Big John | Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John

Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

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.

Added by aasher on 03-13-2011

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Reviews: 451 | Ratings: 1,566
Photo of darktronica
4.39/5  rDev +9.2%
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.

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Photo of BloodSoakedAleMug
4.75/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

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, the likes of which very few people have tasted or will ever taste again. RIP old school Goose Island, you will be dearly missed.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.34/5  rDev +8%
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.

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Photo of Sabtos
3.77/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

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Photo of jaypaul522
4.59/5  rDev +14.2%
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.

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Photo of manfromanotherplace
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
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.

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Photo of Thirstygoat
4.38/5  rDev +9%
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

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Photo of bgold86
4.78/5  rDev +18.9%
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...

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Photo of q33jeff
4.4/5  rDev +9.5%
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.

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Photo of Kevinpitts
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
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.

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Photo of HopSynonymous
4.37/5  rDev +8.7%
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.

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Photo of Jeffreysan
4.82/5  rDev +19.9%
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!

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Photo of PBRmeasap1980
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
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.

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
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.

 1,613 characters

Photo of mverity
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of SABERG
4.16/5  rDev +3.5%
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

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Photo of Jjski
4.5/5  rDev +11.9%

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.

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Photo of marchoftheclouds
5/5  rDev +24.4%

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.

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Photo of leitmotif
4.17/5  rDev +3.7%
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.

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Photo of jzeilinger
3.84/5  rDev -4.5%
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.

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Photo of foobula
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of reebtaerG
4.21/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had on draft at Beer Authority NYC on 5/24/14

A-Pours a still opaque black with a ring of beige bubbles on glass.

S-Aroma is roast, char and chocolate bitterness.

T-Taste is awesome with roasted coffee, vanilla, chocolate and an oak smokiness.

M-Nice fine carbonation, the body is medium/full and slick.

O-Overall a great surprise a very impressive imperial stout!

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Photo of dar482
4.57/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

It comes pitch black with little to no head.

There are some chocolatey aroma to it.

It has deep dark flavors. It has some big chocolate and coffee roasted flavors.

Having this next to Nighstalker, this actually tastes thinner and less of chocolate. Picking through the flavors, it may be because this has less roasty and deep rich flavors than its sibling beer. On the middle, you do that get sweet chocolate nibs, but I do prefer the non nibbed version.

(However, drinking this now with a year and a half on both bottles, this stands up better with the chocolate standing up better than the hops in Night Stalker.)

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Photo of TheBeerDrinker
3.63/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottled 3/25/2011

Pours out dark as night with a one-finger, light brown head with decent retention and a little lacing.

Smell is dark malts, chocolate, did I say chocolate, and that's about all I get but it smells nice.

Taste is definitely more dark malts than in the nose, slightly less chocolate but there's definitely plenty there. I get a little boozy taste but nothing too big. Taste is pretty good but nothing overwhelming.

Mouthfeel is quite thick and nice for this stout. Definitely a great attribute.

Overall this beer is good but a little more one-dimensional than I was hoping. Just dark malts, chocolate, and a tiny bit of booze but they could work better together. Glad I got to try this as my buddy raided my fridge and took my only bottle a couple years ago. Nothing I would seek out again unless it was cheap but not bad. Just better stouts out there at this price point. Just got it in a trade so maybe it wasn't stored well.

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Photo of ThickNStout
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle from Beer Temple (Chicago, IL). 11.99. Bottled 12/07/12. Served in a goblet.

Pours coal black with a finger and a half of deep tan head. The foam settles to a thin veneer and tiny halo that seem to refuse to leave any lace.

Sweet smells of bakers cocoa, dark fruit, balsamic reduction and some caramel. Slightly muted but still good overall.

Taste follows the nose well with it's sweet array of fudge, bittersweet dark fruit skins, burnt caramel, molasses, espresso, raisins, roasty dark malt, vaguely nutty, slight notes of balsamic vinegar/ soy sauce and a hefty dose of booze. Perhaps a little more alcohol presence then I would anticipate but it still fits in with this fudgey imperial stout.

Medium full body with mild carbonation. Bittersweet pure dark cocoa, espresso and roasty finish.

If you read the bottle you know precisely what to expect here- an imperial stout with cocoa. I agree with a few of the other reviews that noted the dark fruit is much stronger aged than fresh. My mind isn't blown or anything but this is a nice brew both fresh and aged.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.02 out of 5 based on 1,566 ratings.
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