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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

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

1,397 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,397
Reviews: 435
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: 11.06%
Wants: 160
Gots: 598 | FT: 52
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  11.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
Brewmasters Notes:
Inspired by the epic skyline of Chicago, Goose Island's brewers set out to craft Big John; a tall, bold slugger of a stout that stands out vividly against the little soft beers out there. Epic amounts of roasted malt and an addition of cacoa nibs give Big John a massive chocolate flavor and aroma. With a body as substantial and black as the building to which it pays homage, Big John is sure to inspire a sense of awe with each sip.

(Beer added by: aasher on 03-13-2011)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,397 | Reviews: 435 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of fear025
4.88/5  rDev +19.9%

Aroma:Lots of sweet malt, with chocolate and dark roasted malt too. The dark fruit aroma comes next, raisins, plums, etc.

Appearance:This beer is black and thick, with a good size head that quickly dissipates. The beer has poor lacing.

Taste:There are tons of roast flavors in the foretaste, which make way in the midtaste to chocolate, sweet malt, and caramel. I can taste the bitter hops more in the aftertaste, but they are still subdued.

Mouthfeel:This beer is hugely thick, and there is a prominent hot alcohol bite in the foretaste. Good carbonation.

Drinkability:This is a fantastic brew when fresh, and I really hope that the hot alcohol bite lessens as the beer ages. The chocolate flavors make this a great sipping dessert beer.

fear025, Apr 17, 2011
Photo of jimmy82063
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%

Scored a bomber of this in Westchester, NY. Poured into a snifter. Bottled on date 3/25/11....a youngster!

A) Jet black, no real head to notice, minor lacing.

S) Chocolate of course get some dried fruit as well.

T) My first thought is where's the Bourbon as I am kind of used to that from GI. The semi-sweet chocolate taste is really dominant (expected). If you like chocolate this is for you. What I like is that the sweetness is not overpowering.

M) Very smooth, no alcohol burn at all.

O) What surprised me here is the overall drinkability of this which I thought was pretty easy given the ABV. Not sure what aging would do to this (but hopefully I'll find out!). Really enjoyed this....this would have been a great holiday release!

jimmy82063, Apr 17, 2011
Photo of CMB2012
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

22oz bottle, dated 3/25/11, served in a snifter at cellar temperature.

A- Thick, oily, black with slight hints of dark brown when held to light. Not much foam, but what is there is espresso colored. Not much lacing.

S- Sweet vanilla and chocolate, roasted malts, some dark fruit, and alcohol.

T- The chocolate is the obvious standout ingredient in this beer, and it definitely comes across in the flavor. The taste is as if there were actual chocolate bars dissolved in the beer, mixed with prunes and a couple raisins, some rustic bread, and a little bit of espresso. It's not overly complex, but it is very well done.

M- Thick, viscous, chewy, full body indeed. Good carbonation for IS.

O- It's a good brew, I just wish it were more available. I have yet to try a BCBS of any kind, and I have not cracked open the bottle of night stalker I have in my fridge, but if the quality goes up from here, then I can't wait to try them all!

CMB2012, Apr 17, 2011
Photo of UMNbeerhunter
4.35/5  rDev +6.9%

Poured into a Darkness goblet on 4/16/11.

Pours a oil black with a huge mocha colored head that takes several minutes to dissipate leaving no lacing. I would like to have seen more lacing but the head color and the rest looks great.

Smells of roasted malts and chocolate. It still has some bourbon to it but its mostly covered up by the cocoa nibs. The smell is very sweet and enjoyable.

Taste is much of the same. I taste mostly cocoa nibs and the sweet malts. The bournbon barrel aging is still there but gets covered up at the moment. I think that the bourbon may come out more in a year after the chocolate has faded.

Mouthfeel is medium weight, and there is a significant resin that sticks to your mouth and leaves the taste of chocolate. I like this brew.

Overall this is another hit by GI. While its a little on the sweet side and I wish it started with some more bourbon flavor its a great beer. I hope I can get this for awhile longer because I would like to age some.

UMNbeerhunter, Apr 17, 2011
Photo of BrewCrew2010
4.55/5  rDev +11.8%

A: Pours like black motor oil. Head is dense, creamy, tan, and long lasting.

S: Smells amazing! Strong milk chocolate aroma with notes of booze, roasted malts, and bourbon.

T: First thought is that this taste like a spiked glass of chocolate milk. Great flavor of bourbon, coffee, vanilla, milk chocolate, roasted malts. Perfectly balanced between the heat and the sweetness. A must try for Imperial Stout lovers.

M: Smooth and creamy, although the heat makes it a sipper. Full body & light-medium carbonation.

O: This beer is great. It reminded me of Ten Fidy, but this one has a great bourbon twist on it.

BrewCrew2010, Apr 16, 2011
Photo of AJacob81
3.98/5  rDev -2.2%

Bottled on 3/25/11, poured into a New Belgium globelet for swirling.

A - Almost pitch black, but hues of dark chocolate brown appear when held to the light. One finger of filmy deep khaki head forms, and retains as a thin lacquer throughout. Vigorous swirls produce polka-dot lacing and short-lived half-finger burnt meringue heads. Very visually appealing, more dynamic than the absolute void in a glass that is most BCBS variants.

S - Slightly disappointing, really. Doesn't pop the way my favorite big stouts do. Restrained notes of coffee, molasses, and hot cocoa. As it warms, the swirling releases some anise and brown sugar aromas as well, but on the whole very subdued.

T - Follows the nose up front; coffee and roasted malt make a strong opening, the chocolate is subtle but actually very sweet. Hops are also present in an undefined earthiness. The finish is dominated by blackstrap molasses and a not insignificant hint of sticky maple syrup. Very interesting overall, but lacking the balanced complexity of a Founders Imperial, or even Night Stalker, Big John's close relation.

M and D - The mouthfeel is medium-thick, velvety and more than a little creamy. The finish is sticky, almost cloying, but not quite. Drinkability suffers a touch from the sticky sweetness, but the alcohol masks well and isn't a distraction as it can be with BCBS.

A very pleasant chocolate stout, but lacking somewhat in cohesion, Big John is worth a go. However, I'd place it behind Night Stalker and all members of the BCBS family in the Goose imperial stout sweepstakes.

AJacob81, Apr 16, 2011
Photo of 1noa
4.45/5  rDev +9.3%

Pours thick with light toffee colored head. Strong aromas of chocolate and coffee. Smooth and sweet at first, then settles into a subtle, pleasing bitterness. You can taste the malt, not at all boozy, and ends with a subtle linger of flavor at the back of the palate. In my opinion an excellent beer.

1noa, Apr 16, 2011
Photo of flocculate
3.65/5  rDev -10.3%

All reviews below are spot on and won't reiterate what was already said.

I only have one comment that may add value,

Aroma - there was virtually no aroma to my pour. I split the bottle with a buddy. He agrees - almost no aroma. A little hop perhaps, but didn't get any aroma profiles that were described below.

The label reports a bottling of 3/25/11, batch #1943.

Otherwise, an exceptional imperial stout.

flocculate, Apr 16, 2011
Photo of WankelEngine
4.65/5  rDev +14.3%

Poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a pint glass

A: Almost pitch black with just the slightest tinge of ruby red around the edges when held up to a light. There is a small, light tan head of maybe half a finger which diminishes quickly. No lacing.

S: The smell is potent. I feel a spiciness in my nostrils almost like I’m taking a big whiff of nice brandy. There are notes of coffee and sweet caramel malt. I can also make out some light tropical fruit flavors and a little bitterness.

T: There is a lot to this taste. It starts out sweet and malty, almost like a brown ale. As I savor, it suddenly becomes a lot bitterer. The flavor of coffee is powerful. Behind that are herbs, sweet fruit flavors, cherry and orange peel. The coffee flavor changes to a strong, dark chocolate flavor which last for a long, bitter after taste.

M: I can feel the high alcohol content. It is moderately thick and just a little syrupy. The carbonation is extremely light.

O: Delicious and potent. Definitely a sipper, it’s very strong in both flavor and alcohol content.

WankelEngine, Apr 16, 2011
Photo of pdoran10
3.83/5  rDev -5.9%

Pours out a viscous motor oil looking black. Almost no head. No lacing.

Smell is singed bread and chocolate sweetness. I am reminded of fresh cocoa mulch used in landscaping that my neighbors used growing up. A hint of alcohol heat and some weird earthiness.

Taste is roast and a hint of alcohol heat, with the cocoa nibs' bittersweet flavor coming in at the end. Sort of an earthy bitter dark chocolate flavor that isn't working as well as I thought it would on it's own. Most of the malt character seems muddled by the cocoa flavor. Still overall a nice flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and virtually flat. I am fine with low carbonation on big stouts, but this is VERY lightly carbonated.

A solid effort that comes up a bit short when compared with some of Goose Island's other epic big stouts. Solid, but a bit flawed flavors and construction with a bit of alcohol heat.

pdoran10, Apr 15, 2011
Photo of wschmit
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

Bomber dated "03/25/11 1854" into a Perfect Pint.

A: Looks and pours like motor oil, a beautiful viscosity. I am astonished by the silence of the pour--it slips out of the bottle and into the glass with barely a splash. A very slight mocha head crowns the otherwise pitch black body. Only the very edges let a bit of light through, showing a darkly caramelized brown.

S: Rum, roasted malt, and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Kind of like rum balls at the office holiday party, except actually good. This has a better chocolate nose than any chocolate stout I've come up against--Rogue, Brooklyn, Young's, namely. Sweet, but still more cocoa than sugar.

T: A bit hot up front, but then long, lingering cacao and coffee notes--reminds me of eating raw cocoa beans, frankly. All the usual notes are here: caramel, roast, toast, cigar. Biggest ding is it's a still hot. Some age will do wonders, if it doesn't lose any of the chocolate magic.

M: As thick and mouth-coating as it looks. Very little carbonation--perhaps a bit more would pick it up nicely, but it's just too big for much more.

O: Yet another fine rendition on the Bourbon County theme, minus the bourbon and plus the chocolate. It's a fine alternative if you ever get sick of whiskey beers but still want an excellent all around imperial stout with more than simple malt complexity. Give this some age, though, perhaps a year, and it'll be even better.

wschmit, Apr 15, 2011
Photo of alpinebryant
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%

Bottle 3.25.11
First out of IL review; what an honor !

When I first saw the news on this beer being released I was really excited. I had good reason to, this is a great beer.

Pours a dark oilcan black with a healthy tan head.

Aroma of fresh cocoa nibs, (I have a package in my closet) roasted chocolate, roasted malts and sweet sugary malt.

Taste is extremely smooth with a very creamy body. The cocoa nibs kick your face in at first followed by a lot of sweetness and some hot boozy flavors. Yeah this is hot, but it is very good. One thing that goose Island does very well is make a massive variety of stouts. Clearly Goose Island was doing this right and BMC saw an opportunity to hop into the market of imperial stouts with higher margins. Enough about politics, on to the beer... There is a nice fresh vanilla flavor in here right now not even three weeks after bottling. Plenty of roasted malt flavors and a definite espresso roast presence. Absolutely no ashiness or bad aftertastes.

Of the cocoa nibbed beers that I have had, this is thicker than any of them. Similar in taste to Teddy Bear kisses which was great, this has a much thicker body and many more roasted / smoked flavors in it. Neither are overdone and this is another great job by GI. Light Carbonation which is about right for the style

alpinebryant, Apr 14, 2011
Photo of homebrew311
4.05/5  rDev -0.5%

Yet another stout from GI, this one has a particularly cool label.

A: pours a fizzy pitch black with a collar of dark brown head. Opaque.

S: rich dark chocolate, loads of roasted malt, a hint of anise, a touch of vanilla and a ever so mild hop bite.

T: big sweetness up front, notes of molasses, and licorice, this all turns to a dry deep dark cacao character. The finish presents a considerable amount of heat. The heat and cocoa balance out the sweetness nicely.

MF: big body, almost syrupy texture, carbonation seems a tad higher than the other GI stouts

O: Well this is yet another delicious variant of the BCS base beer. This one doesn't have as much character as the rest, but is still incredibly delicious.

homebrew311, Apr 14, 2011
Photo of Davidpgibbons
4.9/5  rDev +20.4%

Took me a while to track down a bottle but im glad i finally did.
Found some in Andersonville, i think is the only place that actually got a case in chicago.
I had also tried this at stout fest, didnt leave a lasting impression so i thought i would give it another try.
S- aroma hits hard with coco and a bourbon-like smell very boozy, kind of stings the nostrals
A- appearence is pretty standard... When poured, leaves a nice caramel/ mocha head which goes away quickly leaving a nice tan lacing ring around the edges of glass
T- taste is a very deep chocolate that smooths out to hit the tongue with its mild booze. Very similar to bcbs being that it is the base. The aftertaste is pleasent leaving a cocoa character lingering.
Overall im a huge fan, have 4 bottles left, ill drink two and save two. I hope this will get better with age, im sure it will

Davidpgibbons, Apr 14, 2011
Photo of weatherdog
3.73/5  rDev -8.4%

22oz. bottle poured into a Goose Island signature glass. Bottled 3/25/11.

It pours an ever familiar BCS midnight velvety black, a 1 finger seep mocha head rises from the depths and settles down into a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. No lacing is present.

The aroma is of sweet sugary malt and alcohol. It isn't as hot as BCS obviously but it's still up there. A very mild bitter roasted chocolate aroma near the backend. It's just so rich and thick.

The taste has an obvious amount of rich sweet chocolate flavored malt but there is a surprising bitterness as well. It's not enough to make this beer balanced but I think it goes a long way to not having it undrinkably sweet. There is just a tiny amount of roasted malt flavor near the end but once again this baby is sweet. An obvious alcohol warmth coats the throat as it goes down.

The only obvious flaw with this beer is the mouthfeel. It's so sweet and dense and rich that without very careful analysis sweetness is all that is detected. I'm not positive, but I'm assuming this is the base beer to BCS. If this is the case I think they made a mistake having such an underattenuated beer. In BCS the bourbon goes a long way to thinning out the beer and making it (relatively) drinkable and not cloying. This beer lacks the thinning sensation and just comes across as a liquid sugar delivery system, not a terrible thing, but certainly not my preference.

Overall it's not a bad beer by any stretch but just lacking that barrel character that GI does so well with and ties the beer together. It's one thick drink and since my wife fell asleep, the one who I was supposed to split the bomber with, I'm gonna attempt to drink the whole thing. Wish me luck.

EDIT: It's about an hour later and the beer was warmed up to room temperature. I'm enjoying it much more this way. The sweetness seems a bit cut down and the individual chocolate flavor seems to pop. This is as much as a sipper as fresh BCS but I'm enjoying the second half of the bomber MUCH more than the first. I've bumped up a few of the scores to match.

weatherdog, Apr 09, 2011
Photo of WillCarrera
4.23/5  rDev +3.9%

Picked up a bottle at the Clybourne Pub. Bottled on date of March 25, 2011, bought it two days later on the 27th.

A - Pitch black, even held to light there's just barely any color at the edges. Even a rough pour produces only about a centimeter of mocha tan head, which quickly dissipates and leaves a thin ring around the edges of the glass.

S - Very sweet, mostly milk chocolate and alcohol, not picking up any hop aroma at all.

T- The first wave is a powerful blend of dark chocolate, coffee and warm, bourbon-y sweet alcohol. On the back end it melts into an earthy mocha flavor. The alcohol is pretty powerful but isn't excessive.

M- Very creamy, coats your mouth with a nice coffee flavor.

O- A pretty damn good stout, considerably better than Night Stalker in my opinion. Definitely worth drinking again.

WillCarrera, Apr 09, 2011
Photo of ChadQuest
3.3/5  rDev -18.9%

Looks black, not getting any light to pass through, but we both expected this didn't we? I mean this base does have a reputation to keep. fades to a collar quickly.

The aroma of chocolate comes through as a very dark and roasty chocolate, almost mocha like in that there is coffee notes within, but i'm sure that is just from the level of roasted malts.
Rich goodness, way creamier and more milk chocolate then i was expecting from the nose, there is a background roasty bitterness but this one is dense ghirardelli creamy mouthfeel full of chocolate. Just lovin the alcohol poking through and keeping this one multi dimensional, it balances out the sweetness alot, without the warmth i think the Cacao would be too much alone, but all elements combined this one sits very nicely, just a bit on the sweeter side of course.

Good beer, worth getting some bottles of, one of the better chocolate forward beers i've had.

ChadQuest, Apr 08, 2011
Photo of wesside89
4.33/5  rDev +6.4%

22 oz. Bomber poured into snifter... bottled 13 days prior to opening

A- Poured jet black and very thick, almost syrupy, with aabout a fingers worth of dark mocha brown head which faded away pretty quickly into a small ring around the top... OA very nice lookin beer

S- Lots of dark chocolate, roasted malts, booze and hops. The chocolate comes at ya right away

T- Very sweet up front right when it hits your palate and fades into bitter dark chocolate and tons of malt. Hops are there just enough to balance the sweetness. Lots of warm boozy flavors on the end with chocolate being the aftertaste

M- Very thick and chewy almost. Had trouble finishin this bomber and usually have no problem with most Imp. Stouts. Definitely coats the mouth long after you're finished

O- Overall thought it was a very good beer and think it would only get better with age lettin more cacao come through on the palate... will definitely be gettin a couple more to put away for a year or two to see if it improves.

wesside89, Apr 07, 2011
Photo of ChugginOil
4.38/5  rDev +7.6%

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a Delirium snifter.

Pours a very dark brown and settles black with a touch of cola colored light passage throughout the edges. When poured vigorously, two fingers worth of a dark mocha like head sits and slides down rather quickly. Very little lacing sits and settles back into the dark mass on the drop of a dime.

The nose offers some rich chocolate followed by some some roasted malt, a bit of hop, and a boozy undertone. The inviting bitter chocolate takes the stage here.

The taste is bold and rich right away, offering some intense bitter and sweet cocoa tastes. There is quite a great deal of sweetness involved overall, but it's well balanced against the bitter characteristics provided by the cacao nibs added to the mix. As it warms, the brew brings more and more. The chocolate is blooming and becoming stronger. I can also detect a bit of toffee on the back end, right before I am slapped by a boozy heat. Not an unpleasant heat, but one that is definitely prominent behind the sweet and bitter goodness.

The mouthfeel is full bodied and feels pretty smooth and creamy. The present carbonation brings a crisp finish and helps maintain the heat emitted from the alcohol taste.

Overall, very interesting and tasty to say the least. However, this Imperial Stout demands age on it. The heat should tone down and bring out more of those chocolate nib flavors with some time on it. I'm glad I have another bottle in the cellar :)

ChugginOil, Apr 06, 2011
Photo of MowryJC
4.4/5  rDev +8.1%

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a snifter.

A - Deep black keeps any light from getting through, with barely a hint of ruby highlights. Capped by a nice mocha-colored one-finger frothy head that settles into a substantial film. Leaves moderate lacing down the glass.

S - Sweet chocolate with a backing of coffee and smooth hits of alcohol, but the alcohol is not at all overpowering. Almost no hop aroma at all.

T- Rich milk chocolate that isn't cloying, but really smooths out the beer. Mocha flavors keep the coffee flavors rich but in check and not at all astringent or overly bitter. Dangerously deceives you into thinking this isn't as strong as it is...

M- Might be my favorite part of the beer. Viscous, it coats the tongue and mouth nicely, and yet does not keep you from wanting sip after sip. At the end of swallowing, there's this great rich coating feeling like hot cocoa gives you in the back of your throat. The heat of the alcohol is well in check.

I'm quite happy with this latest GI offering. I look forward to buying myself a couple bottles of this fantastic brew that's right up there with BC Stout.

MowryJC, Mar 28, 2011
Photo of aasher
4.2/5  rDev +3.2%

I was lucky enough to try this on tap at Goose Island's Stout Fest. It poured a viscous and lifeless black with a dark khaki head. It looks a lot like the Night Stalker. The aromas are full of milk chocolate and dark roasted malts. I expected it to be a little more bitter and it was sweeter than I anticipated. The flavors too were of sweet milk chocolate, coffee, and dark roasted malts. I expected some bitterness from the Columbus hops but it remained to be a sweeter milk chocolate throughout. I was also glad it didn't have any lasting char. It drank very smooth for the style and the 11.5% wasn't noticeable at all. It was thick and coated the palate, leaving a sweet but not too sweet aftertaste. I'll definitely pick up a couple bottles of this when it comes out next month.

aasher, Mar 13, 2011
Photo of brentk56
2.63/5  rDev -35.4%

Appearance: A very hard pour could only raise a smidgen of head and that quickly faded away; the liquid was pitch black and left a lot of dotty legs behind

Smell: An overdose of blackstrap molasses and soy sauce mask the expected roasty chocolate and coffee elements; rather boozy

Taste: Starts out well, with a wallop of dark chocolate but by mid-palate the citrusy hops start to battle with the sweet molasses and soy flavors, a battle which is unresolved in the finish; the lingering sweetness becomes cloying in the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation; cloying sweetness and considerable heat from the alcohol

Overall: I had high expectations for this beer as I am a fan of this brewery but it is a real palate wrecker and, ultimately, I had to surrender

brentk56, Oct 24, 2011
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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
91 out of 100 based on 1,397 ratings.