1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,484 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,484
Reviews: 442
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 163
Gots: 601 | 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.
View: Beers (211) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 1,484 | Reviews: 442 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

Photo of ferrari29
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beer poured from bottle into Snifter glass

A - Pour formed a thin beige colored head; black colored body; good color; plenty of visible carbonation

S - Licorice; chocolate and some coffee; roasted malts and smoky scents; pleasant; subtle hints of spices like coriander

T - Coffee and chocolate; smooth earthy taste of roasted malts; slight touch of caramel; raisins

M - Thick/viscous; soapy rinse and slightly effervescent; great flavor; perfect blend of stout ingredients; well-balanced tastes and aromas

D - I love this drink; would highly recommend to others; would be fantastic with desserts

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

22 oz Bottle poured into two snifters

A-Pours a very black color with little to no head. There is some brown lacing but not much. Does not appear very thick but is quite opaque.

S-Not the most aromatic beer but does smell a decent amount like dark chocolate. There is some licorice or some sort of candy that comes through but its not that strong.

T-Very chocolatey, but not at all creamy. A very bitter but not too hoppy stout. Very different from the hop forward aspect of night stalker, instead of the hop forward you have a cocoa forward. I am kind of reminded of a hot chocolate made with dark chocolate. There is also almost some fruit flavors coming through with a little licorice and toffee. Quite good overall.

M-Very nice carbonation and rather light bodied for being as big a beer as this is. I think that the alcohol may mellow a little with age but nonetheless it is quite drinkable.

O-I was very impressed with this beer. I think it holds its own against the other Goose Island stouts by being the most tame of them all and frankly I think this would make a better 4 pack than a bomber. It is very drinkable but not by yourself. The alcohol is also a little too noticeable at times.

Photo of zep9865
3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into New Belgium snifter. Pours like motor oil with a hint of brown in this beer's dark hue. Complemented with a nice one finger cocoa foam head

Smells of dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and toffee. Whether or not you thought you could taste the alcohol, the smells gives it away anyway

Tastes like the 70 percent cocoa chocolate that you eat with red wine...plus 11.5 percent alcohol in slightly carbonated form.

The wonderful chocolately beginning of the beer segues quickly into a malty, dry finish. The notability of alcohol in this beer reduces it to a sipper for some.

This beer is superb. Goose Island makes legitimate bombers and this is no exception. Russian imperial stouts have really grown on me, and Big John is a solid effort from Goose

Photo of scanny79
4.01/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Very dark, think black oil look too it. Seemed to pour thick and left about a 2 finger dark tan head to it. No light penetrated the glass when held to the light.

Smell: Almost seemed to have a hint of liquid smoke sense to it, not overwheming tho. A sweeter molases smell could be there as well.

Taste: This is the first time I have tried Big John. I was surprised at the first taste that there was a lack of the sweetness I have heard and read about. Had a stronger taste of "smoke", but not nearly as bad as some other beers I have tried. It does leave a nice coffee aftertaste in my mouth even if not recently taken a drink.

Mouthfeel: It is smooth like other reviews have said. It had some carbonation to it, a little more than I was expecting. Fairly nice over all.

Overall: I really like the Stout style of beers. Big John didn't totally disappoint, but I did have some big expectations for it to live up to. B. John is definetly drinkable and re-drinkable, but when it comes to the dark thick beers, I'll still take a Darkness anyday of the week. Good beer however. Definetly worth a shot.

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

Poured from a bottle into a Unibroue tulip.

A: Very dark brown, totally opaque. Minimal tan head, good retention and some lace.

S: Chocolate and roasted malts. Good, but not strong. Touch of banana pokes through from time to time. Towards the end, the alcohol itself comes forth.

T: Roasted malt, vinous pepper/alcohol, and semi-sweet chocolate. Great! Complexity is low but the flavors are true. As the beer warms, a whisper of smokey licorice joins in.

M: Heavy enough, but not too much. Smooth and slightly oily/syrupy. About half way through, it develops some creaminess that is very nice.

O: Not as good as the BCBS, but still very good. I'll be grabbing a few more from the store before they disappear; I suspect they will age for a little while. Try it if you can.

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

Appearance -- Pours a deep, dark brown with chestnut highlights and a creamy tan ring about the glass.

Smell -- Very rich and roasted: roast malt, burnt toast, dark fruits, burnt raw sugars. There's definitely alcohol in the aroma, but not harsh or medicinal. Overall, sweet and roasted.

Taste -- Dominant flavor characteristics are of roast malt, burnt bread crusts, and burnt sugars. Additional malt-derived flavors of figs and anisettes. Not much detectable hop flavor.

Mouthfeel -- Full-bodied, moderate carbonation. Moderate alcohol warming, but no sharp burning. Solid.

Overall -- My first question is: where is the cocoa?? The flavor profile is totally dominated by burnt sugars and anise - no chocolatey goodness to be had. I guess this is the closest I'll get to a proper Cook County Stout. Good, if slightly underwhelming.

Photo of Duff27
3.7/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- One inch mocha head atop a dark brown/black beer. No lacing, decent head retention.

S- Dark chocolate. I smell bourbon for some reason??

T- Can taste the cocoa nibs and for whatever reason seems to have a hint of bourbon, who knows? A little heat but not intolerable.

M- Very vicisous, smooth.

D/O- A middle of the road sipper. Most will want to split with a friend or two. Thanks a lot PTMcB!

Photo of shawnp
4.5/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber poured into a duvel. 4/25/2011

A: Ink black pour with a small deep tan head. There wasn't much lacing or retention during consumption

S: In my opinion, Big John has a nice aroma to it, very sugary, sweet chocolate and black liquorish. A minute amount of molasses hidden in there.

T: Thick but smooth. The taste is very similar to the aroma for me with a small amount of coffee on the back end.

M: Smooth and low carbonation with a mid range alcohol burn.

O: I really enjoyed this brew from GI. I am not huge into Russians but I think Big John was very good.

Photo of tewaris
3.63/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours silky and dark with a small brown head. Sub-par retention and lacing, but forgivable. Dark brown highlights are seen.

Not a whole lot going on in terms of aroma -- the typical stout aroma with ample amount of alcohol, but not harsh. Smells sweet and perhaps too much so because of the alcohol.

Not a huge fan of the taste either: this one seems a lot like BCS in terms of its shortcomings, without any of the awesomeness that BCS brings to the table. Still, quite "rich" with a strong dark fruit acidity (think raisins) and substantial roast. It should be noted that the roast is still way less than your average RIS, and I don't resent it.

Mouthfeel is a killer -- silky, smooth, coating and low on the carbonation. Overall, I wasn't as impressed as I was with Nightstalker, that is vastly underrated IMO.

Photo of badboyrsl84
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a black as night with a beautiful tan head

Smell - tons or raisins but with a further investigation I get some super dark chocolate and a hint of alcohol.

Taste - follows the nose really well. The raisins are upfront with a follow of that dark chocolate. The raisins are big as it warms but in the end it's the coco nibs that pulls through. The finish is amazing lots of throat lacing chocolate that leaves me wanting more.

Mouthfeel - its very well balanced with a little alcohol burn in the end but the 11.5% abv burn.

Overall - a very very good beer I'd love to have a couple glasses of. I'd like to see how the taste would play out with some age to this. Solid all the way around.

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,484 ratings.