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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

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1,483 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,483
Reviews: 441
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 163
Gots: 600 | FT: 55
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: 1,483 | Reviews: 441 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of alleykatking
3.6/5  rDev -11.8%
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
3.78/5  rDev -7.4%
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
3.1/5  rDev -24%
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
4/5  rDev -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
2.75/5  rDev -32.6%
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
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
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
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
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
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
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
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
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
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
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.

Photo of bamadog
4.75/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I was pretty excited to find a bottle of this laying around at The Root Cellar in Cincinnati, OH. I looked for it a couple of times around it's release date and nothing... Lo and behold, I find it when I'm looking for something else. Review is from notes taken on 5/14/2011 and poured from the bottle to a snifter.

Appearance: Pours a thick, viscous coffee black and it starts with a scant 1/4 finger dark brown head that fades immediately to nothing other than a pencil thin ring around the surface and two small islands floating around the surface; body is entirely opaque, and I'm not sure if there is going to be any carbonation present or not based upon the looks of it; a couple of strands and spots of lacing are left behind, but not much to speak of; there is a bit of an oily coating that lingers after each sip, but then falls back into the drink.

Smell: Wow. Big chocolate, right up front, and it ranges from a syrupy sweet Hershey-style scent to a more semi-sweet chocolate covering dark cherries; hints of vanilla; dark roasty malts, like spent espresso grains and a definite big blast of alcohol; nose is strong and robust... Awesome!

Taste: Holy crap -- just like it smells, nearly to a "T." Lots of big sweet syrupy chocolate and a blended semi-sweet chocolate, and those sweet and slightly tart ripe cherries; a vanilla sweetness, like the syrup in a chocolate covered cherry rings through; strong roasted malts, like the ones in the smell, they're very much like spent espresso or other strong roast; big alcohol that is a little bit like bourbon -- it starts out a little hot, but really mellows as the drink sits and fades more to a warming presence.

Mouthfeel: Thick and viscous in the mouth, just like it looked on the pour -- this body is heavy, just like I would hope; a thick and sticky coating is left all over the mouth, and it is just a little bit gritty; gums are left tingly, and the belly is left quite warm from the ABV that clocks in at over 11%. A great mouthfeel to this one, you definitely know you're drinking a big thick stout. Goose Island nailed this one.

Overall: This beer is fantastic, easily one of the best stouts I've had in quite a while. While it's heavy and the ABV is high, I would be more than happy to sip on this all night.

Photo of Vierenner
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Fantastic! If you like Dragon's Milk from New Holland you'll love this beer. The roasted flavors are certainly there, as is a sweetness which is beautifully balanced with other taste sensations. It was suggested to me that I let this bottle settle/condition ... glad I didn't. The label indicates a bottle date of 3/25/11 ... it was perfect to drink on the evening of 5/14/11. I'll be looking for more of this brew.

Photo of socon67
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours black with an oily pour. Very thick. Opaque, and laces the glass.

S - Smells of chocolate, roasted malt, and caramel. Has a smoky characteristic to it as well.

T - Surprisingly, not as chocolately as Night Stalker. Has some cocoa, but also a dry sherry finish and a rich malty base. Lots of complex flavors.

M - It is a heavy beer and doesn't hide that fact. A sipper.

O - A good imp stout that is quite complex. Not as cocoa flavored as advertised, but solid.

Photo of whitehouse50
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 3/25/2011. Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip. The head disappeared and no lacing was leftover.

A- Jet black, i held it up to the light and nothing was coming through except for around the edges of the head.

S- nice chocolately and big roasty aromas

T- nice pleasant chocolate flavors, not overwhelming. There is a nice hop flavor to help balance this out and the alcohol is well hidden. I would never guess this to be 11.5%

M- big full body (no pun intended), it's almost chewy.

Overall this was a really enjoyable beer. It's got a full body with great chocolate flavor. I would love to drink this again on a cold winter night. I disagree with one statement from the brewers notes "massive chocolate flavor and aroma". I don't agree it was massive. Southern Tier Choklat is a massive chocolate stout, Big John is not, it's more like a Choklat's little brother. This is a great brew I would definitely buy again.

Photo of muttyd
2.8/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Imperial stout brewed with cacao nibs. Why not?

Pours a thick, oily, pitch black. Very dense looking beer with almost no head. Surprised at the lack of lacing for such a big stout. Aroma is filled with chocolate, some port-wine fruity characters, and alcohol. Flavor is muted by the alcohol, but I am getting some dark chocolate, roasted malt, sweet dark fruits (raisins ands figs), and molasses. Salty soy-sauce comes through in the finish in a slightly off-putting fashion. Alcohol creates a warming sensation as it goes down. Sliky, creamy mouthfeel with little carbonation. This stout is really on the edge of being too cloyingly sweet. Average stout at best. Maybe another few months would have done this beer some good.

Photo of GarrettMD
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Very dark, black hue. Little to no head that's very dark. Fades to a ring of bubbles around the outside.

S - Lots of alcohol, some banana peel which is a little odd, some fig/chocolate. Alcohol is a little overpowering on this one, though this is a very fresh batch.

T - Whoa chocolate. Sweet chocolate dominates the flavor. A mild alcohol bite in the background, same overall flavors as the aroma, but just a different balance.

M - Silky smooth. Alcohol almost disappears after the aroma. Finish is sweet and smooth with a heavy thick body that coats the mouth with chocolate chocolate and more chocolate.

O - If this were aged, I would definitely rate it higher. The taste and mouthfeel for this fresh of a batch though is amazing. Would definitely buy and cellar this again.

Photo of 7ate9
3.8/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours black of course. no head. as it should.
Smell is of course chocolate..but more than that even is a distinct cherry fruitiness which is quite nice, with a background of roast and even further back is a bit of meaty soy bits which i don't particularly like. If it weren't for the strange savory meat quality i would be in love. Even so, I like that it's not just straight cocoa choco blast...it has the bright subtle fruitiness of the nibs as well.
It's big of course but instead of choco hitting me first it's the roast which seems pretty aggressive. Then the cherry fruit midpalate followed by cocoa powder on the finish. I am again getting the meat quality here and I wish it would go away. The abv hits hard on the swallow.
Big and viscous thick sticky. Adequate carb. Good.
I liked it a lot, but for some reason I still feel wanting. I was afraid of cellaring this one for fear of the choco flav dieing away, however, I shared with my girlfriend and she said "Until I had this beer, I've never drank a beer that I thought that needs to age before being drinkable"

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,483 ratings.