In the wake of producing some pretty huge stouts last year (Nightstalker and the BCS line), Goose released yet another monster in April of 2011 with this beer. The sexy label is quickly familiar to the Chicagoland native as the design mimics that of the iconic John Hancock building that graces our skyline. Brew like the imperial stouts before it has its own twist due to the addition of cacao nibs.
The appearance is classic BCS at its best. Thick, oily and black during the pour it slowly filled the glass yielding a thin mocha head that faded fast. When pouring the remainder of the bottle some time later a noticeable creamy head became evident with some additional swirling. The aroma was similar as well.
Big burnt grain notes right out the gates. A very astringent dark bitter aroma developed as I left my nose in the snifter. My guess was the cacao nibs lending there bittersweet bakers chocolate nose to the mix. The abv was not as hot as compared to the BCS beers simply because this was not aged in Bourbon barrels. I don’t know if it was aged in plain oak barrels, but I bet the nibs were added during fermentation. A very dark fruit layer brings with it notes of prunes, dates and figs.
When reflecting on the taste I remembered liking this one better than the BCS as it is not as harsh on the palate and does not possess as much of a metallic flavor. The brew is viscous that if for sure. Bitterness is brought on by the brunt malts with a small hop bitterness in the back of the tongue. However, that could have also been the abv giving a punch as well. The dark fruits mentioned above opened up on the back half of the palate and in the aftertaste. During the sip, the cacao nibs gave an almost organic dark chocolate bar (like the kind you buy at Whole Foods) texture and taste throughout. I found this hard to pick up at first which vexed me greatly. After about 20 minutes of savoring this beer the chocolate became more apparent and really added a little more dimension to the overall taste in a subtle way.
I enjoyed Big John more than the regular and Rare BCS beers. While this one is a little on the harsh side at first, your palate will quickly warm up to its smooth, non-threatening-abv mouthfeel. You’ll get all the flavors with a touch of dark chocolate on the side.