Big John
Goose Island Beer Co.

Big JohnBig John
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Stout - American Imperial
4.12 | pDev: 10.68%
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Big JohnBig John
Notes: 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.
Reviews: 456 | Ratings: 1,579 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of garymuchow
garymuchow from Minnesota

4.26/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12/7/2012 1000
Not sure what the 1000 means but here we are.
Initially a big shot of booziness, but that settled out and a deep rich malty roast. Some coffee but more darker fruit. Only faint hops.
Smallish dark head even with an aggressive pour. It settles to flat but not gone pretty quickly. Black as black can be without even any highlights on the edges. I'm not sure I've ever had anything quite this black.
Still a very rich and smooth mouthfeel. The malts still have a little edge. Guess it could have aged some more.
Fullness in flavor. Enough sweetness that moves towards more fruit, as with the aroma. The rich fruit stays throughout and is really quite good. Roast is smooth. No dryness or bite on the finish. Coffee flavors blend and no real strong chocolate, which is interesting, considering the addition of the nibs as noted on the bottle ("imperial stout with cacao nibs added"). Some hop flavor with a soft "green" quality but nothing more than that. Alcohol blends very nicely.
This is good, and more than that. I love the feel. Smooth and soft. Not quite to velvet but approaching it.
Still surprised how fresh of a taste it has. This could easily go a couple more years with no problem. I almost wish I held it a little longer.

Dec 08, 2019
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Korbynlehr from Kentucky

4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Tried a bottle from 2011 in 2018. Jet black in color and boozy nose with a Charred overtone. Taste is charred and licorice flavors. Bit of a burn from the Abv. Good stout.

Dec 26, 2018
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cmedrink from Illinois

4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

I pulled this out of my cellar and noticed it is a 2012 and boy is it pouring well. Black, sweet and malty with a fair amount of hop flavor still present, but very mellow. Pours like black molasses with a hoppy front end that hits the upper part of the tong and lingers as if one was drinking a cup of Sumatra coffee. Wish I had more, but this is a once in a lifetime bottle that was tucked away and almost forgotten. Glad the wife never found it and polished it off!

Dec 11, 2018
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.79/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I hope they named this beer after Big John Studd, because he was Braun Strowman 1.0 back in the 80s. Anyways, pours a thick black pour, brown head on the top, 5/8" in depth. Roasty nose and a little bit of chocolate malt otherwise. Pretty straightforward, almost export stout kind of roastiness leading the way.

Taste, more of the same, heavy dose of roasted malt, light chocolate feels. Good amount of bitterness. Like, this probably clocks in at around 100ibu. Heavily roasted malt and lots of Cascade hops will do that. Mouthfeel is really good, it covers up a substantial amount of alcohol, one of the easier drinking big ass stouts that isn't barrel aged. Goose Island has always had their stout game dialed in, this is no exception. Its a ton of malt, heavily roasted.

Dec 03, 2017
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darktronica from Indiana

4.39/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bomber from December 2012. Pours thick and black, with half a finger of head that takes a while to emerge and then fades to the rim of the snifter quickly. Still a strong cocoa aroma and syrupy, vanilla malts on the nose. More complex once you take a sip, with raw cacao nibs, raisin liqueur, pomegranate molasses, dark chocolate maltballs, and lesser notes of anise and red wine tannins. Hard to believe it's just bottle-conditioned but not barrel-aged. Really glad to have a chance to try this.

Apr 14, 2017
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BloodSoakedAleMug from New York

4.28/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2011 vintage;
Enjoyed on January 28th of 2017

Appearance: Pours a dark brown almost black color with virtually no head besides a very small ring of tan bubbly suds that hang around for about ten seconds before fizzling away. If I pour hard straight down into the glass, a two finger, rapidly disappearing head forms, but still leaves no lacing.

Aroma: Estery with slightly tangy and sour notes of dark red fruits like raisins, sugarplums, candied apples, currants and tamarind. Sweet aromas of rich molasses, cocoa and slight notions of caramel syrup.

Taste: A heavy hitter. Big and complex. I'm getting tart flavors of fruit balanced by rich cocoa and slightly dry roasted malt. Malty flavors of toffee, gourmet milk chocolate, treacle, italian pirouline cookies and mildly bitter coffee in conjunction with savory hints of juicy red fruit like raisins, figs and tamarind.

Feel: The 11.5% abv has really mellowed out over the course of almost six years. I can't detect any abrasive, hot alcoholic notes. The palate is sweet soft and luscious, and the beer is in fact quite smooth and silky on the tongue. Mid-heavy body with almost no carbonation.

Overall: What a treat. Enjoyed this over the course of two hours. I think the time spent in the cellar really evened out the alcohol, allowing the roasted malt and dark fruit flavors to really come out and assert themselves. The cocoa nibs were not lost during the aging process, and what would have been a very bitter beer from the ridiculous amounts of roasted malt used in the brewing process has mellowed out to make way for deep and intricate flavors of a multitude of different sweet chocolate confections and candied fruits. It's a shame the brewery got bought up by Ab-inbev. I feel like I'm drinking a part of craft beer history here. RIP old school Goose Island, you will be dearly missed.

Jan 28, 2017
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GuyFawkes from Illinois

4.34/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the bottle into a glass.

Pitch black.

Dark khaki head which dissipates; minimal lacing.

Black licorice, booze & oak in the nose. Woah!

Thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Not sure if this was bourbon barrel aged, but it sure tastes like it was. Super boozy, with a black licorice vibe backing it. The cocoa nibs finally reveal themselves as this warms. Unique & bold, but ultimately a bit too much for my palate.

Nov 29, 2016
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Sabtos from Ohio

3.77/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Black, viscous, with a tan collar.

Whoa. Big oak on the nose, with maple, molasses, and an almost funky blackberry syrup.

Taste is prune, fig, and smooth, warm, thick blackberry with a little chocolate and coffee.

A little boozy heat, semi-wet.

Oct 24, 2016
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jaypaul522 from Iowa

4.59/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Shared a 2013 bomber. This stout poured thick black, with a good head. the smell was of strong malt and subtle chocolate, some alcohol. Taste was robust, smooth, and again subtly chocolate with some alcohol taste at the finish. Very good beer - wish it was more readily available.

Mar 26, 2016
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manfromanotherplace from New York

4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Lucky enough to find this on tap at The black Sheep. This was extra roasty, had side by side with a nightstalker 2013 and this was just a little bit sweeter, very similar but that extra chocolate sweetened it up a tad.a great stout.

Jan 07, 2016
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Thirstygoat from Illinois

4.38/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A bottle from 3/35/11
Pitch black not much in the way of head and rapidly gone, no bubbles at all from later pours
Smells caramel, toffee maybe cherry hints
Tastes like a mouth of sugary malt, cocoa & bit of alcohol but not too much for Imp Stout
Thick, velvet mouthfeel perfect for the style
This is another underrated cousin of BCBS the older GI stouts seem to be coming of age

Jan 01, 2016
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bgold86 from New York

4.78/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 vintage, poured into a 12 ounce snifter glass at just above room temperature. Huge huge chocolate and dark cherry nose, slight hints of espresso and cinnamon. Taste is hugely decadent, tons of chocolate and surprisingly huge amounts of roast! Really wish GI would brew this treasure again...

Dec 21, 2015
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q33jeff from New Jersey

4.4/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Espresso Strength Coffee Aroma. Dark black color, THICK looking. SMAll Tan Head.Taste is smooth dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch. Smokey, maybe burnt, aftertaste. Very thick, muddy, low carbonation.This is a really nice beer with great flavor…only the overly "un-refreshing" thickness keeps it from being at the top of my list.

Nov 28, 2015
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Kevinpitts from Illinois

4.15/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle dated 12/2012. Aged nearly 3 years. Fabulous stout. Cocoa flavors very subdued, but I imagine that's the aging. Great example of a classic stout. Smooth and flavorful. Relatively thick mouthfeel.

Oct 30, 2015
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HopSynonymous from Massachusetts

4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bomber out of my HF chalice. Oldest beer I've ever had at 4.5 years. 3/25/11 bottle date.

L- Pitch black, opaque, small tan ring, no lacing. Viscous when swirled around.
S- Malty and chocolatey. Bit of alcohol heat with a large inhale. I don't know why I get BA quality, but I do.
T- Again, could be a bourbon barrel beer. It's sweet, chocolatey, dark fruits like cherry and plum, vanilla. Delicious.
F- Thick, but with more carb than I expected for a 4 year old beer!
O- Yum. Bomber is a beast to take down by yourself, but it is worth it. Not getting much change as it warm up and sits, which is a bit of a bummer, but this is a fantastic beer. Very nice.

Sep 23, 2015
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Jeffreysan from Maryland

4.82/5  rDev +17%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

22 oz bottle, 2013 vintage, poured into a goblet

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with a full finger of chocolate-colored head that quickly dissolved away into a thin lacing of foam that partially covered the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very aromatic! Tons of rich, earthy, bready, roasted malt, imparting notes of freshly toasted dark bread and freshly roasted coffee beans, as well as dark chocolate, brown sugar, and a touch of licorice. Rich and inviting.

Taste: Wow! Rich and chewy and delicious! Strong flavors of roasted malt up front, imparting notes of espresso and roasted nuts, followed by tons of chocolate, brown sugar-like sweetness and a touch of lactose-like cream. So delicious!

Mouthfeel: Chewy and rich, and extremely smooth as there is no carbonation what-so-ever. With an ABV of 11.5%, there is a pleasant alcohol warmth on the palate.

Overall: This is a delicious, rich, creamy, malty, chocolaty, slightly sweet beer! Great on its own, I’m sure it would be fantastic as a desert beer!

Jun 12, 2015
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PBRmeasap1980 from Indiana

4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle. This beast is rich. I would compare it to drinking a boozie dark chocolate syrup. Very sweet. The chocolate comes through really well.

Jun 08, 2015
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superspak from Michigan

4.2/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 12/7/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a light amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit notes; with good strength. Taste of big milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness. Light roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, cocoa, caramel, toffee, toast, molasses, dark bread, light coffee, raisin, plum, fig, light licorice, and roast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit flavors; with a solid roasted bitterness/sweetness balance. Flavor leans much more towards sweet malt notes, but never gets cloying. Light carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and lightly slick/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is an awesome imperial stout. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt, cocoa nib, and dark fruit flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

Jan 24, 2015
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mverity from Florida

4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep, rich, hearty black with mocha colored head. Sticky legs but very little lacing. Wisps and thin collar remain when the head faded after 30 seconds or so. Aroma is a nice blend of roasty and earthy malts, and bitter sweet chocolate. Taste is much like the aroma: dark malts and chocolate; rich and quite delicious. This beer coats your mouth and is a little silty. A little bit of alcohol burn though.

Jan 11, 2015
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SABERG from Massachusetts

4.16/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2011 bottle poured into a modified tulip glass.
A - Dark as this day of darkness, the cap is as short as this day. A mocha colored sunset of lacing thinly lines the glass.
S - Dark fruits, black licorice, bakers chocolate, followed by vanilla, and molasses., buried way in the back is some candied orange note. What a bouquet. Fragrant and inviting, barely a hint of alcohol.
T - Madagascar chocolate, Light figs, hints of orange as it warms. Super complex.
The taste evolution is a joy to experience.
F - Round, oily, thick delightfully rich. All that and a linger that leaves you with traces of delicate chocolate, and desire.
O - This is a wonderfully big stout, complex and with all the right notes. A symphony of flavors, with a delicate touch. I am so glad to have experienced this with some time on the bottle.

Cheers all

Dec 21, 2014
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Jjski from New York

4.5/5  rDev +9.2%

Vintage 12/07/2012. ( bought as a vintage bottle last year, cellared)

Black. Minimal head. Good lacing. Smells a bit of leathery age and cocoa

Flavor is well integrated dark chocolate, dry sweetness, roasty malt, raisin juice, even a little spicy in the back end

Very active in the mouth.

Quite Good. Lots of complex flavors for a non barrel RIS. That's why I cellar big beers.

Oct 21, 2014
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marchoftheclouds from Illinois

5/5  rDev +21.4%

Shared one bottled from 3/2011 last night (8-23-2014) with my brother-in-law. We both remember this being a good beer when new, but bitter. After almost 3-1/2 years in my basement, this beer was knock-your-socks-off incredible. It smelled liked a great dessert and tasted so smooth and sweet. It made me wish I would have bought way more of these to cellar.

Aug 24, 2014
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leitmotif from Romania

4.17/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bomber bottle.

Poured into a Teku glass. Oily texture. Tick body, greasy, creamy, dark as a black metal outfit.
Has a sparkling but yet creamy dark caramel kinda foam head. Very nice. I would have liked a bit more of it. Dissipates quite quickly.

Smells of cocoa. I guess that's what it's supposed to be in front of the smell. It has cacao nibs added. It follows with coffee notes, lightly smoky, dried plums and some warming alcohol. Nothing out of the ordinary. Straight forward nice smell, but nothing impressive.

About all of the characteristics of the smell go into the taste. Dark fruits such as dried plums, figs, sour cherries along cocoa and coffee are present all the way. Alcohol is present but nothing wrong with it. It warms your body and accentuates the flavor.

Mouthfeel is creamy and lactic. A bit fuzzy. The bitter accents of the hops and cocoa are there in the aftertaste.

A very good try and a pleasant experience all the way.

Jul 27, 2014
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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania

3.84/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

In review is a 2011 vintage.

A - Opaque dark brown / black in color, no head and a razor thin ring of toffee colored lacing - lots of legs on the sides of the glass.

S - Light char, dark chocolate, prunes, figs, dark roast, and some light alcohol. Overall, very subdued (probably due to the age?)

T - Dark fruit, dark chocolate, and alcohol reigns supreme through the entire sip with very noticeable warming on the way down. Prunes, figs, light char, some smokiness, and an ever so slight hint of chocolate molasses.

M - Full, rich body that pushes the thickness to borderline syrupy without crossing the line. Creamy with light carbonation, alcohol warming, lip smacking sticky, and slippery..

O - A chocolate boozy sipper that seemed to age quite well despite the lack of head and lacing. Unfortunately, the appearance and smell killed my overall score.

Jul 15, 2014
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foobula from Illinois

4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Original bottling of this beer, dated 3/25/11. Appearance is pitch black, with a small tan-colored head that dissipates quickly. Aroma is sweet with a bit of mild chocolate. A little booze. Taste is nice -- sweet & chocolatey up front. A bit boozy on the sides. Dark fruit flavors prominent. There's a bit of an unfortunate tootsie-roll flavor, which I've found to be common with chocolate beers. The finish is surprisingly bitter, perhaps from a mixture of chocolate, roasted malt, and booze. But it isn't overpowering. Mouthfeel is rather full. Carbonation still present after 3+ years in the bottle. Overall a yummy stout and the addition of chocolate complements the roasted malt nicely, making it a bit more complex. I've been told the original release of Big John was particularly amazing, though I came away slightly underwhelmed.

Jun 04, 2014
Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 1579 ratings