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Gonzo Imperial Porter | Flying Dog Brewery

1,456 Reviews
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Gonzo Imperial PorterGonzo Imperial Porter

Brewed by:
Flying Dog Brewery
Maryland, United States | website

Style: Baltic Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
ABV varies.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 06-04-2005

User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,456 | Ratings: 2,831
Photo of chOAKbarrell
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to a friend in Kentucky for mailing me this 12oz bottle, since there are none to be found in my area of Maryland.

The first thing I noticed about this thick, black beer is that it has the most beautiful, thick, creamy head on it. It dies down to a manageable height after a few moments. A lovely strong hop aroma greets you, and the taste! Oh my.

It seems there are about 5 different levels to this beer. There's the blast of hops, and the subtle roasty chocolate finish, and inbetween the two are all sorts of things going on that I cant even begin to identify.

The only reservation I have about imperial porters is their very noticeable alcohol scent & taste. But that's a personal opinion and not a reflection on any shortcomings of this beer.

The character illustration on the Gonza Imperial Porter bottle exclaims "Ok! Let's Party!!" And I agree. Pick of a 4-pack of this beer before they're gone.

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

Black with a creamy, frothy chocolate head.

The oily scent of hops blends well with the huge dark chocolate coffee bean aroma. Nice alcohol kick in there, too.

Taste starts out rich and sweet from the chocolate, progresses into a tangy, biting, hoppiness, then slides back down to malty sweetness. A wild ride, to say the least.

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Photo of blitheringidiot
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an onyx crepuscular used motor oil hue topped with a scant khaki collar sticking to the corners of the glass.

Superlative scents of imperial porter along the lines of roasted malt deep into a tobacco leaf. Some fig and berry sugestions.

First swigs: Toasted malts. Syrupy thick espresso and tobacco leaf. Invisible ABV. Brown sugar twinge with burnt pumpernickel bread.

Restrained feel that finds a middle ground of narrow chewiness. Astringent tongue coater.

Last swigs: A one and done tasty one trick pony. No Perkunos Hammer. $3.50 a 12 oz'er from Case & Keg World in Boca.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

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Photo of jakester
4.7/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got this as a single at Union Jack's on the Manatawny. Marked with "Vintage 05" on the extremely bizarre Ralph Steadman label.

Pours very slowly, like Olde Engine Oil from Harveytowne. Looks like used motor oil with a tannish brown head of tight foam. The head eventually drops to islands and a ring, but there is good lacing on the glass.

Aroma is strong grassy hops with pine needles, kinda weird but fantastic. Big black roasty malts with notes of mocha. I have never smelled a beer quite like this. As it warms, you can pick up alcohol, though it's pretty well muted.

Flavor at first is big and fruity sweet coffee and chocolate. Then a huge hop bitterness hits your throat, followed by grassy and piney hop flavor. This beer is tough to describe. There is a huge hop presence to go along with the huge dark roasted malt presence. Lots of residual sugar, but not cloying. The grassiness in this beer goes very well with the sweet dark malts. Aftertaste is sweet dark chocolate and grassy hops and alcohol.

Mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy with a big, full, dark sweetness, and a big bitter grab at your throat. Finish is sweet and dark, with a thick resiny coat in your mouth.

This is a truly wonderful beer, so chock full of flavor you would probably give a different review every time you drank it. Deeply rich and complex, this is one for the ages.

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Photo of ElGordo
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presented in a 12oz bottle with a wonderful Ralph Steadman rendition of Hunter S. Thompson (RIP, my man). Hands down my favorite ever offering from Flying Dog.
A viscous liquid of the deepest black hue pours intot the glass without any particular urgency, leaving just a whisp of a coffee-colored head. Big aroma of rich, roasted malt and espresso is evident as soon as the cap comes off the bottle. Nosing it in the glass, the aroma becomes a bit earthier and kind of oily. The considerable presence of bittering hops becomes evident on the palate. Malt is actually a bit understated and takes a back seat to the huge hoppiness from tip of the tongue to the back of the mouth, leaving a lupulin-laced aftertaste. In the midst of it, however, notes of coffee, grass, and a hint of lactose shine through. Body is nice, thick, and slightly oily, and successfully masks the considerable alcohol presence.
Very interesting, and not at all like what I expected. I fitting tribute to the Good Doctor.

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Photo of beerluvr
4.62/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours with a magnificent towering deep tannish/brown head, settling out over ultra dark brownish black liquid. The nose is a good blend of sweet roasty malt, coffee, chocolate and fruit and lastly, hops...all the things I like in a great dark strong ale. The taste is very good, all the flavors decribed in the nose turned up a few notches, with rich and luxurious mouthfeel. This is a very complex brew with hop bitterness and some alcohol rounding out the very long, tasty finish. A world class Imperial Porter worth seeking out.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.82/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased as a single somewhere in NoVA, either WF/Vienna, WF/Annadale, Norm's, or Rick's.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed 3/4" of dark tan head above the opaque dark brown/black. Head fades slowly, but remains substantial, and lacing is very nice for the style. Aroma assaults you with fields of grassy, piney hops amongst burnt yet sweet grain, all drowning in a pool of somewhat obscured alcohol. Taste starts with sweet chocolate upfront, hits its hops groove in the middle, and smoooths again with more dark malts at the close. Alcohol is felt more than tasted. Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth (as previously noted), and drinkability is excellent for the style. This one's a hit: Has all the ingredients to hit the style, yet still finds a way to be deliciously different.

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Photo of merlin48
4.36/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Finally found some of these in a 4 pack, at the Vintage Cellar, in Blacksburg, Virginia, where they were literally flying off the shelf.
Pours a dark, dark, ebony flow(bats swarming out of a cavern) that produces an opaque body, topped by two fingers of cocoa shaded head. Ruby geometric shapes emanate from the body when backlit. Must be a pharmaceutical flashback. Excellent head retention and an abundance of clingy patch lace completes the exceptional presentation.

A stark assault of grassy hops surprises the nose, before traditional porter aromas of roasty dark malts slides in. Plenty of chocolate and cheap diner coffee here.

Mouthfeel begins with a nearly full body, but thins into extreme drinkability as it warms. Whew! A hop zing is unusual for a porter, but it's a nice addition to the ideal low medium carbonation.

Taste begins with scalded dark malty notes of burnt coffee and bakers chocolate. Those grassy hops add an interesting dimension. Well balanced! Wet and juicy finish, with an occasional dry touch from the roasted dark malts and grassy hops. As noted, the body thins considerably near the finish, making this a very dangerous sipper. Alcohol is nonexistent on the palate, but at 9.5%, must go straight to the brain. Nah....

Drinkability is excellent, but exercise due caution. Some of you older folks might get some flashbacks from this fitting tribute to the Master of the Gonzo. Best offering that Flying Dog has produced to date. Tis a shame that the untimely death of an excellent writer and noted eccentric had to be the inspiration for this brewery to get off its arse and produce a world class brew.

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

poured syrupily into my pint glass and sat there staring at me, with pitch black eyes. no light gets through. a rising peanut butter-colored head tops it off, though settles with time, leaving streaks of brown lacing

no smoke, but big hop flavor and a deep roasty aroma. there's a roasted bitterness, too, fades as the hop bitterness kicks in. floral hop aroma

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Photo of santoslhalper
4.31/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearence: Pours a nice dark black with a thick, creamy chocolate head that dies down a little but leaves stunning lacing.

Smell: The alcohol content is a bit noticable, but the other smells (chocolate, coffee, nuts, roasted malts, etc...) are well balanced and pleasent.

Taste and Mouthfeel: Very strong, powerful coffee and chocolate notes hit your mouth at first, playing with each other on the tounge. Following that is a bittersweet flavor, ending into an almost grassy, hay flavor with a touch of garlic. Garlic? Yes garlic. It tastes good. Smooth, well balanced, and creamy as hell. The alcohol is still kind of strong, but acceptable for a beer of 9.5% and one being this young. The mouthfeel is rich, full, and creamy.

Drinkability and Overall: A very nice Baltic Porter, and a very good tribute to Hunter Thompson. I think he would have whole heartedly approved of this beer bearing the "gonzo" name. Full of life and energy, both this beer and Hunter proved that being outgoing and independent is not only fun, but a very interesting journey, not for the weak of heart. And, so, I raise this chalice to a fallen soldier, a man who plunged deep into the world of the weird and never looked back. This one's for you, comrad.

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Photo of lou91
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer poured perfectly into a Guinness glass and looked and smelled like the old Guinness - dark, black but not opaque with scents of hops, chocolate and espresso. The taste matched the nose well at first tasting like a milk stout with its sweet silkiness and then morphing into a red ale. This is very good porter with an alcohol umph, rich depth of flavors and oh so drinkable. Matched up well with my Fuente short story cigar.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.48/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Portly dark black with nary a sliver of light getting through. Medium muffin batter thick cap of cocoa brown laps at the top. Breaks down fairly quickly though, eventually revealing a slight oily residue and splotchy lacing.

Aroma is calm and clean of slick melted chocolate from darker suited candy bars and a small roasted grain underbelly with evident hints of dark rum soaked dates and raisins.

Flavors are great. Nice chocolatey realm with all sorts of fun subtlities within making for a very dark enticing treat. Sensual chocolate coats deep and lasts long with a darker sense of the cocoa bean being leaned into. Slick and quickly chewy with a brownie-like dryness. Finish brings out lots of interestingly fun stuff with coffee roast and light burnt grains and cinnamon-raisin toast. A touch of hop spice and licorice dipped in nougat takes a late return after some of the roast leaves. Then more chocolate creeps back across the palate. A delightful and finely fanatastic finisher. Totally worth every sip just to get to it.

Feel is well textured in the porter realm of things. Bold, thick, lavish, and remarkably clean with a broad medium, sensible body. And the carbonation seems right on for a big chocolatey porter such as this. Quite nice. The 9.5% barely shows itself. Smooth and majorly drinkable. The 12oz'er isn't close to enough to satisfying as you'll want and need more of this, one time, finally kick ass, brew, by Flying Dog. By far, my first very impressionable beer by them. Kudos for trying something beyond their normal stuff that I tend to find too simple and boring.

Also, kudos to lostbearbrew for the samples!

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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: Served from the tap at the Farmhouse, Emmaus, PA during at trip there with BA Erica. This sample was actually Erica’s but I ended stealing most of her glass as it happens…my Bad.

Appearance: Dark beguiling brown-black body with a minimal initial head that disappeared completely to reveal distilled raisin colored fluid in the Goblet. Held to the light is has a gorgeous ruby hue. Minimal carbonation but enough to stop you thinking that this is prune juice.

Nose: Wow, very different to what Porters usually offer. Smoky malts with brunt brown paper aromas. Damp wood, medicinal peat and smokey bacon. Hints of dark chocolate and coffee.

Taste: Very solid taste profile. Bold flavors which are not shy at all. Roasty malts, dark chocolates and hint of rum & raisin throughout. Flashes of cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and some smoked meats. Lovely.

Mouthfeel: Massive feel, the 9.5% is full front and square and it pulls no punches at all. Enjoyable alone, with a meal…..or as a meal.

Drinkability: This is one of those brews that would get the better of me and most certainly “take me out” before I get bored with it. Oh, it also gets better as it warms too…..bloody dangerous stuff.

Overall: I’ve tried this one a couple of times now, but never reviewed it, which seemed rather tragic as its so damn good. Haven’t seen this in bottles anywhere near me yet, but when I do I’m picking up a 6-Pack of this stuff. Tasty and Recommended, don’t let other negative Flying Dog experiences put you off trying this one (as it nearly did with me). Nice Job.

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Photo of battlekow
3.91/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big black beer with a small chocolate head. Definitely looks like a souped up porter; it's opaque, completely lacking the usual ruby highlights. Smells like one too; there's some roasted, coffee, and chocolate notes, typical for a porter, but also a big alcoholic smack in the face, with some hops thrown in as well. Taste is wildly hoppy and alcoholic, but there's some sweet chocolate thrown in as a life preserver. Mouthfeel is nice and dense. Overall, a little too intense for me, but not unpleasant. Let it warm up a bit to bring out some balancing sweetness.

I think it's a miscategorization to call this a Baltic porter; while it's strong enough to be a Baltic, it's definitely American in its other characters, being roasty and chocolatey and lacking the prune/raisin tastes that I associate with Baltics. Why is there no "Imperial Porter" category?

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Photo of neonbrown82
4.52/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

After much anticipation, I am now the proud owner of 24 of these wonderful little bastards... well, make that 23 now...

The beer looks magnificent. Jet black with little chocolate jet streams that cling all the way up the side of the glass feeding the thin film-like head. You could shine a flashlight against the opposite end of the glass and still not be able to see through.

The smell is unparalleled. A huge burst of of hops dominate the nose. Smells very bubblegummy, like amarillo and perhaps even a bit of cascade. The malt aroma is virtually undetectable, though some chocolate does seep through into the nose.

The taste shows off the hops up front and then fades into a chocolate roasty malt. Still some hop flavor in the finish, but mainly just roast. It is definitely a one-of-a-kind taste, and I like it.

The mouthfeel is thick and chewy. As it coats the mouth, thin films of flavor burst from tastebuds I didn't even know existed. The more I drink, the more I enjoy. I should probably stop here before I end up giving away a 5.

Dangerously drinkable for such a rich and roasty brew. I'll have to toss back a few more in honor of the late doctor. Moderation is not what Dr. Gonzo was best known for, afterall.

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Photo of ALESwhatCURESya
3.8/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"Don't stop here, this is bat country!"

A wonderful brew for a wonderful Doctor of Journalism. I made sure that I didn't miss out on this limited opportunity to try a beer dedicated to one of my favorite authors.

Pours out a deep black with a mocha head that disapated into a thin film rather quickly. The aroma has strong tones of dark fruit and bakers cocoa. Caramel and toffee sweetness made you realize that this is a perfect desert beer.

The taste was rather sweet the entire way through. There was not a lot of nutty, coffee characteristics that I would have loved to see. If this had a more expressive espresso kick, this would be a phenomenal beer. The nice hop bitterness made presence on the tongue very nicely and helped to round out the sweetness.

This is a very nice, high-powered porter with wonderful traits. Maybe a little off the mark in a few areas, but still very enjoyable.

R.I.P. You sick, magnificent bastard.

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Photo of garymuchow
3.73/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Aroma presents as a sweet dark malt with a slight roast (but pretty superficial). Some alcohol. A hoppy presence that's a bit grassy and offers an intensity. Interesting, but not overly impressive.
Black. Nice fine dark head. Decent lacing. Good appearance.
Taste is malty. Roasty. Hoppy in taste and bitterness. Bitterness intensifies with more sips and lends a long dryness (that combines from the roasty malts too).
Feel is fairly heavy, somewhat thick and full. Nicely carbonated with fine bubbles that helps lend some softness.
I'm just not sure about this mix of flavors. The roast and heavy hops somehow don't blend well for me, although individually I like them. Not sure about the roast flavors either. They just don't seem right, like somehow artificial or something. Regardless of my lower scores this is the most interesting drink from this brewery and I won't turn it down.

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Photo of euskera
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

My first 6+% ABV purchase here in NC!!

Pours out a chocolately brown into my pint glass. Nice fluffy head with a nice staying power. Smell is intruiging; piney. hoppy, coffee-laden and a hint of chocolate. Taste is very close to a RIS, nice alcohol overtones along with a hoppy bite that's quite pleasant. The chocolate and roastes espresso beans meld with an almost molasses-type essence in there. Very drinkable for the ABV.

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Photo of Px2GrafX
4.28/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

presentation: 12oz. bottle with an illustration by ralph steadman on the bottle. illustration depicts a smokin' skull-faced cowboy who's ready to party! vintage is displayed at '05. proceeds from this brew go towards building the gonzo memorial fist. go to the website for more info.

appearance: pours a black, almost red-violet with a tan 1 inch head into a tulip glass. head drops to a thin cap and laces very well down the glass. after swirling, an orange circle of head rings the top of the liquid.

smell: citrus, grassy hops and sweet caramel. piney and fruity.

taste: earthy with hop flavors up front. good bitterness. roasted maltiness with a chocolate espresso as it warms. dry bitter finish. leaves a chocolatey flavored residue on my lips.

mouthfeel: light resin on my tongue. porter light-medium body with a smooth swallow and good carbonation.

drinkability: tasty, dry bitter finish begs for more. very little noticible alcohol.

overall: very hoppy for a porter. love it! thanks to tastytaste for sending me a bottle of this as i've been lookin' for it. not perfectly a baltic/imperial porter, but an excellent brew.

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Photo of oberon
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

One of the new big beers popping up around NC thanks to hoppedup for the sample.Poured a deep brown near black color with a mocha colored head.Impressive aromas of smoked malt and wood chips almost like more of a Scottish wee heavy,very nice well rounded flavors headed by the smoked peat and tree bark with a real noticable herbal minty element letting you know the hops are there.Goes down very smooth for how big and robust it is,why cant Flying Dog make more like this?

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

served in 12oz brown bottle

Pours a nice even black color with slight amber outlines. Leaves a nice 1/4 inch head. Smells of roasted malts carmel. You can really smell those hops wanting to bust through its like they are just waiting to explode in your mouth. The texture is actually pretty creamy, I was really surprised by this. The 9.2 percent you cant really taste but you can feel it a little in your nose, provides for a little tickle.

The taste is of coffe beans wraped in toffee and then wraped in hops mmm. The finish is nice with a nice hop bitterness between each sip. I drank this beer in a chalice at about 55degrees to let the flavors go crazy which they did. This brew will not disappoint.

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Photo of bubrewer
4.5/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Great label; took a few minutes just checking out the artwork.

Gonzo pours opaque; and the solid head lits out a great hoppy aroma - more than expected from a porter. Smells like beautiful fresh English hops - fuggle or Willamette maybe.

This beer is definitely big, but also very well balanced. Firm bitterness balanced by sweetness, with raisin/plum flavors. Maybe a little licorice? The flavors swirl and dance so harmoniously that it is hard to pick out individual flavors, like is it sometimes hard to pick out individual instruments from a symphony.

Very nice beer, well liked around the whole table. one of the stars of the evening.

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Photo of warriorsoul
3.91/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up this one at Downtown W&S in Davis Square.
A deep, dark black color w/ two full fingers of cocoa colored head...real thick and produces fantastic lacing on the side of my tulip glass.
Very serious aroma...tons of dark chocolate, some coffee and just a hint of alcohol.
Taste is baking chocolate, subtle malt sweetness w/ a generous amount of hops to it...again, just a hint of alcohol and a smoked aftertaste.
Mouthfeel is quite wet and thick...does not finish as dry as I was expecting. Carbonation if decent...I could enjoy a couple of these w/ out any effort.
So far, its Wild Dog, Gonzo, and then their IPA...three solid brews from Flying Dog that I truly enjoy.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
3.06/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

(Served in an American pint glass)

A-This beer pours a thick black inky body with a tan-brown creamy head.

S- The smell of citrus and green hops is strong with a very faint roasted malt background.

T- This beer has a big deep roasted malt bill with some black roasted unmalted barley aswell. There is a bit of sourness and the hop finish is very faint.

M- This has a medium-full mouthfeel with lots of creaminess.

D-This is an interesting version of a Baltic Porter. It has a lot of roasted grain but it could use more depth with some more malty flavors and more complexity. It’s interesting that it has a big hop nose but very little hop in the taste. I hope with age this beer will offer a lot more complexity and character.

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Photo of beerinator
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Opaque, black. Nice creamy frothly tan head with good retention.

Aroma: Roasty, coffee flavors. Hints of an herbal hop variety. Smoke is lingering in the aroma. The hop aromas are definately present.

Taste: The first sip is roasty and bitter from the roasted malt. The finish is bitter from hops and from the coffee characteristics of this one. The mouthfeel is solid. The roasty bitterness seems to mask the alcohol in the beer a bit, but it still is somewhat obvious. There is a bit of wineyness on the middle of the tongue. And the smokeyness from the aroma shows through as the beer warms up.

Notes: This is a good one. One of the first from Flying Dog in a long time that I've really enjoyed. Give it a shot if you can find it.

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Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery
90 out of 100 based on 1,456 ratings.