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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

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1,494 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,494
Reviews: 442
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 167
Gots: 597 | 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: 1,494 | Reviews: 442 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

Photo of bamadog
4.74/5  rDev +16.2%
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
4.02/5  rDev -1.5%
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
4.35/5  rDev +6.6%
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
2.83/5  rDev -30.6%
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
4.1/5  rDev +0.5%
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
3.83/5  rDev -6.1%
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"

Photo of korguy123
4.42/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

03/25/2011 - bottled 1833

A- Black as night pour. Finger width dark tan head. Lacing briefly sticks to glass. Alcohol is oily on glass.

S- Dark roasted coffee, dark sweet chocolate. Chocolate syrup, vanilla, burnt marshmallow. Alcohol is non existent in thee nose.

T- Sweet chocolate syrup. Vanilla, brown sugar, bitter roasted coffee. Alcohol warmth hits you in the back end. Bitter aftertaste.

M- Medium bodied, lively carbonation tickles the tongue as the alcohol warms your throat.

O- Interesting trying the base for bcs, not my favorite of the big beers from Goose Island but definitely up there.

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

From 22oz bottle to Boulevard tasting glass on 5/7/11
Sampled at the 1st NoVA BA Tasting Extravaganza
*From notes

A: This one ain't letting any light through - it's black and dark and exactly what you'd expect and want. An intense two finger head is rich in color, and leads to good lacing.

S: Molasses and cocoa on the nose. A bit of char, but the pronounced amount of sugary filler comes through in a big way, and I can't wait to get into this one.

T: Tasty stuff. It's somewhat sweet, showcasing milk and dark chocolate notes. The malt tears into the mid, and smokes out the finish on this one.

M: Much bigger then I'd expected. Viscous and thick. It's certainly a sipper.

O: My first experience with a Goose Island stout, and I must say that their Big John didn't dissapoint. This is a damn good beer, and I'm stoked I've got a bottle of my own. Thumbs up - another winner from Goose Island.

Photo of FreshmanPour77
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed on 4-20-11
Reviewed cold from a bottle to a glass

A – Poured one finger of foam, dark brew with a tanish head. Some carbonation is present

S – Roasted malts, cocoa and dark chocolate with no trace of hops

T/M – Full bodied brew, very malty sweet taste but turned into a dry aftertaste. No real hop bitterness to speak of. Pick up hints of dark chocolate and brown sugar and cocoa

D – Good brew and all but it didn’t blow me away. It reminded me of bourbon county stout without the bourbon. Glad I tried this brew but wouldn’t seek this out again. Not that big of a fan of this brew

Photo of brewcrew76
4.37/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 1764 - bottled on 3/25/11

A - Solid black with deep brown tones and a small thick mocha head that needed a vigorous pour to appear. Spotty specks of foam remain on the sides but slowly run down the glass into a small ring.

S - Deeply roasted malts mixed with molasses, dark chocolate, brown sugar, rich fudge and maybe a slight hint of leather.

T - Strong mix of dark and bittersweet chocolate that lingers for some time. Heavily roasted malts, very sweet but fades into a dry finish, not sure if it is from the hops or slightly astringent from the malts. Lights hints of black coffee, tobacco and leather but the heavy chocolate notes are present throughout.

M - Thick and syrupy, sticky on the lips after a few sips, long dry complex finish.

D - Reminds me of Bourbon County without the bourbon and more chocolate. Guessing same base beer. Very rich and complex. A sure sipper. Prefer this to Nightstalker.

Photo of mgoblue5743
5/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Evil genius who thought to brew an imperial stout with chocolate nibs. This is a flawless beer, it even looks pretty. Poured from a 22oz bomber into a snifter and sipped over 2 hours; got better as it warmed up. I am running to the store to buy out the stock, one of my favorite beers of all time, I am a stout man and this is right up there with the DL 2011 I had last week. Less viscous, but equally powerful.

Photo of billab914
3.96/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tasting glass. It poured thick and black with a moderate, dark chocolaty head to it. Excellent looking Imperial Stout.

The aroma shows a lot of coffee and roasted flavors to it. I get some sweeter, vanilla and chocolate coming through as well. I little boozy but not too bad. Not a bad aroma overall for the style.

The taste has a lot of dark, sweeter fruits to it with raisins and figs being the most evident. I get a bit of a sweeter, molasses and vanilla like flavor to it, while the chocolate adds some bitter-sweet flavors as well. It's a little hot in the finish, but overall has pretty decent flavors.

The mouthfeel was very thick and creamy with carbonation being a little below average. Overall it wasn't amazing, but it was pretty good beer. It had a nice thick look and feel to it and had some bold flavors to it. It came off just a touch sweet and hot though overall which hurt it slightly. Overall I really enjoyed it though.

Photo of zimm421
3.01/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter. First thing I notice is the lack of a substantial head. I gave this a very aggressive pour the second time around, and still got nothing. What little head there was disappeared almost instantly, just leaving a few bubbles around the edge of the glass. Swirling in the snifter brings back some head, but it disappears quickly again. The beer was a solid black, and the very thin head was brown.

The chocolate definitely stands out in the aroma, but the alcohol definitely covers up any other scents. The taste is very dry, and the chocolate is definitely very bitter. The alcohol is again very present, and just overpowers the rest of the flavors. The aftertaste is mostly bitter chocolate, but the alcohol flavors stick around too.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied and there is a film left in your mouth after each sip. There's almost no carbonation and it goes down like water; except for the aftertaste. Overall, a pretty disappointing beer. I expected a little bit more out of this brew. Definitely had much better stouts, glad I bought it once though.

Photo of rye726
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Up for review is a 22oz bottle of Big John from Goose Island. Poured into a snifter at cellar temp. Nice dark color and an espresso head. Notes of chocolate over roasted malts, dark pitted fruits and hops. Mediu to full body drinks well. Perhaps a bit over carbonated.

Photo of smakawhat
3.42/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass. Dating on bottle is March 25th 2011.

Out of the bottle pours a little thin, but manages a faint tight cocoa brown bubbles but can't form a head. Collar stays briefly then in about 20 seconds disappears never to return. Color seems almost incredibly dark red. There is no lacing on this brew at all either. Kind of looks a little dead, but at least drinkable

Sweet fruit concord grape, heat and must seems to be on the nose. Lots of heat, barleywine like. I get no sense of chocolate or cacao off of this at all.

Taste is hot and a little stinging, that's what strikes me first after tasting. Feels a nice coffee heat and burn. Palate though is just a strange tickle and doesn't feel comforting. This is also a little thin too. Hints of anisette on the finish with a good absinthe/Pernod like quality, mostly from the heat feel.

This isn't too bad, but it certainly isn't really that enjoyable for me, kind of middle of the road. No regrets about trying it or purchasing.

Photo of Huhzubendah
3.48/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Paul, who is pretty goddamn big himself.

The beer is very dark brown with a thin beige cap that fades rather hastily. The aroma brings a pronounced coffee presence, dark fruits, and mild roast. The flavor is ok. I would prefer more roast and malt flavors, with less dark fruits and sweetness. The finish offers an alcoholic burn, with a subtle lingering bitterness. Overall, I thought this was nowhere near the quality of any of the Bourbon County Stout lineup. Perhaps this will improve some with age, but I find it to be a pretty average imperial stout.

Photo of ddibrita
3.55/5  rDev -13%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours black with a light tan head that subsides to nothing very quickly.

S- Nothing special here. I'm getting some cacao and mostly alcohol. Some earthy tones are present as well.

T- Smokey bitter chocolate with a definite malt character. I'm getting some nuts and some earthiness. Decent balance with the alcohol.

M- Low carbonation with a decent amount of heat. It seems to be drinking a bit thin. However, this was my favorite part.

Overall: I think this one is okay. Not a real easy stout to drink. I think I'm gonna try and age this one. Maybe this will bring out more in the flavor department.

Photo of MbpBugeye
2.71/5  rDev -33.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This was one of my contributions to our Goose Island Stout Line-up. Shared with Nrbw23, Ryan011235, Spider889 and Schwaeh.

Bottled on 3/25/11 poured into a snifter

There's hardly any difference in the appearance to any of the members of the Goose Island imperial stout family. Perhaps the non-barrel aged ones such as this look a little thinner and feign just a little bit more of a head. But in the end this one sits static in the snifter, not so much as a collar. The beer has red edges and my glass looked to have some grittiness in it despite being relatively decanted.

Its mostly alcohol and cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs don't give off aromas of smooth milk chocolate. They are much more of a natural, earthy, raw thing. This beer has lots of that. Aromas of nut shells/husk/bark from the nibs. It still gives the beer a lot of sweetness in the aroma that teams up with the inherent sweet, maltiness and dark fruit elements of the stout.

Much of the same. Lots of booze and crazy, raw cocoa sweetness. Its a very bittersweet type of raw chocolate that has a lot of nuttiness and bark-like qualities. Some dark fruits poke out that seem at opposition to the earthy cocoa nibs. From time to time I get a bit of band-aid and plastic flavors that seem to come from the inner workings of the beer, fueled by a fussel alcohol propellant.

Very full bodied. The carbonation is very low and alcohol imparts a lot of heat. This is the typical experience from these Goose Island beers though. This is something of a slower creature than many of the others though.

Meh, the worst of the lot. In fact, I think I'm growing weary of these big sludge bombs that are Goose Island imperials. I think our little tasting that we did satiated an appetite that wasn't there. I'll be taking a break from the big bruising stouts for quite some time while my body tries to process the residuals of this beer.

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

Split a 22oz bomber; poured into a snifter.

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

S: Rich roasted malts and dark chocolate.

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

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

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

Photo of MrTopher
4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,494 ratings.