Big John | Goose Island Beer Co.

449 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 449 | Ratings: 1,563
Photo of MiamiRedSkins13
5/5  rDev +24.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

So I went to a tasting in Kentucky where they had big John on draft and after staying until the end, tried to get another of the one limit per person fills. I had gotten to know the guy and he offered to fill a growler.. I had to take him up and promptly grabbed one off the shelf. It's amazing. Really, I wish I could elaborate but I'm at a loss for words.

 357 characters

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.

 358 characters

Photo of mgoblue5743
5/5  rDev +24.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Evil genius who thought to brew an imperial stout with chocolate nibs. This is a flawless beer, it even looks pretty. Poured from a 22oz bomber into a snifter and sipped over 2 hours; got better as it warmed up. I am running to the store to buy out the stock, one of my favorite beers of all time, I am a stout man and this is right up there with the DL 2011 I had last week. Less viscous, but equally powerful.

 411 characters

Photo of Vierenner
5/5  rDev +24.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Fantastic! If you like Dragon's Milk from New Holland you'll love this beer. The roasted flavors are certainly there, as is a sweetness which is beautifully balanced with other taste sensations. It was suggested to me that I let this bottle settle/condition ... glad I didn't. The label indicates a bottle date of 3/25/11 ... it was perfect to drink on the evening of 5/14/11. I'll be looking for more of this brew.

 415 characters

Photo of jcnd9803
4.97/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

(A) - Pitch black and very thick. It even looks syrupy with a slight mocha brown head that fades fast to a small ring.

(S)- Heavy dark chocolate, some caramel and roasted malt. As it warms, I'm picking up more of the booze.

(T)- Very sweet right away and then moves into bitter dark chocolate. I was worried this was going to be too sweet, but I think they add the right amount of hops to balance and temper the sweetness.

(M)- Very thick. Par for the course with GI stouts. In my opinion, perfect.

(D)- I'm a big fan of the BCB family of stouts. Given this, I'm going to make a bold statement and say this is my favorite GI beer. It strikes the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness to achieve a perfect stout.

 723 characters

Photo of Davidpgibbons
4.89/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

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

 855 characters

Photo of MaineBrewing
4.87/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A- poured a thick viscous oil black with a nice thick dark brown 1.5 finger head. Not a single glimmer of light gets through. Head dissipated quickly to a nice cap, ample legs upon swirling.

S- intensely rich aromas upon upon opening, dark chocolate, raisin, candi sugar, and alcohol. He aroma is very sweet, complex, and intense.

T- taste is as intense and complex as the aroma, but goes a slightly different direction. The roasted malt comes through with intense smokey/roasted notes, the cloying sweetness I expected is actually well balanced, I still get the beautiful combination of fruit, chocolate, candi sugar, and alcohol but it is matched by the roasted malt notes and an intense bittering hop finish. The vanilla might be in there, somewhere within the amalgam of complex flavors.

M- as expected very thick mouthfeel, light carbonation which is what I want /would expect. Although its high abv there isn't much alcohol warming, and the finish is on the sweet side.

O- overall this is just ridiculous. I will come back to big John, probably one of the most intense and complex stouts I've had.

 1,111 characters

Photo of fear025
4.87/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

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.

 742 characters

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!

 1,056 characters

Photo of jamespub
4.8/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Tried 3 times, each with snifters at room temp.

This beer surprised me. I was hoping for goodness, but I got much more. Pours with a thin head, very dark. Smells of booze, chocolate, and malt. The taste blew my mind. Chocolate, alcohol warmth, dark is robust. It almost tastes barrel aged. The alcohol is very noticeable, but is unbelievably pleasant. This is one of the thickest, heartiest, most flavorful beers I have ever had. The feel is thick, warm, and lingering. Bitterness is at a minimum. It is a sipper and it fills you up like a milk shake.

I am rating this beer very high, and I know I am in the minority. Even when splitting the 3 bombers I've had, I was asked to finish 2 of the other peoples servings...which I gladly did. They both expressed that it was too rich and hinted that it was overly sweet/malty/chocolatey. I'm guessing that too "rich" was probably the most accurate description. It definitely is that. But i love this beer so much that I bought out the store and have the bottles saved in the cellar. It has the feel and appearance of BCBS, but a very different flavor. If you can find it, give it a shot.

 1,147 characters

Photo of stouts4me
4.8/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle dated 4/25/11, served in my wonderful CC Hunaphu snifter, bought a case at a Binny's when this came out, was'nt selling at the time - what a great idea, this shit is awesome !

A: pours out deep, dark, and with only a thin mahogony-brown, disapates almost immediately.

S:very pleasing aroma, swirl your glass and revel in the dark, deliciosness, syou get the cocoa nibs, and an alcoholic aroma.

T: Oh my GOSH !! Really ? Goose just hits it right every time, You will love this if you love big stouts. Smooth sweet, chocolately, AWE SOME.

M: Smooth, very nice.

O: Get one NOW! Nothing I can see that would detract from this, soooo glad I have LOTS more!!! Maybe it's the age, 'cause the first one I had when it came out, did not do this for me.

 754 characters

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...

 296 characters

Photo of bamadog
4.74/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I was pretty excited to find a bottle of this laying around at The Root Cellar in Cincinnati, OH. I looked for it a couple of times around it's release date and nothing... Lo and behold, I find it when I'm looking for something else. Review is from notes taken on 5/14/2011 and poured from the bottle to a snifter.

Appearance: Pours a thick, viscous coffee black and it starts with a scant 1/4 finger dark brown head that fades immediately to nothing other than a pencil thin ring around the surface and two small islands floating around the surface; body is entirely opaque, and I'm not sure if there is going to be any carbonation present or not based upon the looks of it; a couple of strands and spots of lacing are left behind, but not much to speak of; there is a bit of an oily coating that lingers after each sip, but then falls back into the drink.

Smell: Wow. Big chocolate, right up front, and it ranges from a syrupy sweet Hershey-style scent to a more semi-sweet chocolate covering dark cherries; hints of vanilla; dark roasty malts, like spent espresso grains and a definite big blast of alcohol; nose is strong and robust... Awesome!

Taste: Holy crap -- just like it smells, nearly to a "T." Lots of big sweet syrupy chocolate and a blended semi-sweet chocolate, and those sweet and slightly tart ripe cherries; a vanilla sweetness, like the syrup in a chocolate covered cherry rings through; strong roasted malts, like the ones in the smell, they're very much like spent espresso or other strong roast; big alcohol that is a little bit like bourbon -- it starts out a little hot, but really mellows as the drink sits and fades more to a warming presence.

Mouthfeel: Thick and viscous in the mouth, just like it looked on the pour -- this body is heavy, just like I would hope; a thick and sticky coating is left all over the mouth, and it is just a little bit gritty; gums are left tingly, and the belly is left quite warm from the ABV that clocks in at over 11%. A great mouthfeel to this one, you definitely know you're drinking a big thick stout. Goose Island nailed this one.

Overall: This beer is fantastic, easily one of the best stouts I've had in quite a while. While it's heavy and the ABV is high, I would be more than happy to sip on this all night.

 2,282 characters

Photo of Gatch
4.74/5  rDev +17.9%
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.

 1,274 characters

Photo of Phyl21ca
4.71/5  rDev +17.2%
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.

 607 characters

Photo of tjsdomer2
4.7/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Looks like molasses. Incredible brown lacing.

Smell: Pine, coffee, and sugar. Excellent combination. Definitely didn't expect pine.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Balsamic vinegar, red wine, burnt caramel, and roasted coffee. The best double stout I've tasted. Sweet flavor is a bit cloying, but fits with the flavors.

Overall: A+

 331 characters

Photo of Mdog
4.67/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Opaque black, big head.

Smell: Sweet chocolate, dark fruit, coffee, very nice!

Taste: Starts out sweet and fruity with chocolate mostly in the finish. As it warms up the chocolate starts earlier and earlier.

Mouthfeel: Very thick stuff, coating.

Drinkability: Not too expensive, but pretty hard to find. My bottle went down pretty easy for a strong beer.

This was some good smelling, good tasting stuff. The alcohol was hidden despite the strength. On the sweeter side, but that's how I prefer my big stouts. If you can find it, it's a good one!

 562 characters

Photo of deltatauhobbit
4.65/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Gary for getting this for me during his travels.

Bottled 3/25/11
Bottle 1645

Pours a dark black color with a thin tan head, fades quickly with very little lacing on the glass, not much light getting through this pour.

Smell has a huge roasted malt backing with a strong chocolate aroma, picking up some dark fruit complexities, alcohol is hinted in the nose.

Taste is a punch to the mouth, huge roasted malt and chocolate flavors with the chocolate being very nice, very thick and chewy, carbonation is active yet soft which lends an additional creaminess, sweet yet somehow not cloying, leaves a sticky mouthfeel afterwards, heat is strong with this one but the chocolate and roasted malt go a long way to covering it up, a warm tummy and a tingling tongue does eventually become evident from the heat.

If the heat and strength was a little less pronounced, this would be darned near perfect.

 908 characters

Photo of Richie1124
4.65/5  rDev +15.7%
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!!!

 470 characters

Photo of WankelEngine
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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.

 1,060 characters

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.

 280 characters

Photo of Mavajo
4.58/5  rDev +13.9%
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.

 603 characters

Photo of martyl1000
4.57/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A deep black-brown of murk, with a skim of khaki head from a bomber into a tulip glass. What brown lacing clings to the glass slides off, given the slippery astringent alcohol. In fact, one looks for the aroma of the cocoa nibs, but one only really gets tart booze in the nose, at least while this is still refrigerator cold. Actually, now that it's warming, the cocoa nibs appear as a rounded ghostly shadow through the heat-wave mirage of alcohol fumes.

In the mouth a savory beef-like (or is it orange shrimp fat!) protein flavor barges in with an adamant, careless assertion of its brazenness. I recommend taking this on the broad flat of the tongue; it's just too intense to keep in the front of the mouth, say, aerating languidly through the teeth like you would with a more polite brew.

The chocolate is definitely in the mix. But the complexity of date/prune/raisin sweetness and roast-malt/hop bitterness pushes the cocoa nibs surprisingly to the rear of the stage. The umami savoriness lends a whole-cream milkiness to the chocolate. Then you get the bitterness, which is a welcome neutralizer with its mildly citrus, floral hops. In that, it reminds me of Weyerbacher Tiny. It has that same bright hop and alcohollic spice combined with a salty, anchovy meatiness.

Quite chewy, very full body, smooth.

I wish I had a bunch of these for the cellar. Sadly, this is the only one I've seen in my five local bottle shops. Label dated "12/7/12" . . . Pearl Harbor Day.

 1,477 characters

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.)

 619 characters

Photo of Pintofbrown
4.57/5  rDev +13.7%
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.

 866 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.02 out of 5 based on 1,563 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.