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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

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1,462 Ratings
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Ratings: 1,462
Reviews: 436
rAvg: 4.08
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 159
Gots: 600 | 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:
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)
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Ratings: 1,462 | Reviews: 436 | Display Reviews Only:
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
3.65/5  rDev -10.5%
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
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

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

I poured this brew from a 22 oz bottle into a tulip glass at about 56 degrees. The bottle was dated 3/25/11. I know I should let this age some but I have been wanting to try this for awhile.

Big John poured a viscous deep dark brown/black with thin dark khaki colored head.

The smell is earthy and of roasted malts with notes of cocoa and some subtle floral notes.

The taste is very nice and balanced with the beginning taste of roasted malts and cocoa to a deeper choclatey note that I can only equate to my childhood when I would take a spoonful of Bosco chocolate syrup while making a chocolate milk. It has very subtle similarities to that taste. It then fades to a hoppy bitter dry and clean finish.

The mouthfeel is thick and chewy with a nice warming affect from the alcohol.

Overall this is a very nice example of a stout and surely one that I will look to stock up on, when I see them around. I can't wait to taste this again after a year or so of aging on it. Enjoy!!!

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: The beer is nearly jet black in color—some traces of amber are visible near the edges of the glass when it is held up to the light. It poured with a finger high tan head that slowly died down but did not completely fade away.
S: Sweet aromas of roasted malts are present in the nose along with notes of chocolate and raisins.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell, although the strength of the flavors is slightly stronger. Raisins stand out in particular; there are some hints of bitterness towards the finish.
M: It feels very full-bodied, somewhat smooth and has a light to moderate amount of carbonation. A bit of dryness is present in the finish.
O: The beer is very drinkable considering its strength because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste. There’s no way that I could drink more than one of these in a night because it’s filling and the alcohol will soon catch up with you.

Photo of ne0m00re
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

04/21/11- Review of a 22 oz bottle bottled 03/25/11 2017.
A: opaque black with a strong caramel head and lacing.
S: WHiskey alcohol, pleasantly smokey chocolate, raisins, and a slight green hops.
T: Sweet chocolate with a smoked wood character, acidic coffee, obvious whiskey alcohol... decent.
M: Thicker and syrupy with some crisp alcohol and frothiness.
O: OK.

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

750ml bottle shared with some friends. This was very much like Bourbon County, but with the twist of the added cacao nibs. Thick and dark, boozy and chocolately. A slow sipper for sure. It was a great beer but sort of wore me down a bit. I might search this one out again and let it sit for a while

Photo of ngeunit1
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a dark black color with just some slight brown hues and a finger of frothy brown head. The head fades down to a thin ring with some spots of lace.

S - Aroma is full of tons of sweet chocolate and malt. Also some coffee and a ton of roasted notes. Really potent.

T - Starts off with a lot of rich slightly sweet chocolate flavors and lots of roasted flavor. Also has some dark fruit flavor in there. Through the middle, some oak and sweeter dark fruit flavor. The finish gains a bit of coffee flavor and bitterness and some booze that lingers.

M - Full bodied with low carbonation. Really thick and creamy. Alcohol flavor warms the mouth a bit, especially at the finish. Overall, bold but still smooth.

D - Pretty drinkable. Super bold flavors make this a bit more of a sipper (as well as the 11.5% abv), but there is a lot to enjoy. Lots of chocolate flavor from start to end really goes well with the imperial stout base.

Photo of Mavajo
4.63/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I believe this is the same base beer as Nightstalker and BCS -- so it's no surpise that it looks much like either of those beers. Dark body with a brown head.

Aroma is nice subtle cocoa, roasted barley, etc. Good, not great -- but then the taste comes in. Definitely great! Delicious -- nice powedered cocoa taste with big roasty malt. The roastiness is done exceptionally well. It doesn't leave you feeling parched or dry-mouthed like many heavily-roasted beers do (like Yeti, for example).

Mouthfeel is spot-on. Thick body, good carbonation.

This is really an exceptional imperial stout. Delicious.

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

22 oz bottle, shared with my girlfriend, poured into a Southampton Imperial Russian Stout release day snifter after we let it warm from the refrigerator temperature for about 15 minutes. I was torn as to whether to drink this fresh or age it, but I thought since it was aged on cacao nibs that I would drink it fresh to get the full cacao effect.

Look: an aggressive pour yields no head other than a thin layer of deep reddish brown bubbles along the sides of the glass and a bit of a bubble slick on the top of the beer. The bubbles stick around for a long time and don't leave behind lacing, though some bubbles stick to the sides of the glass for a few seconds in a quasi-lacing experience. The black bodied beer looks thick as could be when pouring it and no light gets through. Good looking imperial stout.

Smell: roasted barley, molasses, alcohol, hints of chocolate and coffee. Truthfully, much more subdued than I expected it to be. Still, fairly good.

Taste: heavy roasted malt flavor, alcohol, a bit of alcohol soaked dark fruit, and a little bit of vanilla. The chocolate taste is incredibly subdued and I have a hard time finding anything that the cacao nibs would've imparted. Its good, though not as complex as I would've liked and not as chocolatey either.

Feel: full bodied, thick like motor oil, smooth and silky, with a slight warming effect from the alcohol. Very slight carbonation, just barely enough to remind you that this is a beer and not a port wine. The mouthfeel on this one is perhaps the best part. Drinkability wise, its a sipper.

Overall: a good imperial stout but nothing really stands out about this one. It tastes like a less complex Bourbon Brand County Stout, owed to the lack of barrel aging, and the cacao nibs really didn't add anything that I could taste. Still, a fairly good imperial stout and worth a try... but not worth going nuts over. Cheers!

Photo of AlCaponeJunior
4.53/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Nice looking, diesel motor oil black with a creamy brown head with some staying power and fair lacing.

Smelled and tasted wonderful! Quite fruity actually for a big stout, with lovely cocoa and milk chocolate, along with tons of roasted malts and a bit of coffee.

Feel was simply spectacular! So rich, so thick, so creamy, the full body was accented with a great lingering lightly bitter chocolate aftertaste.

Drinks fantastic too. I'll always be looking for this one when it comes around again.

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

Much thanks to LockeSD for this one! A very generous extra he provided.

A-Pours black with a half a finger of coffee colored head that has fair retention and leaves spotty lace. Very viscous, I hate to use the old simile, but it pours like used motor oil.

S-Chocolate and booze hit me first then some nice roasted malt notes come in along with hints of coffee. Smells very decadent.

T-Huge chocolate notes, a bit boozy (I'm liking it), roasted malt, coffee, dark fruit. If I didn't know better, I'd think some Hershey's syrup was put in my glass without my knowing. I like chocolate flavors in stouts and this one isn't as sweet as ST Choklat, but it is one of the more chocolatey ones I've had.

M-Viscous, thick, coating, full bodied.

O-I really liked this beer. Its a sipper for sure, but every sip was a pleasure. If you like "dessert" beers, this one should be right up your alley, but if you don't enjoy the sweeter/more chocolatey brews, pass on this one.

Photo of DNICE555
4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up at B Deccicio’s. That store is gangster.

Motor oil body with a tan head that fades very quickly.

Smells of chocolates, roasted grain, coffee, and caramel.

I didn’t want to cellar this one too long and have the chocolate fade on me. The cocoa was rich and delicious. Right amount of bitterness in there with the coffee and hops to balance out the chocolate and sweetness.

Thick and cream. I Ran a lot less hot than their other stouts.

Very tasty overall. I drank it pretty quickly for the abv… yet it was thick and creamy enough to savor.

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

Goose Island Big John, bomber bought at New Beer Distributors in Manhattan for $10 (I was paying for my beer purchases and saw a bottle of Big John displayed on the window with a note, "$10, limit one per customer; I had to buy one).

Cool, sleek bottle design, with what appears to be a diamond-shaped window of a Modernist building in Chicago (maybe the John Hancock, or a Mies design). I love that this stout is inspired by "the epic skyline of Chicago".

Bottled on March 25 2011, Bottle number 1950.

Appearance: Served in my Sierra snifter, it pours thick and demonically black with barely a brownish tone around the glass. Huge two-finger head that doesn't last. Absolutely no lacing!

Smell: Wood, stable, horse piss, chocolate. Spice, booze. Sugar. This smells like a farm-to-table restaurant and gourmet Middle-America.

Taste: More chocolate, this time in liquid form and mixed with milk. A tad of wood and bourbon and heat follow. A subtle-but-firm bitterness prickles the tongue and lingers in the mouth at the end of the sip. Very heavy feeling all around, but not overtly sweet or chocolaty like others have noticed.

Mouthfeel: Full body and flavor, very low carbonation. Sweet, thick, chocolaty. It could wear you out if you let it warm up too much. Alcohol is not too prominent, even though it comes with a shot of heat. Finishes woodsy and dry, slightly bitter.

Overall: A nice Imperial Stout, not super great or earth-shattering but very enjoyable. Could use more carbonation and "oomph"/excitement, but it works good as it is.

Photo of ShogoKawada
2.68/5  rDev -34.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

22oz into bell's pint.

A- Fantastic pour- deep brown/black body, tons of tiny brown bubbles form a nice thick oatmeal cookie colored head that settles quickly. Minimal lacing. Great color.

S- Pretty heavy chocolate cake and coffee. Nice, inviting aroma.

T- Very chocolatey, some dark fruit. Very sweet, chocolate syrup and then some. Mild coffee. The flavors aren't off... they're just overbearing. This has the dreaded triple bock/dark lord sweet sludge taste/mouthfeel combo going on. Not a fan.

M- Thick, syrupy, too sweet. More carbonation needed.

O- Eh. Meh. Not worth the price. Would not buy again regardless of the price, actually. Doubt I'll have a 2nd glass.


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

dark black typical stout color with weak brown head. moderate lacing appears on the glass however, in a clear film reminiscent of wine lacing. big malt smell, along with molasses and a touch of chocolate, although faint. taste is bitter upfront, slightly hot, with more sweet molasses than chocolate. thick motor oil mouthfeel. this is my first goose island stout. It's decent, but not the best double I've had. Hides the alcohol well despite the ABV, but that's really the best thing going for it.

Photo of output01x
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from a 650 mL. bottle (Bottled On 03/25/11) into a pint glass.

A strong pour yields a 1/2-finger mocha-colored creamy head that quickly diminishes to a very light dusting and thin foam ring. The body is nearly perfectly black with only the faintest traces of crimson red when held to light.

Dark chocolate and roasted malts combine to create a decadent nose. A thick booze aromas lingers in the background.

Just like the nose, the flavors are primarily roasted malts, dark chocolates, and a decent alcohol warmth. Mocha and woodiness notes add to the experience. A dry coffee aftertaste is noticable at the back of the throat.

Full bodied with moderate carbonation, this beer is carbonated just enough to keep it from being syrupy but it is still rather sticky.

Photo of evanlarkin
4.58/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark dark brown, close to black, with just a tinge of brown along the edges. A little more brown is visible when it's up to the light, but it's still pretty dark. Not much head, less than a finger total when poured into a snifter. Nothing much to be said for lacing.

Chocolate and milk (chocolate milk?) predominate, with espresso and booze in the background, finally giving way to an oakiness that I have never experienced before. If you just smell lightly, there's a kind of licorice character to it which is very pleasant.

It's like a more explosive experience of the smell. Chocolate and a milkiness come first, and suddenly you're hit by the booziness of it all. Then you get some coffee beans, followed by an oak flavor that almost seems more like a texture than a taste. There is a subtle bitterness in the background that tastes as much like coffee as hops.

Low carbonation, and full. It coats your mouth, but doesn't stick as long as many other imperial stouts, which serves to entice the drinker to have another sip.

Overall: This is a really solid stout, definitely placing itself in my personal top 5 list. It's not entirely a unique flavor, but definitely superior to most that I have encountered in the current market. If I find it at another store, or if it becomes an annual brew, I will definitely purchase more.

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

Aside from being extremely dark and a dark brown head, the beauty of this one comes in the pour. The viscosity is visible the second it hits the glass and takes on a syrupy texture.

Smell is chocolate, coffee, and a warm boozyness.

Once again, GI impresses with its stouts. The cocoa is sweet, smooth, and rich. It has the robust coffee and malt notes that are typical in GIs stouts. It finishes bittersweet.

The mouthfeel is superb. Extremely thick and smooth. It is hot, but it's an aspect that contributes rather than detracts from it.

Overall, it's another successful stout from GI. It's a sipper. Take your time and enjoy it.

Photo of Vdubb86
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter

This beer pours the blackness that I always knew that it would be. But it comes from good stout bloodlines so it was inevitable. The aroma takes an odd note of being boozy and roast filled, which is strong even for my advanced tastes. The taste is...holy crap...dark chocolate. I was looking to see if I could taste a touch of Augustus Gloop because there is seriously a chocolate river in my glass. This beer I like very much, it's got good flavor, look pretty, goes down smooth enough to enjoy greatly. This is a win in my book. Well done AB...GI...whatever.

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

We pour a syrupy brew of acrid black oil that actually gives way to light around the edges to produce ruby rays throughout. It holds a minimal chocolate colored head of half a finger, which recedes almost immediately. Small clumps of bubbles are arrested about the top of the liquid. Little bits of lacing stick, but only after a robust swirl. The carbonation looks like it is trying its best to be active, but is hindered by how thick the beer is, so they rise at a snail’s pace. No sediment is noted. The aroma is bold, with dark roasty malts, sweet fig and raisin, and a healthy sting of alcohol. The chocolate nibs are apparent, but they come across more milk chocolatey than dark cacao. There is also a coolness to the nose, of light banana esters. As we sip, holy cacao nibs!! Are you sure this isn’t chocolate fudge?! Surprise aside, the first thing noted in the taste is a sugary sweet, thick milk and dark chocolate orgy. This is infused beautifully into heavily roasted malts. This is met by a subtle hop slickness for a cleaning balance. The middle peaks with further sweetness, of more chocolate, as well as some cool vanilla bean, and bready yeast. Here we also get fruitiness, lent by sugary figs and, even more so, black cherries. Creamy, sugary malts and a huge alcoholic burn kick us through to the finish. The aftertaste breathes of big fusel alcohols, hints of dried cherries, and chocolate so dark it has that bitter, metallic twinge to it. The body is milkshake thick, and the carbonation is medium to high. The residual sugars and bold quantities of added chocolate nibs help to give this beer a sugary sticky smack, which coats the lips, throat, and stomach, all the way down. Despite this coating the mouth is left significantly dried, and the tongue feels like tinfoil running along the hard palate. The abv is abundantly obvious, and the drinker is left warmed. Due to the thickness and higher alcohol content this one makes you take your time.

Overall, what we enjoyed most about this brew was the knockout flavoring of the chocolate. While we were certainly expecting a big presence, it was hard to anticipate such nib action on the scale delivered. It really knocks you to the ground!! What was also surprising, in a good way, was how fruity it was. While those dark fruits were not the star, they were big enough through the middle and end, and really brought out some of the subtle complexities within.

Photo of kirok1999
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a lingering light brown ring around the snifter and bits of thin foam floating around.
Smells caramely sweet, slight cherry and bits of wood and charcoal, which really matches the taste. There's a funky dark note in the finish, kinda musky and I'm not quite sure how to describe it. The finish lingers for quite a while. Low carbonation and a smooth dense mouthfeel.
This gets funkier as it warms up. It gets a lot darker and a bit dryer. It still finishes well but there's kind of a barnyard funk. I wonder what a few years in the bottle will do to it. The alcohol is well hidden up front but maybe it also contributes to the way the finish lingers.

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
3.53/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I have been a huge fan of any Imperial Stout made by Goose Island, so this was a must try beer!

Bottle number 1644.

Poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Light black body with redish brown hues. 2 fingers of a medium khaki brown head that quickly dissapates into a small brown ring around the outside of the glass.

Smell: straight up cocoa and dark chocolates.

Taste: milk chocolate, dark chocolate and cocoa bitterness all integrated well together. Maybe a little coffee flavor too. The beer has a sweet chocolate taste when it sits on your tongue and turns to a cocoa bitterness when you swallow the beer. Some alcohol is tasted when you swallow, but no alcohol burn is noted with the obvious alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied beer with carbonation that is at the low end of moderate. Carbonation seems to make the bitterness of this beer become more obvious. This beer is a bit more carbonated than I would like it. Less carbonation would really make this beer go from very good to fantastic. The beer has a bit of a dry finish to it as well.

Overall: Another solid offering from Goose Island, better than average imperial stout. After drinking Big John, I do prefer the Bourbon County Stout to Big John. This beer will probably be better after it has a year or two in the cellar. Not much complexity and the sweet and bitter chocolate/cocoa flavors are the star players of this beer. A bit on the overcarbonated side as well. It is still worth seeking out a pint of this beer.

Photo of emerge077
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours placidly into a tulip, mahogany tones glinting in the light.
A thin quarter inch of dark tan mocha foam dissipates soon after a couple minutes, receding to a ring around the edge. Spotty bits of froth slide down the glass after a sip is taken, but no lace forms.

Fried plantains in caramel syrup, sticky molasses, brown sugar, deep roastiness, dark chocolate. Rich and complex aroma.

Intense dark chocolate flavor, mellow bittersweetness, rich roastiness, woody tobacco and coffee candies. The roast character is soft and not acrid whatsoever. Sweet as expected with so much chocolate content, with a low level bitterness from the roast. Effortlessly smooth and silky, chewy with a lasting dry chocolate aftertaste, sticky on the lips. Alcohol really isn't perceptible at all. The cacao nibs take centerstage here, while the big roasted malts acting as the supporting cast.

Very enjoyable, a rich treat that is easy to finish, sipping for over an hour of course.
Well balanced for such a big stout.

Photo of zhanson88
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours out nearly black, appears totally opaque black once in the glass. One finger of mocha colored head forms that doesn't have much staying power.

Smell: I get a lot of sweet milk chocolate, heavy liquorice, light roast, and a hint of hop character. Fairly sweet overall.

Taste: Milk chocolate and liquorice are prevalent up front. Slight roast and espresso follow. Hops have faded at this point, but it's probably more enjoyable than it was fresh.

Mouthfeel/Overall: This beer is full bodied with low, creamy carbonation. One of the best aspects of the beer. I did enjoy this imperial stout quite a bit, but it's a bit sweet overall without a lot of roasted malt character. Not a lot of bitterness to offset.

Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
92 out of 100 based on 1,462 ratings.