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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Ratings: 1,567 |  Reviews: 451
Photo of pdeepak
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Found a bottle of this in my recent trip to Houston and waited to crack it open last night with my fellow beer geeks. Poured into an over sized brandy snifter

The beer pours in a very viscous manner and formed little to no head. No carbonation to speak of.

Smell's like a chocolate bomb, almost s'more like in my initial impression.

Taste is overwhelmingly chocolate and was way too sweet, which only became worse as the beer warmed up. I had struggle through the last couple of ounces of the beer.

Mouthfeel is where this beer dominates. Very sticky and coats all your tastebuds at once.

I had high expectations going in, and was just a little bit disappointed.

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Photo of harrymel
3.39/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottled 25MAR11

A: pours near black. Transient foam production is mocha and disappears before I could type this. Pretty much a black mirror surface. No lace.

S: Chocolate, molasses, alcohol and dark cherries. Some hints of vanilla.

T: More of the same. Starting to wonder why they made this. Just tastes like Nightstalker with 18 months on it. Just a little less molasses and a little more cocoa.

M: Thick with high carbonation. Semi dry finish.

O: Well, this doesn't have near the chocolate I would expect. Too much molasses/dark brown sugar. Doesn't fit the bill for the description. That being said, it's not a bad beer, just not something I will be seeking in the future.

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Photo of Brunite
2.68/5  rDev -33.3%
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 litheum94
4.17/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle from LiquidBread219 . Bottled 3/25/11. Reviewed 7/10/11.

P: Oil slick black; absolutely no light gets through. Brown head that disappears quickly. Not a very impressive head for the style.

A: Gobs of dark chocolate from the cocoa nibs. Smells like freshly baked brownies. Creamy half and half. Smokey, roasted malts. Cappuccino like.

T: Milk chocolate, followed by bitter, dark chocolate tastiness. There's a subtle smokiness in the middle, followed by roasted malts with coffee tones. Dark fruit sweetness on the finish. Slight alcohol bite as well.

Damn this is a tasty stout. I love the loads of chocolate here. I'd love to have another to see how it ages.

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Photo of s1ckboy
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black, cola colored on the sides. Some small bubbles around the edges.

S - Chocolate, maybe a bit of booze.

T - On first sip I got a lot of chocolate. After that was mostly alcohol, with a bit of chocolate.

M - On the lighter side of full (Does that make sense?).

O - Ok for the style. Alcohol is a bit harsh. Could use a few years to mellow it out.

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Photo of surly1987
3.57/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured a deep black as any beer in this style should. about a quarter inch head a deep carmel coloring with little lacing. it smelled chocolately with a significant roasted aroma. on my initial taste i wasnt crazy about the carbonation as it was quite aggressive but it grew on me. the taste had a decent amount of chocolate hues but was overwhelmed by an extreme roasted to borderline burnt attributes. although it was a decent beer i had expected more. glad to try once but wouldnt buy another. B.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle split and poured into a snifter.
11.5% ABV, Bottled on 03/25/11, "serve in a snifter", "develops in the bottle for up to 5 years."

A - Deep, dark brown beer with good clarity through the pour. Pitch black in the snifter, the tall pour topped the quite, thick beer with a short-lived tan head.

S - Slight solvent alcohol backs up the dusty cocoa and roasted malt. The roasted malt has more chocolate and molasses notes than acrid roastiness. Fairly low aroma though. As it warms the alcohol aroma becomes much more solvent-like.

T - Thick, rich chocolate and dusty cocoa with a large roasted malt profile. Not burnt or bitter though, just roasty. Minimal alcohol involvement in the flavor, surprisingly.

M - The shining characteristic of this brew is the well-balanced mouthfeel that's thick and viscous but nice and smooth. Great balance between sweetness and mild acrid bitterness.

O - The thickness of this brew is fantastic! I wish more stouts had the balls Big John does, in terms of the mouthfeel. The rest of the beer falls into the "good but certainly not impressive" category. This beer has been done before, better. It's worth hanging onto a bottle for aging and, more specifically, for the upcoming cold winter. It'll be a nice and warming stout.

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Photo of BretSikkink
4.07/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Big is apt. Pours black and quite thick. No real head to speak of. A non-BA said it looked like soy sauce when I poured.

Chocolate is huge in the nose. Some alcohol is noted, along eith a bourbon note.

This is a big badass beer. Chocolate, cocoa, espresso, smoke, and woodiness all seep in here. Alcohol is massive, and although the flavor complexity is increased, drinkability takes a huge hit.

I enjoyed it but it's not for everyone.

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Photo of gregshead
4.38/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted on 5/21/11. Thanks to Biglobo again for getting me this one. Reviewed from notes:

A: Jet black color with a small tan head. Head stays laced around the edges.

S: Lots of dark chocolate on the nose.

T: Very unique tastes. Dark malts up front intermingles with sweet chocolate. Goes into a sweet finish with a little bit of dry and roasted taste to balance it out.

M: A very nice thick and creamy feel. Can't argue on this one

O: I really enjoyed this one. I did not notice the alcohol at all in comparison to other beers of its size. I hope I get more opportunities to enjoy this beer and ones like it.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber poured into DFH Signature glass. Bottle date: 3/25/11. 11.5 ABV

A: This one pours totally black as night BUT some faint light sneaks through the edges of the glass. Barely any head, even with an aggressive pour. Nice alcohol legs.

S: The nose isn't what I expected. I don't get that much coffee. Smooth milk chocolate with some hints of dark. It actually smells boozy.

T: I get tons of chocolate here. Mostly creamy milk chocolate, dark roasted malts, no coffee, etc. The boozy does get you towards the back of the throat. More carbonation would help clear the palate a bit. Seems like time would help mellow this one.

M: I hate to say it but this isn't as full bodied as I planned. Strong medium to full bodied I guess. Not watery or anything, but not completely thick.

O: Don't get me wrong this is a delicious stout, but not the best I have tried from GI. Again, some age might do this one well. I'll sample again down the line.

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Photo of cosmo4u
4.08/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

purchased from rattle and hum 7/13/11

This thing poured a very dark black, crude oil color that had absolutely no highlights shining through at all. A dark, tan head was formed, from the pour, that was smooth, creamy and lush. I received nice girth and retention from a fairly aggressive pour and the lacing tried to hang on to the sides of the glass for a while, but eventually all of the foam and lace dissipated to leave behind some decent alcohol when swirled. The aroma brought out a very deep, dark chocolate malt packed with alcohol notes. They were strong, but not strong enough to overpower other fragrances of burnt, roasted coffee bean, dried leather and dark, booze soaked fruits similar to plums and raisins.

Overall, its complex and bold in the nose. The taste was quite good, Rich and forceful. At first, the alcohol grazed the palate profoundly only to meld and give way to the charred coffee and vivid, dark chocolate. It's very malty with a licorice undertone. Dark, booze immersed fruit started sweet then gave way to an earthy, round tone. Some bitterness is there, but the malt quickly overtook it and rendered it insignificant. The overall flavor was elaborate, well balanced and intricate. The mouthfeel was an honest to goodness "full" mouthfeel. One of the few that I have ever had. It was chewy, slick, thick, oily, viscous, smooth and dry. Tons of flavors were left behind on the palate.

I didn't find the aroma to be as bold or magnificent as the taste, yet it was still good. It's, for sure, a sipper. This is another beer that is best enjoyed when time can be taken to let it develop, warm to room temperature and ponder all that it has to offer. It had very nice character and extremity. The ABV is high, which doesn't make the drinkability very easy, so it could sneak up on you in a hurry if you're not careful!!!

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Photo of uustal
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep black with a tiny brown head. Quickly dissipates. Coco and coffee aroma, but overpowered by boozy notes. Big sweet milk chocolate notes to start off the flavor. Very creamy in both taste in mouthfeel. Molasses, coffee, sweet cream and roasted malts take a back seat, but make their presence felt. Hints of warming alcohol. This one comes together nicely as it warms and the, big, sticky, thick, creamy mouthfeel is a big highlight.

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Photo of daledeee
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 22 oz bottle to try

It pours a very dark body with a very dark head. However, the head left with little lacing

Nose is chocolate milk and slightly charred.

Taste is dominated with cocoa and is pretty sweet. There is not much bitterness. I can feel the cocoa granules. Overall this is like dark chocolate malted milk. The beer is a little too sweet for me. It comes across as rather rich. Alcohol really warms you in this one. Definitely well done but I should have shared this bottle.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Brad for sharing this beer.

A: The pour is pretty much black in color with a finger or so of tan head.

S: There is an almost chocolate liqueur aroma to this beer. Lots of cocoa with some coffee and dark, roasted malts. A bit of licorice and molasses notes with some overripe plums.

T: Intense chocolate flavor to the beer as well. Lots of dark chocolate, cocoa, and some milk chocolate. The same sort of chocolate liqueur character is there along with the roast and mild coffee.

M: Medium in body, but not as thick and rich as I expected. Medium in carbonation.

O: This was a good beer, but it didn't leave the same kind of impression on me like some of the other Goose Island stouts.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
3.28/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The brew pours a deep, oily black hue, and is capped with a healthy share of khaki froth. The nose offers more general roast character than any specific nuance of chocolate or cocoa. The aroma is not off-putting, but it is quite one-dimensional, even if that dimension is pleasant. The flavor, on the other hand, is bordering on acrid in its roastiness; even less nuance is to be found here. The beer is silky and rich-feeling on the palate, which covers up for a lot of the overly burnt flavor. Overall this is an underwhelming brew.

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

Pours a brown tinted black with a thin tan ring of sprightly bubbles. Wet nose reveals booze and a bit of malt. Big roasted taste hides the booze a little, but not compleatly. Sweet black coffee and cocoa with toffee and vanilla notes. Slick mouth feel is off set by prickly carbonation. Good stuff, would definitely get again.

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Photo of mulder1010
3/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bomber poured into a wine glass

A-- Poured a brownish black color and settling black, no light penetrating the glass. Good one finger dark mocha colored head, does fade pretty quickly but one swirling get one finger again. Very obvious alcohol legs to this. Thick and sticky legs to this.

S-- Chocolate, malt, coffee and a bit of ethanol. A little too much booze for me on this. Does not have the rich thick smell that this needs.

T-- Sweet milk chocolate, Carmel, and once again booze. Kind of an unrefined taste to me.

M-- More booze, a bit prickly with carbonation and hops. Otherwise Chocolate, Carmel, faint hints of coffee, and burnt malts, barley and a ethanol finish to top it off. Base beer is quite sweet and thin I think. Medium light bodied and more carbonated than expected.

O-- Idea is good but execution is lacking. Booze is more than obvious and needs more chocolate. Too much ethanol in mouth and finish to really enjoy this.

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Photo of habanosdarklord
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle date of 3/25/11

Poured into a Riedel Burgundy glass, served just under cellar temp.

Pours exactly how an Imperial Stout should, black and thick. Nice mocha colored head, resembles the froth of a properly pulled shot of espresso. Smells of rich chocolate, dark and milk. There is some booze here, but really is not a big deal at all. Coffee comes into play as well, not the beans but fresh ground espresso. If you have ever smelled fresh ground Black Cat from Intelligentsia, you will get the picture. Vanilla here as well.

On to the taste, full rich chocolate on the palate, big time vanilla, and that fresh coffee on the finish with some really nice hints of almond nuts. Not just a generic nutty flavor, but real almonds. I love the finish. Rich and complex. This stout impressed the hell out of me, and I'm really a stout lover. People complain about the booze in this beer, but to be honest, the booze added to this beer. It gave it multiple layers, added depth, and it wasn't hot at all. If you want a complex, flavorful stout seek this out. For aging, I only see this becoming nothing short of stellar. 1-2 years will be perfect. Stout lovers rejoice.

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Photo of Gushue3
3.63/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A- looks black in my plastic cup. No head but a little lacing left on the side.

S- cocoa and rich malt. Thats all in really getting from this one.

T- same as the nose. Chocolate and smoke are definately in the front and most dominant

M- thick mouthfeel with lower ammount of carbonation. Goes down pretty well.

O- nice stout has nice chocolate and smoke. Other than that pretty one dimentional stout.

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Photo of dcloeren
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured as dark as the chicago night in "Adventures in Babysitting"! 2 fingers of foamy tan head

Smells like a dark chocolate/ milk chocolate malted milkshake with some booze slipped in there like a naughty Dairy Queen employee making a mudslide on the downlow to enjoy the late night shift

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, coffee and borderline burnt malt. Very delicious to say the least

Full bodied, adequately carbonated, chewy and then some! Great dark chocolate bitter aftertaste.

This beer is the exact opposite of a try hard. Its a delicious full bodied excellent tasting stout without trying to do to much. This beer has taken some serious hits on this site and I think that people are just hype crazy on here and rate based on that. I will openly except anyones bottles of BIG JOHN today! I wish I had more bottles!

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Photo of amphion1065
3.16/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks to vande for this bottle, which was in short supply in Boston. Bomber poured into a tulip.

Thick, thick pour that's black as could be, with a two-finger mocha head. The appearance is very reminiscent of BCBS, with a slightly bigger head that leaves some very nice lacing on the glass.

The smell is quite sweet and fruity. Prunes, raisins, dates, and a hint of banana are all in the nose. This is a very sweet aroma, and though I can't say I detect much chocolate there's plenty of toffee and caramel.

Those cocoa nibs certainly come through in the taste. Plenty of bittersweet chocolate here, with a full complement of dark fruits as well. That said, there's a distracting harsh bitterness that overpowers this sweetness. The hop profile is somewhat similar to Nightstalker, though not quite as pronounced. It definitely lasts though, and absolutely detracts from the overall flavor of the beer. As it warms, there's some alcohol heat that adds to the unpleasantness.

The mouthfeel is the strongest part of this for me: thick and creamy, and the carbonation is spot-on. This is pretty close to chocolate syrup.

At this stage, Big John seems a little young. It's not terribly hot, but the flavors seem disjointed - it could have used some more time in the bottle. As it stands, this is a pretty middle of the road imperial stout.

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Photo of kawilliams81
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a 16 oz snifter.

A- Jet black with small tan head, and some lacing.

S- Cocoa, molasses, licorice, and a hint of vanilla.

T- Sweet chocolate, with just a little dark fruits? A nice bitterness comes through near the end and finish.

M- Thick and creamy with a slight alcohol bite at the finish.

O- A good imperial stout. Like the sweetness with the thick mouthfeel and abv content. Cocoa nibs are a nice addition to this beer.

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Photo of generalnotsew
3.96/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Extremely thick oil sludge chug pour. 2 finger creamy chocolate milk head with a jet black body. First thing I smell is sweet, sweet chocolate followed by chocolate covered raisins and plum. Has a pinch of roastiness to it. Could be a bit stronger all around. Has a LOT of burnt, roasty characters in the flavor. Very bitter coffee on the end. Sweetness is downplayed a lot except for the first taste. On the second drink I really do get a lot of creamy dark chocolate that ventures closer to milk chocolate territory. Twist in some dark fruit and there you have it. Mouthfeel is creamy and chewy as anything I ever had. It is very smooth and rich. But yikes this beer is HOT on the throat! Almost feels like a shot of whiskey was dropped in it. Pretty good brew that most likely needs some time to lay down and chill a bit. I say hold off for now.

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Photo of Mississipping
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours completely black with almost no head. A thick brown ring and patchy film remain for most of the glass. Decent lacing is left behind after each sip.

S: Lots of chocolate ... delicious baker's chocolate, not too sweet and not too bitter. More subtle dark fruit and roasted malt are behind the chocolate, but are both fairly subtle. Missing a little complexity, but what's there is really pretty nice.

T: Again, lots of chocolate, almost fudgey. Dark fruit (fig, plum, slight cherry) are present, but they're on the subtle side. Slightly roasty, but that characteristic is quite toned down too. It's really tasty, but somewhat one-dimensional. On the other hand, though, it's nice that this is different from most of the other GI stouts.

M: Pretty thick, and slightly chewy. Soft carbonation provides just a little life and creates a gentle, smooth, creaminess. Slightly drying at the finish. Booze is hidden quite well.

O: Again, it seem one-diminutional, but it's a different experience from the other big GI stouts. Would like to have seen a bit more complexity, but the chocolate characteristic is certainly there, and is very delicious.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.58/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Black beer, dark brown head that didn't really rise up to anything. No stick on the sides.

S - Tons of chocolate on this one, with a little bit of roast, molasses, and char.

T - Taste is really in line with the nose. Lots of cocoa and chocolate, roast, char and molasses. Some booze cuts through the sweetness.

M - Little carbonation bite on the end. Full bodied.

O - Not a bad beer, but nothing overly complex, and not fantastic by any means. Had this on tap as well, felt about the same as I do now.

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Big John from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.02 out of 5 based on 1,567 ratings.
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