Big John | Goose Island Beer Co.

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Big JohnBig John
1,571 Ratings
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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,571 |  Reviews: 453
Photo of MetaSteve
1/5  rDev -75.6%

Photo of Phil_H
1.25/5  rDev -69.4%

Photo of candcholt
1.36/5  rDev -66.7%
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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Photo of kyleeliot
1.5/5  rDev -63.3%

Photo of randysthomas
1.72/5  rDev -57.9%

Photo of montrealbcr89
1.87/5  rDev -54.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 1.75

Most of my beer ratings tend to be on the "higher than average" side, but I just don't know what happened here.

Poured from bottle into tulip.

A: poured a brown, reddish color. In the glass, it was very black with a tan head that dissipated quickly.

S: As soon as a put my nose into the glass, I was confused. I was hit with an overwhelming amount of sweetness. Artificial grape sweetness, and a strong soy sauce mixed with artificial sweetener. Not a good smell.

T: Thankfully, a bit better than the nose. But. holy wow is this sweet. It's hard to get down. Carbonation was diminishing quickly, too. I found it so sweet that I passed my glass around to a few beers drinkers. All parties found it cloyingly sweet. One even said "I could have sworn you gave me port".

M: Syrupy.

O: I was really looking forward to this beer. But wow, what a disappointment. I could not even tough through a full glass. I'm not sure if there was an infection, but this was unlike any other imperial stout I have had before...not in a good way. I would give it another shot, but that wasn't pleasant.

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Photo of TBuikus
2/5  rDev -51.1%

Photo of Fargrow
2.25/5  rDev -45%

Photo of PDXHops
2.33/5  rDev -43%
look: 4.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Bomber from Ryan011235, poured into an oversized snifter. A fortunate choice of glassware, too, given the explosive head on this stuff. I got about third of this into the 25 ounce snifter before I put the brakes on. Enormous tan head that slowly shrinks into a dense, almost sludgy head. Lacing isn't quite as impressive as the head retention, but a great looking beer.

Not a great smelling one, though. The primary aromas, no joke, appear to be grape "drink" and catsup. Perhaps some fruity hard candy. Dark chocolate and roasted malt attempt to assert themselves periodically, to no avail.

Thankfully, the flavor profile turns out to be pretty decent. Most thankworthy is the absence of the catsup (where the hell did that smell come from?). A fair amount of artificial grape remains, but a host of chocolate flavors join forces to suppress it. Semisweet, milk, Yoohoo, we seem to have all the chocolate bases covered. Very light notes of espresso and burnt malt; a bigger dose of the dark stuff would go a long way toward improving this brew. The thick, smooth mouthfeel would be more impressive if it wasn't helping the near-overwhelming sweetness and booziness to linger way past the worn-out-their-welcome point. Not something I'd care to revisit.

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Photo of RedHaze
2.48/5  rDev -39.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Scored this a few days ago at Beertopia in Omaha.

Pours inky black, just like all of Goose Islands big stouts, with a thin head despite a fairly hard pour. The foam disappear almost completely in short order, leaving only small traces of lace.

Smell; lots of alcohol in the nose especially as it warms, and a ton of sweetness. Dark fruits are present adding the sweet.

Taste; first sip is overly sweet followed by alcohol burn. Some roastiness does make an appearance, but it gets quickly overwhelmed by alcohol soaked plums and raisins and sugary chocolatey sweetness. This beer is really damn sweet and alcoholic, to the point that it took me a while to pick out much else.

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, and would have been better had there been more carbonation.

Overall I really struggled to drink the half bottle I had, and if I had not been sharing, I think the other half would have been a drain pour. Easily my least favorite GI beer I've had in a long while, and I'm glad I only picked up the one bottle.

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Photo of chrispoint
2.5/5  rDev -38.9%

Photo of CityofBals
2.5/5  rDev -38.9%

Photo of juliusseizure
2.5/5  rDev -38.9%

Photo of Buebie
2.54/5  rDev -37.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Poured rigorously into an oversized snifter producing a couple inch dark brown head. Settling to leave a solid collar and minimal lace.
Dark as night.
Aroma is roasty and filled with burnt tootsy rolls, loads of grain and malt, dark unsweetened chocolate. Mild toasted wood with some very oaty aroma as well.
Poured out like a thick inky liquid, eager to see what the mouthfeel delivers.
Oh my, mouthfeel is thick creamy and creamy smooth.
Heating up the esophagus as it slides down my throat. But heat on the pallet is not much present. Surprising.
Taste is pretty damn rich and waa waa wee waah malt, a bit too sweet though giving off some undesired cola taste.
Overly mild carbonation presence also creating a bit of an unbalanced feel.
For me its too sweet and syrupy, overpowering in this regard, preventing me from wanting more then a few sips. I wish I had some people over because I really cant drink any more of this. I will choke it down due to the price, plus I'm out of beer. Aside from that it would probably be a drain pour.

Great effort, but I'll pass. Overbearing.

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Photo of brentk56
2.64/5  rDev -35.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

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

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Photo of klewis
2.67/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

A: Pours a solid black with a bubbly, tan head. Brief sustain and light lacing.

S: A big malt aroma with a soft, gentle roastiness. Caramel and light vanilla aromas.

T: Malty and quite sweet - almost cloying. Molasses dominates the palate followed by honey and burnt cocoa. Missing any substantial roasted character that might balance the sweetness.

M: Full-bodied with light carbonation. Smooth.

D: A pretty big miss by GI. Little evidence of the cacao nibs and well outside of the typical flavor profile for a big stout. Perhaps some time on the shelf will benefit this one, but now - it's a chore.

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Photo of Brunite
2.68/5  rDev -34.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Dark black. The head disappears almost completely in short order, likely due to the alcohol.

Smell: Lots of alcohol in the nose especially as it warms. Some sweetness. Some roasty notes.

Taste: The initial taste is sweet with some chocolate notes followed by alcohol burn. Some roastiness does make an appearance, but it gets quickly overwhelmed by the alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied.

Overall: I struggled to drink the half bottle I had. The balance was a drain pour. No doubt my least favorite GI beer. Just too much alcohol for me. Not enjoyable. The alcohol outweighs the cocoa by far.

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Photo of Ryan011235
2.7/5  rDev -34%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter on 5/16/11

Bottled 3/25/11

Deep brown color that is all but jet-black in the glass. No light gets through this one. Determined to get a decent head, I pulled the classic slow drizzle card (no dropped bottles; you're welcome). I was pleased enough with the resulting cap: one thumb of toasted brown foam. Of course, retention is thin though a skim and some bubbles remain. A few globby strands of lace have held thus far.

Undergoing shifting aromas and upheaval, the nose is suspect. Calling it unpleasant is a half-hearted gift. Weird things are going on here. Once in the glass, the first thing I smell? Tomato Paste. No lie. What the hell is this, Hop Henge IPA? Bare Tree Weiss Wine 2007? Get right out of town. A few minutes later, it starts smelling like a proper imperial stout. Roasted chocolate, dusty cocoa powder, and undertones of tangy dark fruit. Reminds me of Hersey's powder chocolate milk mix. Guess what? Yep, the tomato comes back, this time with leafy hop friends. It goes back and forth in this manner. At least it doesn't smell boozy. Yeesh.

Once set to sipping, the beer tastes far more enjoyable than it smells; not a hard feat to accomplish. That said, it isn't spectacular. The powdered aspects of the cocoa nibs flow along in a stream of semi-sweet, burnt dark chocolate. At times it seems rather sweet; other times not so much. As the temperature nears room, the sugars start to crowd the burnt notions and things start to get messy. While some alcohol heat was had on the first sip, it wasn't too much. However, in conjunction with the burnt sweetness the booze moves toward obnoxiousness. Finishes with char, sticky sweetness and some mildly numbing heat.

Full bodied with a moderate, viscous resistance. Make no mistake, Big John is still a heavy imperial stout in a world filled with heavy imperial stouts (a notion room temperature ascertains). Ah, who am I kidding? It's like cake batter once it warms up. While it was still cold, the cocoa nibs translated to a powdery, granular feel. As the beer warms, that granular feel wanes. Carbonation is appropriate, doing its best to hoist this critter. The latter half is slick and coating.

The John Hancock Center is my favorite skyscraper. Alas, for an imperial stout, Big John doesn't even come close.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
2.71/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This was one of my contributions to our Goose Island Stout Line-up. Shared with Nrbw23, Ryan011235, Spider889 and Schwaeh.

Bottled on 3/25/11 poured into a snifter

There's hardly any difference in the appearance to any of the members of the Goose Island imperial stout family. Perhaps the non-barrel aged ones such as this look a little thinner and feign just a little bit more of a head. But in the end this one sits static in the snifter, not so much as a collar. The beer has red edges and my glass looked to have some grittiness in it despite being relatively decanted.

Its mostly alcohol and cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs don't give off aromas of smooth milk chocolate. They are much more of a natural, earthy, raw thing. This beer has lots of that. Aromas of nut shells/husk/bark from the nibs. It still gives the beer a lot of sweetness in the aroma that teams up with the inherent sweet, maltiness and dark fruit elements of the stout.

Much of the same. Lots of booze and crazy, raw cocoa sweetness. Its a very bittersweet type of raw chocolate that has a lot of nuttiness and bark-like qualities. Some dark fruits poke out that seem at opposition to the earthy cocoa nibs. From time to time I get a bit of band-aid and plastic flavors that seem to come from the inner workings of the beer, fueled by a fussel alcohol propellant.

Very full bodied. The carbonation is very low and alcohol imparts a lot of heat. This is the typical experience from these Goose Island beers though. This is something of a slower creature than many of the others though.

Meh, the worst of the lot. In fact, I think I'm growing weary of these big sludge bombs that are Goose Island imperials. I think our little tasting that we did satiated an appetite that wasn't there. I'll be taking a break from the big bruising stouts for quite some time while my body tries to process the residuals of this beer.

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Photo of champ103
2.73/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I have had this several times. The first, twiggamortis420 shared a bottle. I found another when I went home to see the family. Review from notes.

A: Pours a murky, nearly opaque brown/black color. A small bubbly tan head forms, but recedes in a second. No lace is left. First impressions: this looks like a thiner version of GI's better stouts.
S: Roasted malt, acrid coffee, light on the coco nibs. A veggie aroma as well that is a bit off putting.
T: Huge roasted malt and acrid coffee. Not nearly as much chocolate as I was expecting. Maybe some powdery, bitter sweet residual sugar. A big cooked veggie flavor, and almost sulfur like. Is that DMS? Odd, and not very enjoyable. Huge alcohol in the throat.
M/D: A medium to full body. Low carbonation, a little to low for my liking. Fairly thin and powdery. Burning alcohol and off flavors makes this hard for me to drink.

I have had two bottles, and both with the same off flavors. I do not enjoy this. Without a doubt the weekest stout Goose Island has made. Not something I would recommend.

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Photo of creepinjeeper
2.75/5  rDev -32.8%

Photo of chippo33
2.75/5  rDev -32.8%

Photo of tipofthetongue
2.75/5  rDev -32.8%

Photo of Drift
2.75/5  rDev -32.8%

Photo of ShogoKawada
2.78/5  rDev -32%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

22oz into bell's pint.

A- Fantastic pour- deep brown/black body, tons of tiny brown bubbles form a nice thick oatmeal cookie colored head that settles quickly. Minimal lacing. Great color.

S- Pretty heavy chocolate cake and coffee. Nice, inviting aroma.

T- Very chocolatey, some dark fruit. Very sweet, chocolate syrup and then some. Mild coffee. The flavors aren't off... they're just overbearing. This has the dreaded triple bock/dark lord sweet sludge taste/mouthfeel combo going on. Not a fan.

M- Thick, syrupy, too sweet. More carbonation needed.

O- Eh. Meh. Not worth the price. Would not buy again regardless of the price, actually. Doubt I'll have a 2nd glass.


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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
Beer rating: 4.09 out of 5 with 1,571 ratings