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 snaotheus
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle split between three pint glasses. Bottled on 12/7/12 0800.

Pours black with a small brown head, opaque, with a little visible carbonation. Smell is yeasty, cherries, fairly muted.

Taste is candy sweet, almost a cough syrup sweetness (but not enough to be bad), dark sweet fruity flavors, heavy chocolate bitterness, lots of roasty flavor.

Mouthfeel is a little flat, but not too cloying, and fairly dry. Overall, good beer.

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Photo of Flounder57
4.29/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle was poured into a large Duvel snifter. Bottle on 12/07/12 and matures for a year. I think it's time.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger mocha head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no vision of anything. Spotty mocha lacing on the glass as the beer was drank.

Smell: Roasted coffee, chocolate, dark fruits, vanilla, and a little warming alcohol.

Taste: Wow!!! This beer has aged well. Sweet milk chocolate nibs, roasted malts, vanilla, warm alcohol, spicy yeast, banana, molasses, and tobacco.

Mputhfeel: Silky smooth, creamy, boozy, full bodied, and medium carbonation.

Overall: This beer is all good and some. Found this at a local bottle store and knew it didn't have much time left. Makes me wonder how many people past this beer bye due to the date. Wish they had a second or third bottle hanging around.

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Photo of macrosmatic
4.21/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Reviewed from notes. Poured from bomber into a Peg's snifter.

A: Opaque and nearly black, with a half-finger of tan head and very little visible carbonation.

S: Cacao, a bit boozy, and roasted malts, creamy sweetness, vanilla, tobacco, and brown sugar, with some resinous sticky dark fruit. It almost smells barrel-aged, although I don't believe it is.

T: Dark cacao, chocolate-covered raisins, vanilla, chewing tobacco, sweet booziness with a roasted woody/vanilla/tobacco tannin bitterness at the end.

M: Thick sticky mouthfeel, not overly boozy for the style, and low carbonation sensation.

O: This was a very good beer, although I think if falls just short of the best in class. A bit overly sweet for my tastes, but has an interesting and good depth of flavor.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bomber from trade. Thanks! Dated 3/25/11, enjoyed on 8/30/13. Pours a deep black with small brown head. Aroma of chocolate and licorice, maybe some sweet vanilla notes and hints of roast. Flavor is big sweet dark fruits, black currants, light anise, molasses, and with an extra kick of milk chocolate. Finishes with a nice bitter and lingering bittersweet chocolate. Feel a bit of heat on this too. Mouthfeel is perfect, thick and velvety but with a bit a carbonation to balance. Nice beer!

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Photo of BobZ
4.35/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22oz. bottle poured into a Three Floyds Teku bottled in 2012.

Appearance: Pitch black with a nice 1/4" creamy tan cap that quickly recedes to a cap.

Smell: Big roasted malt, dark chocolate aromas dominate.

Taste: As in the nose, nice roasted malt and dark chocolate bitterness remain throughout the beer. A wonderfully chocolaty experience, the flavor is deep and the alcohol is all but completely masked..

Mouthfeel: Extremely creamy mouth feel, yet it leaves the palate clean.

Overall: Yet another excellent stout from Goose Island.

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.21/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: A smooth pour produces no measurable head but medium-brown lacing that is so long-lasting I think it might be a permanent feature of this glass from now on. Body is black as night and looks to be thick and smooth as any brew I've ever seen.

S: Baker's chocolate, deeply roasted dark malts, a tinge of alcohol.

T: Cacao at the beginning, middle, and end, growing more and more bitter throughout the long finish. Those dark malts give it a strong base for the chocolate to stand on, and a slight smoky flavor weaves in and out. Alcohol not noticed anymore, except maybe on the breath afterward. The last stage of the finish (minutes after the sip) approaches a sour-ish flavor. Big, well paired, long-lived flavors here.

M: Heavy and smooth, with just the slightest carbonation to tickle my tongue.

O: Has the characteristics every Imperial Stout strives for: dark, oily body, big, long, and bitter flavors, and a mouthfeel so heavy your tongue sags under its weight. A good benchmark for the Imperial Stout. Can't praise it enough.

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

22 oz. bottle poured into a Burley Oak snifter (bottled on 12/7/12)

A: Pitch black with a nice minimal mocha head.

S: Malty and roasted. It smells like black strap molasses with a bit of an alcohol burn. There is also a fair amount of sweet soy sauce down in there.

T: A delicious swirl of flavors. Lots of chocolate and sweet roasted malt. Its like liquid chocolate with a nice hint of burnt caramel/toffee from the malt. I get a bit of piney hops if you swirl it around in your mouth.

M: Just a bit syrupy and viscous, with a nice subtle coarseness that is just a bit prickly.

O: It reminds me a lot of Night Stalker and it would be great to try them side to side. GI has a great base stout in Cook County Stout and they really do some amazing things with it.

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Photo of brewski09
4.36/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A bomber poured into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. bottled on 12/7/12 and purchased from a good beer shop in Manhattan (i purchased this from a refrigerator and believe they held this beer in proper conditions before putting it up for sale).

A - pitch black, like a glass of motor oil. The head is dark brown from the loads of roasted malt in this beer, but it doesn't stick around for long. If this had a head that hung around, it would probably be a 5.0. Just beautiful.

S - dark malts, stone fruit booze, roast. This smells more like a RIS than an imperial stout. It has a good boozy smell to it. Very nice smell, a hint of licorice in there too as it warms. The only thing that would really improve this would be a bit of tobacco and a mild barrel aged note.

T - dark fruits like figs and plums dance with licorice and booze here. The roasted barley really comes through on the back end here after the musty cocoa nibs start to drop off. the finish seems to be all alcohol though

M - though this is a high alcohol beer at 11.5%, it has a pleasant oily nature with a good astringency to help balance the sweetness of the beer. There is also a relatively high IBU content here. This beer feels full on the palate with many harmonious aspects.

O - A great imperial stout that borders on RIS, but stops just short. I love how the cocoa nibs mellow the astringency here. I wish I had another bottle or two to age for a couple of years to see how these flavors meld. If I can find another bottle, I'll but it.

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Photo of candcholt
1.36/5  rDev -66.2%
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 Scotchboy
3.76/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz bomber, 12/7/12 bottling, sent to me by Dope (thanks!), poured into my Hair of the Dog snifter.

A: Opaque, jet black body with a darker tan cap of head with small bubbles, good consistency and retention, decent lacing.

S: A bit hot/boozy right away; big, deep roasted malt bill, almost to the point of smelling burnt. Strong leafy hop component, almost resinous - deja vu to Night Stalker for a second - some deep, dark caramel and earthy carob as well as dark fruit.

T: A bit hot, with a dark, almost char-like roast; plenty of caramel, boozy raisin, and an herbal/almost resinous hop component. Suggestions of unsweetened bakers chocolate, vinous notes of dark fruit and a touch of spice. Dark chocolate comes out more as this beer warms.

MF: Pretty robust full body. Slick and sticky at times, with a dryish finish. Alcohol is noticeable on the flavors more than the mouthfeel but there is some heat.

O: A decent and fairly original brew, just not what I was expecting from an imperial stout brewed with cacoa nibs. Pretty hoppy and earthy, almost distractingly so. That combined with the alcohol makes me think this one could use some age.

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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+

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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.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.66/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

650ml brown glass bottle with appealing label art acquired at a Binny's in Chicago and served into a standard water glass at a Chinese restaurant. Served from an ice bath. Expectations are high given the brewery. 11.50% ABV confirmed. Bottled 12/07/12. Reviewed from notes taken on St. Patrick's Day.

A: Pours a half finger rich tan colour head. Nice cream, fair thickness, and average (~2 minute) retention. Body colour is a solid dark black. Nontransparent; opaque. Typical of the style. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Cacao/chocolate, dark malts, chocolate malt, light light vanilla. Very buried roast. A moderate strength aroma. No yeast character or alcohol is detectable.

T: Cacao/chocolate. Dark malts. Buried roast. Rich and refined. Slightly hot, but not boozy; alcohol is noticeable but not detrimental. Mostly well balanced. Quite tasty. Complex and well executed. Pretty subtle for what it is. No yeast character comes through. Tasty.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Good thickness and carbonation. Feels custom-tailored to the flavour profile. Still, it's not quite ideal. Well executed overall. Not syrupy.

Dr: Very drinkable for the high ABV. Not quite a sipper, but your taste buds do hold you back from drinking it as fast as you will want to. It's meant to be consumed slowly and respected. A solid imperial stout from Goose Island. Quite well done. Hides its ABV pretty well for how high it is.


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Photo of weonfire
4.26/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Enjoyed on this on tap at the Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL in a 12oz snifter.

A - Black, opaque, pinky of mocha head which dissipates slowly, small amount of lacing.

S - Chocolate, Bourbon, carmel, booze (not bourbon)

T - Sweet chocolate, bourbon, Vanilla, toffee, carmel. Finish has a sweet chocolate, hoppy (3/10) and touch of roastiness

M - Nice and frothy, full body, creamy, very nice carbonation, bourbon-chocolate that tingles the throat

O - Excellent. Mouth is outstanding. Love the chocolate bourbon. Booze has no heat. Balance among all flavors is very well done. While this might be the lowest in the Bourbon County series -that is no means a knock- it is very very good.

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Photo of Kegatron
3.97/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle. Pitch black with a mocha head. Not much retention or lacing. Aroma smells of sweetness and roast with a heavy alcohol component. Taste is similar, with a heavy sticky sweetness (with an emphasis on those chocolate flavors) that is tempered a bit by the burnt feel of the roast and whatever hop bitterness is left over. Alcohol flavors amp that sweetness up even more. Mouthfeel is full and chewy with a bit of a prickle to it. While the the alcohol is heavy flavorwise, the heat is at least mostly kept in check. This was good for a big Stout, with thick chewy flavors and a warming alcohol presence. This is a big beer indeed.

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Photo of Axnjxn
4.29/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle into a snifter. 12/7/12 bottling date opened on 6/1/13.

Pours a pitch black color with a VERY light head. almost no head whatsoever. On the nose we have an extremely strong dark chocolate smell, as expected. The taste follows suit, dark chocolate dominates the palate. Alcohol is not apparent but you know it's got a kick to it by the burn you get in your belly. The feel is exceptional for this kind of beer, it's not syrupy but rather creamy. so easy to down this one. dangerously easy. heavy body with low carbonation.

Overall an exceptional imp stout, bordering on world class. I'd buy another if it was readily available.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.09/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottled 12/07/12

A: Pours an opaque yet clear jet black in color with moderate amounts of gentle visible carbonation near the surface of the beer and a faint amount of dark cola brown + very dark amber highlights. The beer has a three finger tall foamy very dark mocha head that slowly reduces to a thick film evenly covering the entire surface of the beer and a slightly thicker ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate to significant amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of slightly sweet roasted malts, dark fruits (raisin), and milk chocolate.

T: Upfront there are moderate to strong flavors of roasted malts with a strong amount of dark fruit (raisin) sweetness. That is followed by some moderate to strong flavors of milk chocolate and light hints of vanilla. Light amounts of bitterness in the finish that fades quickly.

M: Full bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with moderate amounts of dryness in the finish.

O: The beer is much easier to drink than I thought it would be considering the fairly high ABV - the alcohol is well hidden but this beer is just too filling to have more than one in a single session. Huge flavors and moderate aromas make this one quite enjoyable with just enough complexity.

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Photo of sleuthdog
3.65/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Bottled 3/2511 poured into snifter.

Pour: Just like I expected pitch black with no light to dare penetrate. Very small head and the alcohol legs are definitely there.

Smell: A big aroma of chocolate like a chocolate syrup. Some caramel, vanilla, roasted notes and dark fruits. Alcohol is detected but not off putting. This does come across as having the age on it that it does.

Taste: Again the chocolate dominates as in the nose with a bitter sweet character. Dark fruits, vanilla, caramel, and light roast. This is a big sweet stout.

Mouthfeel: Oily and slick with low carbonation. Not the best aspect of this beer.

Overall: Well this bottle does say "develops in the bottle for up to 5 years" but I think I should have tried it fresh. Don't hate this one but don't love it either.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.46/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at MacGregor's Grill and Taproom on East Avenue in Rochester, NY.

Dark and sludgy pour. Most excellent look already. A one inch head fights it way out of the top of the beer, and sticks around for a while. Lacing sticks to the glass, desperately.

Aromas include a ton of chocolate, vanilla, and dark roasted malt.

The flavors are the same. I don't know if this has chocolate added or it's just the malt, but it tastes like brownie batter. Very sweet- tastes of burnt brown sugar and molasses are there as well. Some roasty bitterness rounds out the sweetness.

Very creamy and thick mouthfeel, thick body. Low carbonation. Drinkable for the high ABV and sugar content.

A great stout from Goose Island that's not part of the Bourbon County series. Very nice.

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Photo of SHerninko
4.41/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

S-Tapped from Craft Ale House - PA
A-dark, no light through it, small tan head, some lacing
S-good nose, choco, oak, coffee--all very subtle. The more it warms the more you smell.
T-very nice, good from start to finish with some layers. Bourbon, vanilla, some hops at the end to balance it and pull back any sweetness. Very balanced.
M-smooth and creamy, very good.
O-one of my fave Goose stouts when I am not looking for a giant malt/bourbon bomb. Very easy to drink.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.69/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a red wine glass. Pours dark brown and pretty much opaque with a quarter-inch, light tan head that dissipates into a skim. Nose expresses some malt and a slightly oxidized quality. Taste consistent with nose; however, there is also some cocoa nibs evident in the flavor profile. Mouthfeel is medium-light with a mild, even carbonation. Texture is a bit watery and there's also a little acidity. Overall, I wasn't too impressed with this beer. The abv was certainly well-hidden; however, a bit lackluster.

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.41/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 12-7-12 and poured into my Founders snifter.

A- Pours black as night just like the other Goose Island imperial stout offerings. Small, 1 cm, chocolatey brown head. Retention and lacing are pretty good.

S- Big roasted malt character right up front. Lots of chocolate, both bitter and semi-sweet, comes next. The shear amount of chocolate seems to produce a dark fruit scent.

T- Starts with a combo of the big roasted malts and the prominent chocolate flavors. The chocolate takes more of a front seat in the taste and is fairly creamy. Chocolate is somewhere between sweet and bitter, somewhat alternating between the two tastes, but very dark in flavor the entire way through the drink. Ends with a slight bite from bitter chocolate and roasted malts.

M- Thick, creamy, with a little heat. Smooth as all get out despite having a fairly high level of carbonation. Sits a little heavy in the stomach, but a terrific beer for after dinner.

Overall, probably the best chocolate stout I've had. The quality of the chocolate used in this beer is evident and provides the beer with a complex blend of roasted malts and chocolate that isn't one dimensional like other chocolate stouts. I'm glad I was able to find this beer.

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Photo of montrealbcr89
1.87/5  rDev -53.5%
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 shehateme
4.42/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bomber into st. Bernadus goblet as ace of spade, no head,no lacing
S... Roasted malt,charcoal,molasses
T... Smokey,slight chocolate ,peat
O...I must say I'm a sucker for imperial stouts and this would probably rank second on my list only behind founders imperial stout for non barrel aged stouts

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Photo of rudzud
3.45/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bought this 2 years ago at Russell's in Amherst, MA. Bottled back in March 2011, poured into my Duvel tulip.

A - Pours a deep dark brown, not quite black hue with a one finger dark, dark brown head that fades rather quickly to leave thin wisps and a light, light halo.

S - Aromas of...oxidation. Not potent, but its there. Old chocolate syrup, caramel, dark fruits, malt sweetness. Definitely smells like an aged stout.

T - flirts super dangerously close to soy sauce. Its just a flash in the beginning before going to well, almost musty older dark bakers chocolate, caramel, HUGE dark fruits with a fair amount of bitter roast on the finish. Flash of vanilla here as well. At least there's no alcohol.

M - Mouthfeel is damn solid. Oily, creamy, lowish carbonation. Not that much booze either.

O - Overall, pissed I forgot about this one as I had bought 2. Wish I'd cracked one fresh....Oh well, time to try and get rid of my other bottle....

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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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