not as brilliant as the formentioned... but a damn fine stout on its own.

Thickfreakness, Apr 21, 2011
Photo of bobhits
3.75/5  rDev -7.9%

Black viscous, near black even in the pour when held to light. Truly a sight to behold. Pours a thin but creamy milk chocolate head.

No surprise but a huge amount of chocolate aromas, from milk chocolate to some simi dark chocolate. There isn’t a lot of dark bitter chocolate here. A very sweet caramel and toffee malt profile. A touch of hops finishing things up rather nicely. Very good but perhaps not great. Strong and not appealing alcohol aroma really hurts the finish.

Powerful alcohol, almost like there’s vodka mixed in to pick things up. Milk chocolate, chocolate malt, caramel malt, fudge, cake batter, finished again with hops (not sure what kinda hop flavor this is).

Creamy syrupy, just perfect for a chocolate stout. The problem is this stuff is way too hot right now. This will be amazing with around 2 years age on it. I don’t see this aging as long as the bourbon county stout does, but there’s a lot of growth here.

I plan to update this review as this one ages…just need to find a few more bottles. I expect huge improvements with age as the alcohol is the biggest issues with this beer right now.

bobhits, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of dragonWhale
3.78/5  rDev -7.1%

Thanks also to whosoever shared this at the Rosso release. Poured into my little Elysian snifter.

Nigh on black and oily, with a sexy little cocoa head. Big aromas of chocolate booze. A little coffee and roastiness hide in the background.
It's quite good, but needs some time to get better, allow the flavors to integrate more. As is, the alcohol is too hot, but in that respect, it's kind've like having a bourbon candy. Just one that burns a little. A fine beer from these people, big on chocolate, thick and chewy.
Next time I go to one of these releases I'm going to bring a little burner so I can heat beers like this up. Would've loved to try this at 140 or so. Little bit of hot cocoa..hell yeah.
Give this beer some more time and it could be quite fantastic.

dragonWhale, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of Thorpe429
3.63/5  rDev -10.8%

Thanks to a generous BA for sharing this at the Rosso release. Served in a SAVOR snifter.

Pours a very, very dark brown color with a thin light mocha head and a bit of lacing. The nose has roasted malt plus chocolate and some mild coffee. Chocolate is the most prevalent, definitely notice the cocoa. Flavor is a bit of a letdown. There's a bit too much booze and the chocolate doesn't come through as well. Mild roast and also some dark fruit aspects that I didn't particularly care for. Body is medium to full with good carbonation. Pretty good overall, but doesn't live up to their other stouts.

Thorpe429, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of BARFLYB
4.22/5  rDev +3.7%

Big John. Big ol John, Johnny boy. Into a snifter split with Oglmcdgl.

Big John is a big ol black stout just like all the others. No lighter spots on the edge, this one is pitch black. A nice inch of foamy dark tan/brown foam that leaves no stick, but a ring around the glass.

Smell is really big and roasty and not hoppy like the night stalker, thank god. Along with the roast, there is the anise and dark fruit which is a turn off, it's not on dragon stout level though. Some chocolate and cocco nib scent.

Big John comes through in taste as well, it's a big ol stout that is sweet but not choklat sweet. Not a bunch of vanilla but cocco instead. Anise in the middle and the dark fruit as well. Chocolate with cocco taste and some warming alcohol in the end.

Feel is a big roasty above medium build with depth and a rich aftertaste on the mouth. The heat only comes and goes in the end. Carb is there but does not kill the sensitive tounge, no sting. Warming and a great build on this.

Overall this exceeded expectations. Im not the biggest stout guy but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Glad I have a bottle of this to lay down to smooth out the edges.

BARFLYB, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of oglmcdgl
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%

A bottle split with onix1agr.

A- a steady pour yields a finger of latte colored head that settles quickly to leave just a ring around the glass and a small island of fizz in the middle. A good hard swirl brings back the cream on top but again its quickly vanishes. Black, black, black in color not a bit of light makes it through the body but there is the faintest of dark brown at the edges when held to the light.

S- dark roasted malts, chocolate, anise, coffee, brown sugar. Over ripe dark berries, and some molasses.

T- opens up with a sweet almost burnt malt hit that rolls into bakers chocolate and molasses. Coffee, touches of anise and dark fruit again. The balance is very impressive and each flavor while bold never over shadows the others.

M- full bodied but not too much. A bit of chew to it and a little syrupy. Nice light carb that does hold its own in this big brew. Small amount of heat from this very fresh bottle.

O- I'm all about this brew. Huge flavors that blend perfectly and make for a superb ride. Big enough to cure what ales you but easy enough to down a big ole glass. Well done GI hope you can keep it up with the new owners.

oglmcdgl, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of jwinship83
3.28/5  rDev -19.4%

very excited for this one. 22oz bottle picked up at my local whole foods my chance. i thought that i had missed it in all the local stores, it sold out so quickly. drank from my stone IRS snifter.

A- this one pours out an opaque black colored body with a moderate coffee colored head on top. the head lasts for a few seconds before falling, and leaves behind small spots of lacing.

S- there is chocolate and sweetness bursting from the glass. dark chocolate, milk chocolate. lots of roasted malts also. the alcohol sneaks through a bit also.

T- the taste is overwhelmingly sweet. too sweet. lots of dark roasted malts give way to plenty of the chocolate that i could smell. lots of dark chocolate. lots of milk chocolate. just tons of chocolate. the booze comes through in a big way also. a tough of coffee and earthy hops at the end finish this one off.

M- this beer comes with a big body and is almost chewy. lots of warming from the alcohol. very sweet.

D- too sweet for me. im glad i wasnt a glutton with this and left a couple on the shelf. i wouldnt enjoy having them. i liked nightstalker and the classic bourbon county much more than this. the bottle was much too large for just me.

jwinship83, Apr 20, 2011
Photo of cjacobsen
4.43/5  rDev +8.8%

(A) Pours really, really dark. Black with no light let through, even on the edges. A small, chocolate brown head that diminished quickly.

(S) Nose is big on chocolate and some roasted coffee. The nose is definitely dominated by the chocolate.

(T) Much like the nose. Big on chocolate. And its a sweet lighter chocolate, not a cocoa or bitter dark. There's a decent array of roasted malts and coffee brings up the rear. The flavor is definitely big up front and I could see some people thinking its too sweet, but I think that since its still fresh, it's got a lot there. Whenever I see that a beer is brewed with cocoa nibs, this is what I would envision that beer tasting like.

(M) It's a very rich beer, thick and a lot of big body to it. Almost got a chewy aspect to it, like you're eating chocolate cake.

(O) Really good. I love it. I think that since its fresh, the taste is still really sweet and chocolaty, but with some time on it I think the flavors will blend and mellow a bit more and will turn out to be still a great beer.

cjacobsen, Apr 19, 2011
Photo of FanofHefe
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%

Bottle dated 3-25-11. Poured from the bomber into a Duvel tulip. Deep, dark, black body with a small mocha head. Minimal retention and just a smattering of lacing.

Rich aroma of chocolate, roasted malt, and a hint of vanilla.

The flavor is heavy on the chocolate, as expected. But, a nice blend of dark malt and some caramel and molasses mixed in. Very slight hop bitterness on the back end, but very subdued.

Smooth, thick mouthfeel that goes down easy. Only the smallest notice of the alcohol. I think this will age very well. Another superior stout from Goose Island.

FanofHefe, Apr 18, 2011
Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,398 ratings.