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 hannydawg
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of shuajw
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of bpfrush
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of Miamilice
5/5  rDev +22.2%

Photo of tchaos
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of bradycd1
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of russwbeck
4/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of klipper
3.5/5  rDev -14.4%

Photo of Slatetank
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to akorsak for sharing this -enjoyed from goblet.

The color is tar-like black off of a railroad tie. The cap is medium tan and rings the glass with an ultra-tight bead, the lace sticks lightly. The smell of malted milkballs covered in chocolate, there is a brownie-like concentrated chocolate whiff in the nose straight off the pour. There is a bit of alchohol ester in the backgrround but the malt and cocoa nib dominates the aroma with a very mild hop spice rounding out the nose. The feel is rich and dessert like with an intense malt feel but still has a subtle bit of alcohol and the viscous malt body carries some residual sugar into the finish.

This stout has some big cocoa and herbal hop flavors with slight spice nuance. The taste of hops and dark malt with mild burnt note and mildly bitter cocoa nib gives some complexity with a mild coffee-like roastiness with gentle peppery heat of alcohol with some mild sweetness from the caramel malt. Overall this is a very high quality stout, I really like the bitter cocoa essence of the nibs, yet the heat of the high alcohol holds its drinkability back a tinge. I found it to be stellar with just an intense amount of roastiness.

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Photo of plumcrazyfx
4.05/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours super black and oily with almost zero head. Smells of dark roast and chocolate. The taste is great - I think if I never had BCBS or if it wasn't from Goose Island (with such great expectations) this thing would generally get top reviews. The first drink just coats the mouth with intense bitter chocolate, vanilla and roast flavors, just like the nose. The chocolate fades as the mouth gets used to it after a few swigs. At this point the boozy sweet roast takes the lead. Here is where it most tastes like BCBS and if it weren't for the finish leaving me hanging looking for a bourbon kick to end the flavor, I'd swear I was drinking that. However, I'm left wanting that kick since it's what rounds out BCBS so much and takes it to the next level. If I hadn't ever had BCBS I'd be raving over this beer - as it is - it's great, not mind-blowing, but I want the bourbon.

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Photo of Chaney
3.93/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I bought this one back in the Midwest. I remember buying 2 of them at least, and giving one to harrymel when he came to visit me in DC.

Bottled on 3/25/11

A: Black as the ace of spades, with not much head to speak of...maybe a few bubbles on top. Perhaps I shouldn't have even mentioned that.

S: I definitely got a very dark chocolate on the initial sniff. This sucker was kinda cold, so I allowed it to warm somewhat. A tinge of licorice too, but it was nothing to write home about.

T: Cocoa, with a bit of an Eastern flair as well: soy sauce in spaces and a tinge of burnt Sesame oil. Bitter and then some....but I actually though the sweet elements were spot on.

M: Thick, as only Goose Island can do, sweet (in a candy-like way), and EXTREMELY bitter... seriously. I got bitterness on the front, middle, and back end of this one. I got the same with "Nightstalker," which leads me to believe that maybe this was produced in the same mold.

O: This wasn't a particularly expensive beer, so overall, I enjoyed my session with this one. Lighten up people.... this isn't BCBS and doesn't claim to be...

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Photo of JizackFH
4.13/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - This beer pours a really dark brown color, almost black. With a vigorous pour it only yields about a finger of dark tan head. The head does't stick around too long, and it leaves just a few specs of lace behind on the glass.

S - The nose starts off with some big roasted malt aromas and quite a bit of sweetness. There are big chocolate and coffee scents too.

T - Taste starts off with a big dark roasted malt flavor. There is a nice amount of sweetness and more bitterness than the nose let on. There is a big chocolate flavor here, as well as some coffee. The finish leaves lingering sweetness and roasted malt bitterness on the palate. There is also some alcohol presence as well.

M - This has a full body and lower carbonation. It has a nice rich feel to it. It has a sticky quality to it, and coats the mouth really nicely letting you taste every inch of it. There is a good amount of sweetness and bitterness that balance each other out. There is some boozy warmth in the back end too.

O - This has really good drinkability. It goes down smooth and the flavor is really nice. It is a sipper of course, but it is still hard to put down. Overall, I really enjoyed this beer, and I think it is a really good imperial stout. If you like a lot of chocolate flavor in your stouts, try it. If you aren't the biggest fan of chocolate in your stouts, just give it a shot anyways.

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Photo of stakem
3.9/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bomber into a snifter. Thanks to Dunt for picking this up for me. This brew appears black in color with less than a finger of dark brown head that hardly forms up to a finger despite an aggressive pour directly down the middle of the glass. The cap quickly fades back to a thin lacing across the top. A swirl agitates some carbonation from solution that forms some bubbles across the top that are a even darker brown than originally and it places some spots of lace on the glass. When held to the light, there is a faint amount of brown clarity noted around the edges.

The smell of this brew includes some notes of licorice and dark fruity alcohol almost like raisins or plums soaked in a neutral spirit like vodka. More smells reveal a bit of tangy alcohol element that starts to pick up some roasted grain character and a light touch of dark baker's chocolate.

The taste is bold with aggressive alcohol warmth. Bitter roasted grain slightly hints towards coffee with a solid focus on licorice and bitter chocolate. There is a tangy alcohol presence that has a touch of fruity character somewhat like rasisin or plums.

This is a full bodied brew with a light amount of carbonation. Very bold and aggressive with the alcohol heat but it makes for a solid sipper on a cold night. I found the licorice incorporation to be more bold than the listed cocao nib inclusion. The chocolate really only makes itself known lightly in the background of the aftertaste. Regardless, this was an interesting experience and worth a try if you have the chance. My vote goes to bourbon county as being my favorite offering they put out.

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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 stabzmcgee
3.72/5  rDev -9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Aroma is that of licorice, coffee and an underlying chocolate. Appearance is beautiful. Dark black body with a mocha/brown head. Taste is of a dark, rich chocolate coffee candy. Not too sweet though, containing a full body with little to no bitterness. Overall, an amazing stout.

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

22oz bottle into Duvel Green tulip. Bottled 3/25/2011.

A: Pours black with a very dense finger of dark brown head that quickly faded into a thin film.
S: Rich notes of dark chocolate, burnt toffee, dark fruits, caramel, licorice and roasted malts. I get a bit of alcohol vapor as well.
T: Follows the nose with the addition of a splash of black coffee. Sweet toffee, caramel and roast dominate. The finish is boozy but not hot, and the aftertaste is sweet with notes of brown sugar. I get some vanilla as well.
M: Medium-thick body, creamy moderate carbonation, with a soft mouthfeel.
O: Liked it. Would drink it again. It’s no BCBS or one of its variations, but it’s great.

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Photo of OnThenIn
3.68/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Barley existent head that is a darker tan on top of a almost jet black body.

S: The nose is initially alcoholic with cocoa and malty sweet.

T: The beer is surprisingly smooth and does not taste nearly as alcoholic as it smells. It is overly sweet and does has a decent chocolate flavor. There is a decent amount of dark fruit as well. A tiny bit of chalky flavor as well.

M: The beer has a very large body, but minimal carbonation, which made sense with the general sipper mentality.

O: Surprisingly less painful to drink than I expected it to be.

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Photo of KJGAGNE
4.47/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Have to review my most under rated Imperial Stout. This Stout is so under the radar. It may not be perfect, but it is tasty. Pour is huge into snifter. Let it settle, solid retention. The smell is coffee, oak, chocolate. The taste is solid. A little burn, but once it settles, perfect Imp stout. The color is pitch black, just the way I like it. Solid offering from GI!!

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Photo of MattyG85
4.5/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 650 ml bottle into a snifter glass. Bottled 03/25/11.

Appearance: Pitch black with a moderate amount of bubbles. Decent two fingers of tan head quickly fade into a few small patches. Lacing is fairly light.

Smell: Dark roasted malts and chocolate with a fairly strong fruity presence of black cherries. Also some hints of vanilla, molasses, and raisins. On of the more dark fruit forward stouts I've smelled.

Taste: Roasted malts and plenty of chocolate up front with a solid taste of dark cherry and raisins. Also some hints of coffee, vanilla, molasses, and brown sugar. Fairly sweet but a decent kick of bitterness in the finish from the coffee and chocolate holds things in check. Very tasty.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. Very smooth and somewhat sticky. No alcohol burn noticeable. It probably has cooled a bit as this was bottled about five months ago.

Overall: A very good imperial stout that has some interesting subtle flavors.

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Photo of mdvatab
3.23/5  rDev -21%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 22oz. bottle into Bordeaux glass.
Bottle is dated 3/25/11

Aroma: Woah. Strong metallic note upfront. Hoping it would go away, I stick my nose in the glass several more times. Dark cherry, molasses, dark rum, and cocoa liquer come through.

Appearance: Very black, thick body. 1/2 finger tan head falls quicly, and forms minimal lacing.

Flavor: Sweet molasses, dark, carmelized sugar, dark rum, and cocoa. A licorice note is noticeable through the middle, and pops up again relatively close to the finish. Spicy black pepper pops up toward the end. Unfortunately, the finish is reminiscent of cough-syrup with a light bitterness, and an strong warming sensation from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full mouthfeel. Again, medium-low, silky carbonation. Very warming feeling in mouth and throat after each sip.

Overall: This one should have been much better. I was a bit let down--especially compared to other great GI stouts. Couldn't ever get over the metallic odor at the begining. The cough-syrup-like flavor at the end was also a bit of a let-down. I'd be curious to see what a bottle of this would taste like after a bit of time in the cellar...

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Photo of Durge
4.02/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A bomber on hand for the 2011 Brass Hat Brew Fest in Watertown, CT yielded an ominously dark brown colored brew, semi-opaque with a modest ring of tan bubbles on top and minimal signs of lacing. The aroma brings sweet bourbon malt with almost flowery-perfume-like chocolate hints. The mouth finds a cloying malt sweetness with dark chocolate syrup that suggests some fermenting cherries and figs. There is also a bit of an herbal hop brightness over the top and finish. It's a definite heavy bodied brew in my book, with a medium-light velvety smoothness. Not a great candidate for sessioning but tasty and a worthwhile venture for the sweet tooth that enjoys a touch of booziness with his chocolate.

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Photo of vkv822
3.45/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

22oz bottle into tulip snifter.
bottled 03/25/11.

Pours black with a thin golden-brown head.

The aroma is of cocoa with a strong roasty backing, but stays sweet throughout. Pleasant, though a bit one-dimensional.

The taste is of big cocoa notes upfront, with a light roasty and quite boozy finish. Lots of alcohol heat in the finish.

The mouthfeel is medium to full-bodied bodied and a bit viscous, with medium carbonation.

This was a pleasant Imperial Stout, though it was a bit one dimensional.

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Photo of azdback
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Deep, dark, pitch black. No highlights at all. Head is very small and looked like it was dusted with coco powder. Lace doesn't seem to want to hang out.

Smell is of dried fruit like raisins or cranberries, some spiciness and some anise. There are some coco smells and a bit of alcohol.

Taste is very sweet and tart like a mixture of cherries, cranberries, currants, raisins and maybe even blackberries. A kind of mixed berry jam. There is some bitterness way late that keeps the sweetness from being a complete coup d'etat. With some alcohol warmness.

The mouth is right on for the style. Smooth and rich to the end. Like in the taste I get some alcohol warm in the belly.

Overall I really enjoyed this. Thanks to matttYCE for this extra.

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Photo of hardy008
4.2/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a chocolate milk shake colored head with decent retention. The aroma has cocoa nibs, roasted malt, and a touch of caramel.

Very sweet flavor with cocoa nibs, roasted malt, some caramel and a little vanilla. I held on to this bottle for a while, and I get the impression that the alcohol burn has probably diminished quite a bit. There is still a little bit of alcohol burn, but not too much.

Full bodied and smooth with proper carbonation. There is a sweet sticky feeling in the moth after each sip, and the aftertaste is sweet with a bit of bitterness from the roasted malt. Definitely a chewy Imperial Stout. A good beer overall. I'm just glad it wasn't any sweeter, or it would have been too much for me.

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

Pours a rich, deep and dark brown with thin cap of dense brown bubbles, gone quickly but leaving a ring of active bubbles. Scent is huge... notes of chocolate, roast and booze dominate with notes of dark fruit and anise like spice. Taste starts out big and bold with heavy roast, chocolate, booze and touches of sweet cream and dark fruit, but the finish becomes somewhat lifeless with dry and powdery cacao nibs taking over. Full bodied, coating with a touch too high carbonation, overall lightly dry on the palate. Overall this beer was a good, strong Imperial Stout but it seemed like it wanted to be big for the sake of being being, without too much effort put into complexity, layers or subtle touches found in some other big stouts.

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