Somewhat less well known then its Bourbon County compatriots, Goose Island’s Big John is only slightly less formidable at 11.5% alcohol. While not aged in Bourbon barrels, cacao nibs are added during the brewing process, further enhancing the chocolate notes found in many Imperial Stouts.
Poured into a snifter glass, Big John is quite dark with very little light making it through the glass. It produces a large, tan head which sinks back into the beer quickly. Though it receded quickly, the head remained at about a ¼ of an inch until the beer was gone.
The nose, while not hugely expressive, wafts bittersweet chocolate, surprisingly noticeable alcohol, roasted malt and dark fruit. The aroma is reminiscent of many chocolate liqueurs
The beer is very full-bodied, viscous and syrupy. It’s very smooth with very little carbonation. Chocolate notes are prominent, but not overwhelming with assertive dark fruit flavors, raisins and figs. Molasses and vanilla bean are also noticeable flavors. It finishes rather dry, with some hop bitterness to balance out the sweetness brought on by the chocolate. Heat from the alcohol coats the tongue for a few seconds after swallowing.
Though surprisingly boozy, Big John makes for an excellent dessert beer. I could see the alcohol calming down a bit after a few months in the cellar. Sweet, but not overly so, this is a fantastic beer with which to end the day on a cold winter night.
The Beer Buyer Overall Rating: 4.0 Pints out of 5
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