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Big John - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Big JohnBig John

Educational use only; do not reuse.

442 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 442
Hads: 1,531
Avg: 4.01
pDev: 20.95%
Wants: 169
Gots: 581 | FT: 42
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.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 442 | Hads: 1,531
Photo of Roguer
4.43/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thick, dark brown, long-lasting head with very nice lacing. Brew is a solid opaque black.

Boozy aroma, with red grapes and cacao. Definitely a bit of creamy sweetness through the nose, a blend of vanilla and yeast.

Wonderfully smooth: sweetened cream, oatmeal, chocolate (less overpowering than implied), some booziness (especially in the back-end), and a lovely bite to it that I can't quite identify, and which is absolutely necessary to balance out the creamy smoothness.

Unbelievably thick and creamy feel! Remember when people would talk about "chewing" Guinness? This is the beer they actually had in mind. No bourbon to thin it out, but it still packs a bit of an alcoholic warmth in the throat. Coats the mouth and lasts.

I don't know how amazing this beer is fresh, but with a year on it, it's sublime. I have a feeling it's overlooked and underrated based on its GI bourbon cousins. Overlooking this beer would be a mistake. It's a big, creamy imperial stout, and it comes through in every way that counts.

Bottled December 2012.

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Photo of Richie1124
4.65/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

22oz bomber poured into a tulip glass.

This beer is HUGE. Very heavy beer and don't expect to put many of these away. A lot bigger and heavier than I expected but it is an excellent beer. The smell is off the charts with a heavy chocolate presence. Has a nice malty, sweet, chocolate taste to it also followed by a slight hint of alcohol.
Overall this is a great stout and worth a try. Averages around $10 for a 22oz. 11.50% ABV so you're getting your money's worth!!!

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Photo of oatsodas
3.6/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brown, with a light tan head. Little carbonation.

S: Malty, chocolate, cacao, and a bit toasty.

T: Generally sweet and chocolaty, with just a bit of the bitterness expected in an Imp Stout.
A hint of alcohol without being overpowering.

M: Lightly carbonated. Smooth but full-bodied.

O: A very good Imp Stout. The Cacao nibs are a nice touch and very much up-front in the taste. A good cold-weather beer to be sipped slowly, especially with dessert.

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Photo of Redrover
4.25/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I just had one of these last night with the wife. It was dated 12/7/12.

The beer is black with dark brown highlights. It is thick and a trifle syrupy which is great.

Big aroma of figs, plums, rains, and roasted malts.

The flavor tracked the smell. Lots of dark fruit and roasted malt goodness. The chocolate - coco was less evident in this one compared to a fresh one I had last year. It still adds a nice back ground element.

I was surprised by how much alcohol heat was still there. I wish I had a few more in the cellar as this one was very enjoyable.

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Photo of Doogermeister
4.08/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance is a wonderful tarry black that reminds me of a bourbon county. The smell is slightly boozy with a note of cocoa nib and coffee. The taste I feel doesn't live up to the smell. It lingers a bit too long and is pretty bitter. Fans of high bitter beers will enjoy this. The mouthfeel is slightly odd when compared to bourbon county or other stouts by goose island. Overall this beer is pretty tasty. I aged this one for the full year recommended and I am not sure if the aging did the beer any good.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.85/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

Bottled Dec 7th 2012, opened Nov 20th 2013.

A - Deep mahogany black body with thin cola highlights. Fine, milk chocolate colored head has low retention and lace.

S - Huge chocolate covered raisin nose. Thick black chocolate, rum soaked raisins, almonds, vanilla, touch of wood, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

T - Burnt toast, milk chocolate, reduced soy sauce, molasses, brownies, and sweet balsamic vinegar. Thick, sweet, and mildly astringent.

M - Full body, nice legs.

O - A shade too sweet, and the soy sauce is a bit of a distraction, but otherwise a nice AIS.

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Photo of corysmith01
4.43/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I don't write many reviews but felt compelled to write this one. I saw this in the store, looked at the reviews and thought "decent." As in, this should be a decent stout, based on the various reviews and comments. What I got was a thick, viscous, quite complex stout that caught me off-guard…again, based on the reviews.

This beer mentions cocoa nibs on the label. I must admit I didn't get a lot of that as I think the alcohol quells the subtlety of the vanilla. But what wasn't mentioned, and what I was getting a lot of, was dark fruits; figs, raisins…both in the nose and in taste. This was a really nice surprise as I've gotten that from beers like Deschutes Black Butte XXV, but not so much in your average chocolate/coffee stout. Nice surprise. The mouthfeel is what really sold me…I love thick, viscous stouts. Zhukov, things like that…love them. And this is right in the same arena.

The only knock I could give is that maybe it's slightly hot, a little alcohol burn. But at 11.5% that doesn't shock me. The other qualities are more than enough to subdue that. This is a pretty great beer. As someone who likes heat (Mexican Cake, Bomb!), I'd love to see a variant of this beer with some pepper character, but until then, this version is more than adequate.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a large snifter. Bottled 3/25/11, so this is over two and a half years old.

A: Pitch black on the pour. Even a very aggressive pour fails to build much of a head. Lacing is minimal and spotty.

S: Raspberry ester. Fudge sauce and black cocoa. Acrid burnt crust edge. Heavily roasted grain. Big spike of alcohol. A little bit of cardboard oxidation, but this is normal. Dried figs.

T: Raspberry and currant esters. Slick fudge sauce. Bittersweet dark chocolate. Roasted barley. Blackstrap molasses. Cocoa nibs are big on the mid-palate, and create a strong chocolate pull. Roasted coffee beans. Charred crust and a touch of acrid smoke. Boozy. Charred crust, fudge sauce, and lingering cocoa nibs on the long finish.

M: Big, thick body. Slick, coating, and chewy. Very weighty and sludgy. Low carbonation. Numbing alcohol.

O: This is an enormous beer, and there is no subtlety to it whatsoever. Drink this on an empty stomach and you will not need to eat a meal. You will also probably be drunk. Works very well as an after dinner/dessert sipper. It really favors the sweet tooth.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.71/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some great lacing. Aroma of dark chocolate malt with light roasted malt and light residual sugar notes. Taste is a sublime mix between black milk chocolate with some light molasses and liquorice notes with light dry roasted malt notes also perceptible. Body is full with nice thick creamy texture and good carbonation and no alcohol presence is easily identifiable. I really enjoyed this huge beer and I’m glad they were able to maintain such balance and drinkability to match the complexity of this beer.

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Photo of Pintofbrown
4.57/5  rDev +14%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Becker glass. 2012 vintage.

This beer is black with no foam. The scents comprise vanilla, brown sugar, a little cocoa and some bourbon barely escaping through that nectarous nose.

The flavors are more roasted and a little boozy to start. However, at mid-palate, these wonderful flavors of fig, vanilla, dark chocolate, and brown sugar start to really take off. The finish goes on forever and incorporates more of the roasted malt and bourbon booze.

This beer glides right over the tongue and has some nice heft to it, definitely leaves the lips a little sticky.

I never had this beer fresh, but I can say that this is a gluttonous, dessert imperial stout with a year of age on it. And the bourbon hits at just the right level, letting you know it is in there, but not bruising the other flavors. I would gladly have this supreme, syrupy stout again.

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Photo of philbe311
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Just shy of a fingers worth of slightly lopsided dark khaki colored froth that displays minimal at best retention... All that remains is an uneven half crescent shaped veil of lacing and a thin to moderate collar... The color is a deep rich slightly foreboding dark brown teetering on black... Mostly still with just an occasional stray sluggish carbonation bubble...

S - A big aroma... Loaded with sweet milk chocolate and caramel... Hints of molasses and brown sugar... Perhaps some vanilla as well... There are also subtle hints of slightly roasted malts and a faint booziness that lingers beneath the surface... Very sweet... Very enticing... Very nice...

T - Light roasted malt... Caramel... Cocoa... Vanilla... Brown sugar... Molasses... Very sweet... A very light booze presence permeates throughout... There are some dark fruit notes mixed in as well... The roasted malts rises on the finish and intensifies a bit... There is also a subtle astringency on the finish...

M - Full bodied... Limited carbonation... Coats evenly and fully... Chewy... Slightly viscous... Quite smooth...

D - A very nice well rounded American Double / Imperial Stout... Very sweet, but never cloying... Smooth and well rounded... Not world class, but it isn't too far off... I don't have a single complaint... Very well done by Goose Island...

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Photo of Gatch
4.74/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 12/07/12 0930...develops in the bottle for up to 1 year.

A: Dark as a beer can be with a nice, medium to dark brown head. I poured into the glass from a distance because I knew this would be thick and stubborn. But it poured nicely and looked inviting. Creamy, faded quickly, and left little lacing and retention.

S: Dark, sweet, boozy fruit. Heavily roasted malt. And of course, so much dark chocolate and cacao nibs that its difficult to put into words. Just sublime.

T: Seriously ridiculous flavors. So much dark, luscious, creamy chocolate. Sweet, dried, dark fruits. Black strap molasses and caramelized brown sugar. Great sweetness without being cloying. Chocolate covered, sugary, syrupy fruits is what I keep going back to.

M: As thick and creamy as can be. Amazing flavor and balance. Carbonation is low but its where it needs to be. Slight bite with each sip and the body is absolutely spot on. Superb.

O: The numbers I'm giving this beer aren't a joke. This is the real deal and a beer that I really enjoyed. Such an incredibly delicious and impressive stout. I was a tad nervous drinking it so close to the "drink by" date that was a little less than a month away, but it blew my mind. Such a pleasurable drinking experience! So glad I picked it up.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.38/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, bittled on 12/07/12 0830
A - Fairly rigorous pour eventually creates a thinner creamy light brown head that does hold good retention. For a second I was thinking no carbonation. Whew.
S - nice chocolaty nose, sweet, brown sugar, molasses, caramel, slight roastiness
T - rich, bold, dark chocolate, fruity esters of cherry and blackberry, caramel, molasses; very sweet and boozy
M - full body, lower carbonation, very well balanced with excellent complexity
O - excellent American Imperial Stout with nice chocolate flavors. If the price was right I would get this again.

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Photo of sbxx
4.47/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 12/07/2012
Bottle #1115
Poured into snifter

Appearance - Pitch black with 1 finger of sexy dark caramel head. Fades into a nice thick ring around the glass.

Smell - Dark cocoa, roasted malt, hints of caramel, vanilla and raisins.

Taste - Much like it smells. Very nice and ridiculously drinkable at 11.5%. This is dangerous stuff.

Mouthfeel - Incredible. Rich and creamy. Nice bite of carbonation that softly fades. Slick yet sticky finish.

Overall - Imagine Bourbon County without the barrel treatment. Very enjoyable. A must-try for any fan of big, boozy stouts.

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Photo of thedoubler55
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A : Opaque black in pour, with a beautiful two finger tan head at the top, looks just like a fresh brewed coffee, lots of lacing all around the glass.

S: Strong hints of coffee beans and cocoa beans, slight hint of hops and malts as well, very roasty nose on this one.

T: Almost exactly like the nose besides the little heat I get on the tongue from this brew, very chocolatey and roasty.

M: Very well balanced brew, perfect in my eyes, heavy bodied with a perfect amount of carbonation.

O: This beer was fantastic, perfect amount of coffee and cocoa notes and perfectly balanced, was pretty happy with this beer.

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Photo of CloudStrife
3.92/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled on 12/07/12

A: Pours a dark black with a dense tannish brown head sitting on top. Leaves some lacing on the sides of the glass.

S: Dark fruits dominate the aroma with a touch of booziness. Roasted malts are nice and strong. Bit of an aged presence to it as well. Bit of sweetness to it.

T: Molasses is the first thing I get when I sip. Dark fruits, carmel and malts are strong in this one. Chocolate seems to have faded to the background. Booziness is fairly present.

M: Thick body with a sticky finish. Certainly one you want to sit down and sip on. Booze isnt too hot but nice and warming.

Overall seems a bit muddled for an imperial stout, too sticky for my like and not as complex as many other in the style. However it is still a serious beer that commands respect.

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Photo of snaotheus
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle split between three pint glasses. Bottled on 12/7/12 0800.

Pours black with a small brown head, opaque, with a little visible carbonation. Smell is yeasty, cherries, fairly muted.

Taste is candy sweet, almost a cough syrup sweetness (but not enough to be bad), dark sweet fruity flavors, heavy chocolate bitterness, lots of roasty flavor.

Mouthfeel is a little flat, but not too cloying, and fairly dry. Overall, good beer.

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Photo of Flounder57
4.29/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle was poured into a large Duvel snifter. Bottle on 12/07/12 and matures for a year. I think it's time.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger mocha head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no vision of anything. Spotty mocha lacing on the glass as the beer was drank.

Smell: Roasted coffee, chocolate, dark fruits, vanilla, and a little warming alcohol.

Taste: Wow!!! This beer has aged well. Sweet milk chocolate nibs, roasted malts, vanilla, warm alcohol, spicy yeast, banana, molasses, and tobacco.

Mputhfeel: Silky smooth, creamy, boozy, full bodied, and medium carbonation.

Overall: This beer is all good and some. Found this at a local bottle store and knew it didn't have much time left. Makes me wonder how many people past this beer bye due to the date. Wish they had a second or third bottle hanging around.

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Photo of macrosmatic
4.21/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Reviewed from notes. Poured from bomber into a Peg's snifter.

A: Opaque and nearly black, with a half-finger of tan head and very little visible carbonation.

S: Cacao, a bit boozy, and roasted malts, creamy sweetness, vanilla, tobacco, and brown sugar, with some resinous sticky dark fruit. It almost smells barrel-aged, although I don't believe it is.

T: Dark cacao, chocolate-covered raisins, vanilla, chewing tobacco, sweet booziness with a roasted woody/vanilla/tobacco tannin bitterness at the end.

M: Thick sticky mouthfeel, not overly boozy for the style, and low carbonation sensation.

O: This was a very good beer, although I think if falls just short of the best in class. A bit overly sweet for my tastes, but has an interesting and good depth of flavor.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.32/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bomber from trade. Thanks! Dated 3/25/11, enjoyed on 8/30/13. Pours a deep black with small brown head. Aroma of chocolate and licorice, maybe some sweet vanilla notes and hints of roast. Flavor is big sweet dark fruits, black currants, light anise, molasses, and with an extra kick of milk chocolate. Finishes with a nice bitter and lingering bittersweet chocolate. Feel a bit of heat on this too. Mouthfeel is perfect, thick and velvety but with a bit a carbonation to balance. Nice beer!

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Photo of BobZ
4.35/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22oz. bottle poured into a Three Floyds Teku bottled in 2012.

Appearance: Pitch black with a nice 1/4" creamy tan cap that quickly recedes to a cap.

Smell: Big roasted malt, dark chocolate aromas dominate.

Taste: As in the nose, nice roasted malt and dark chocolate bitterness remain throughout the beer. A wonderfully chocolaty experience, the flavor is deep and the alcohol is all but completely masked..

Mouthfeel: Extremely creamy mouth feel, yet it leaves the palate clean.

Overall: Yet another excellent stout from Goose Island.

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.21/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: A smooth pour produces no measurable head but medium-brown lacing that is so long-lasting I think it might be a permanent feature of this glass from now on. Body is black as night and looks to be thick and smooth as any brew I've ever seen.

S: Baker's chocolate, deeply roasted dark malts, a tinge of alcohol.

T: Cacao at the beginning, middle, and end, growing more and more bitter throughout the long finish. Those dark malts give it a strong base for the chocolate to stand on, and a slight smoky flavor weaves in and out. Alcohol not noticed anymore, except maybe on the breath afterward. The last stage of the finish (minutes after the sip) approaches a sour-ish flavor. Big, well paired, long-lived flavors here.

M: Heavy and smooth, with just the slightest carbonation to tickle my tongue.

O: Has the characteristics every Imperial Stout strives for: dark, oily body, big, long, and bitter flavors, and a mouthfeel so heavy your tongue sags under its weight. A good benchmark for the Imperial Stout. Can't praise it enough.

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Photo of gillagorilla
4.13/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle poured into a Burley Oak snifter (bottled on 12/7/12)

A: Pitch black with a nice minimal mocha head.

S: Malty and roasted. It smells like black strap molasses with a bit of an alcohol burn. There is also a fair amount of sweet soy sauce down in there.

T: A delicious swirl of flavors. Lots of chocolate and sweet roasted malt. Its like liquid chocolate with a nice hint of burnt caramel/toffee from the malt. I get a bit of piney hops if you swirl it around in your mouth.

M: Just a bit syrupy and viscous, with a nice subtle coarseness that is just a bit prickly.

O: It reminds me a lot of Night Stalker and it would be great to try them side to side. GI has a great base stout in Cook County Stout and they really do some amazing things with it.

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Photo of brewski09
4.36/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A bomber poured into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. bottled on 12/7/12 and purchased from a good beer shop in Manhattan (i purchased this from a refrigerator and believe they held this beer in proper conditions before putting it up for sale).

A - pitch black, like a glass of motor oil. The head is dark brown from the loads of roasted malt in this beer, but it doesn't stick around for long. If this had a head that hung around, it would probably be a 5.0. Just beautiful.

S - dark malts, stone fruit booze, roast. This smells more like a RIS than an imperial stout. It has a good boozy smell to it. Very nice smell, a hint of licorice in there too as it warms. The only thing that would really improve this would be a bit of tobacco and a mild barrel aged note.

T - dark fruits like figs and plums dance with licorice and booze here. The roasted barley really comes through on the back end here after the musty cocoa nibs start to drop off. the finish seems to be all alcohol though

M - though this is a high alcohol beer at 11.5%, it has a pleasant oily nature with a good astringency to help balance the sweetness of the beer. There is also a relatively high IBU content here. This beer feels full on the palate with many harmonious aspects.

O - A great imperial stout that borders on RIS, but stops just short. I love how the cocoa nibs mellow the astringency here. I wish I had another bottle or two to age for a couple of years to see how these flavors meld. If I can find another bottle, I'll but it.

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Photo of candcholt
1.36/5  rDev -66.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Shared this beer into pint glasses out of a 22oz. bomber to taste.

Dark black, small tan head.

It was actually difficult to drink, which is extremely unusual for me. Felt heavy in the stomach. Tasted like a bitter chocolate liqueur.

Very low carbonation. Oily in taste and mouthfeel.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
90 out of 100 based on 442 ratings.