Gonzo Imperial Porter - Flying Dog Brewery

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Gonzo Imperial PorterGonzo Imperial Porter

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2,612 Ratings

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Ratings: 2,612
Reviews: 1,426
rAvg: 4.02
pDev: 10.95%
Wants: 100
Gots: 183 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Flying Dog Brewery visit their website
Maryland, United States

Style | ABV
Baltic Porter |  9.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
ABV varies.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-04-2005)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,612 | Reviews: 1,426 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of biegaman
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2009 - fresh, thanks ThatWineGuy!

Gorilla black that appeared thick and viscous even when pouring out of the bottle. It is decidedly opaque and allows not even the suggestion of highlights. This is perhaps one of the most emphatically dark beers I've laid eyes on. A symmetrical, perfectly shaped ring of rust colour boldly encircles the top of the beer. It fades but can be summoned on swirl.

Fragrant notes of fresh-pressed coffee and fresh harvest hops begin to seduce me even from afar. My nose is nowhere even near the glass right now and I can still manage to detect a great deal of roasted, chocolaty character. Closer inspection reveals even more hops as well as dark fudge and black licorice. It's finally time to give into temptation...

That was no siren call. Gonzo is the real deal as far as higher gravity, decadently rich dark beers go. Curiously, however, even though the name is officially "Gonzo Imperial Porter" the brewery has classified it on the label as "American-style Imperial Stout". I wouldn't consider it thick enough to be an Imperial Stout and it's flavours tend to align more with a Porter.

Those flavours, in roughly this order, would be: zesty American hops, bitter cocoa, sweetened chocolate, gourmet coffee, tea biscuits, molasses and black licorice. The malts impart a favorable nuttiness (almond butter, Brazil nut) and the hops slice through with a plethora of vividly spicy, zestfully fruity notes. All parts come together quite well.

This probably lends itself to gulping as much as it does to sipping. The beer is complex, layered with contrasting flavour (bright hops, dark malts) and yet it simply tastes so damn good that you can't help but rush through it. The near 8% alcohol shows part of what it's capable of but by no means let's on its real strength. Indeed, this should get better with warming (assuming it makes it that long).

The American micro brewers have taken just about every traditional Old World style now, doubled it, smacked it with a "Double" or "Imperial" moniker and reclaimed it as their own. In some cases they've misunderstood the nature of the style (saison, German lagers) but in others (stout, IPA's, and evidently, porters) they've created something masterful. Yum!

Photo of steelcutoats
4.93/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

GONZO Imperial Porter

I can now honestly say I have a beer that I will fight for. Over the last few months I have been having one or two on a whim, and then about two weeks ago it suddenly hit me...this may just be one of the greatest beers ever brewed. I would be willing to rank it up there with Chimay Grande Reserve or Gulden Draak. A nicely chilled 12 oz. bottle went into my Riedel snifter which is the old standard bearer for all my reviews. The head was about a half inch thick, almost as smooth as chocolate frosting. The color was jet black, allowing no light to breach its darkness. The aroma was full of dark roasted malts and sweet dark fruits. The taste wasn't as strong as an imperial stout, but very well defined and rich. There was a good bit of sweetness, from the malts and what I'm guessing would be honey because molasses would be too heavy. I even see on the back where it's got a vintage date of 2008...I would love to age a few bottles and see how well it ages.

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

Good head retention and very little carbonation.
Smells of fruity esthers, maybe cherry and chocolate. Taste is similar. This is a big beer. Very dry finish. Maybe some honey or molasses in there and a bunch of chocolate and coffee, cocoa maybe. This is no session beer. One and done, but certainly a fine beer, very creative.

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

Pours black with a thick frothy light brown head that leaves lace rings and slowly dissipates to a thin film. I could smell this one as soon as I started pouring. Roasted malt, chocolate, mild hops and a little earthiness, especially as it warmed up. Nice rich initial flavor - a little sweet, roasted and burnt malt, caramel, dark chocolate and a nicely balanced bitter hops and roasted malt aftertaste that is pleasantly lingering. Full bodied, well carbonated, smooth but not really creamy. The mouthfeel is just what I want. This is a really solid porter that is great to sip as it warms up. I did not find the alcohol to be overwhelming at all. It is there but not dominant. Nice job with this one.

Photo of BacklitAvenger
3.13/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3


While I enjoyed a four pack of this stuff at my friend's house, I bought one a few weeks later for my fridge and was NOT impressed. There was a 'hot' alcohol flavor, like drinking shitty hard alcohol like dimitri vodka or something. It tasted like nastyness, I couldn't even finish the four, I gave two away to my friend that loves the stuff. I don't know if it was a bad pack or what, but I have since tried again and got the same 'dirty' alcohol burn taste. I think I was just drunk enough when I had the first four to not notice. Shame, because Ralph Steadman is a good artist and Hunter was a cool fellow and a decent writer himself.

Anyway, you want a real imperial, go for Great Lakes Blackout Stout. I know it's a stout not a porter, but it sure as hell is imperial at 9 percent and tastes like straight up chocolate and yummy roast, almost no coffee character, and you can't taste the alcohol almost at all, let alone taste 'hotness'.


Appearance - The stuff is black as sin. It isn't too thick, likely because it is lubricated with an alcohol volume near 8%. Ruby highlights and tan head that retains itself rather well, lacing on goblet.

Smell - Malt, hops, alcohol. Straightforward smell for this type of imperial porter.

Taste - Fruity, perhaps some dark plum notes in there. Also a strong roasted character. Lovely sweet malts warring with tangy, bitter hops. Alcohol is the final note and brings everything together.

Mouthfeel - Thicker than your adjunct crap beer obviously, thicker than great lakes Edmund Fitzgerald porter, but less thick by far than Dark Lord.

Drinkability - Reduced a bit by its high ABV. I'd gladly polish off a four pack myself though, the taste and quality make up for the inability to drink massive amounts. Savor, not chug.

Like this stuff, everybody should try this at least once.

Photo of treyrab
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this one on tap last night in Pittsburgh. I really don't know why it took me so long to try this beer, but when I saw it on tap I had to get it. Poured into a snifter at Fatheads...

A: Pours a thin dark brown with some ruby highlights. Not completely black at all as it is a nice, clear dark brown when held up to the light. Decent light khaki head that doesn't lace.

S: Smell is very pleasing with bitter roast, coffee, dark chocolate cocoa powder and a nice bitter hop bite. Smell is dry and bitter.

T: The taste is a tad on the light side and thin. The flavors are decent though with some ncie bitter roast and dark cocoa. Some nice bitter hops come in for the roundhouse kick to the tongue to finish it off. Overall, not a superior complex beer, but a good Impy Porter.

Overall, I enjoyed this. Not the best Impy Porter, but one that is readily available and one I would try again.

Photo of marcpal
2.9/5  rDev -27.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle poured into Weyerbacher tulip glass. While having had this beer on tap on more than one occassion, sat down with a bottle for proper review: sampled on 3/2.
Bottle Graphics: 3/10.

A: Darkest of brown, motor oil like swooshing from the pour. I pounded it into the glass and managed about a 1/10 inch light brown head.

S: Toasted to borderline A little bit too hefty on the sweentess. Behind all the chocolate and the sugar I searched for some hop flavor but found nothing. Bit of a disappointment to start and didn't change as it warmed.

T: Overtly sweet, abundance of roasted 'porteresque' flavors. The nicest taste that I found here was the toasted nut flavor, almost like the skins on the outside of cashews and walnuts- like the warm ones you get on a plane. I like the flavor but it becomes confusing once the chocolate comes in and creates something of a cluttered mess. The alcohol does not compliment this beer. I know you can not compare, but the flavors of the previous Bigfoot really put this to shame.

M: A bizarre texture, mouth coating but annoying. Too heavy for what I like but I guess this is what a good porter should have so I don't want to knock it too much. I prefer lighter bodied porters, this one is like a grade A maple syrup.

D: Flying Dog is a brewery I can never get a handle on. I really don't know if I like them or not, starting to think not. Nothing has really ever blown me away but not bad either. This beer was hard to drink and came across as oily and over amplified. They need to revisit some of their heavy hitters- conceptually just not up to snuff.

I admit being skewed by the fact that baltic porters are not really my thing, but I can confidently say I have had some that are far better.

Photo of ffejherb
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the POPE on 3/6/09 during Philly Beer Week.

A - Poured a thick, opaque dark brown/black body with no noticeable carbonation and half a finger of mocha-colored head that settled to a thin ring of retention leaving behind some spotty lace.

S - Bitter and semi-sweet chocolate with some sweet lactic notes and a bit of alcohol heat. Subtle earthy notes appear in the back as well as some dark roast and subtle hints of coffee and black licorice. Also, a slight soy sauce/meaty character pokes its nose into the mix.

T - Kicks off with a roasted malt character and sweet chocolate and lactic notes. A subtle dark fruit sour twang appears in the middle with a touch of heat from the alcohol content. There is also a bit of meatiness in the backend. Finishes with an earthy bitter hop aspect.

M - Full-bodied and thick with a rich, creamy texture and soft carbonation. Bitterness and astringency is subtle at first, but steadily grows on the palate over the course of time.

D - Strong and complex with lots of flavor and a very pleasamt mouthfeel, Gonzo drank more like a RIS, in my opinion.

Photo of jdhilt
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a five finger brown head that fades slowly leaving a good lace. Totally black color. Roasted malt and chocolate nose. Light carbonation and heavy bodied. Flavor is semi-sweet chocolate, lingering bakers chocolate aftertaste. Hops are subdued despite the IBUs at 85. Decent porter. $9.99 for a 4-pak of 12oz bottles from North End Superette Manchester, NH.

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

Beer is very opaque, about three fingers of dark brown, fluffy head. Very good lacing, looks enticing. Smells are of roasted malts and coffee, bitter dark chocolate, maybe a hint of fruit and a bit of bitterness from the hops. Taset is very roasted, a lot of depth and character to this one it seems. A bit of bitterness and sweetness. The alcohol is concealed pretty well in this beer, I was surprised. Very smooth and dangerously drinkable, this is an excellent example of a porter in my opinion.

Photo of jonziefle
3.6/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Poured a opaque black; cannot see through it at all. Little head (with a gentle pour), dark khaki. Diminishes to a thin layer. Almost no lacing

Smell: Smells of very dark roasted malts, with some dark chocolate. Sweet and smoky as well. Hint of dark hops deep down.

Taste: Dark and smokey malts, with some hoppy bitterness. Very sweet and the alcohol is definitely present. An interesting balance for this type of porter.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied, with little carbonation. The alcohol present is bordering on slightly too much.

Drinkability: Pretty good, if interesting porter. The sweetness and strong alcohol taste through it slightly off balance, but something decent to try.

Photo of DrewOSU
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark chocolate brown with a very bubbly, soap like 1 inch dark tan head. The lacing is huge, covers the whole side of the glass on pour.

S: Huge nose. Exploding chocolate, coffee, and sweet malts dominate. Alcohol undertones, resembling a RIS or even a BA RIS.

M/T: Medium syrupy body. Huge bitter tongue, followed by a wave of chocolate and sweet malt base. Stinging alcohol presence burns the back of the throat on swallow. Finishes malty and chunky, like you just took a big gulp of a mocha espresso.

D: Pretty big beer for a porter, almost chunky and gritty. Imperial is an accurate word to describe this beer. The aftertaste is pretty thick, which makes the drink ability a bit hard, but a small sacrifice to make for such big flavor.

Photo of Beejay
4.18/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep dark black, fairly thick with cappuccino head on top.. and plenty of it at that, looks delicious.

S: Mocha, hops, malty bread..

T: Rich and malty, a good kick of hops, but not enough to overpower. Bitter with a slightly sweet finish. Very well balanced.

M: Thick and slightly syrupy, coats the mouth as it goes down.

D: I could do a good few of these. Delicious, and perfect for sitting around a fire on a nice summer night.

Photo of JoeST
4.72/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep amber brown almost black through the glass with a nice fluffy caramel color three finger head. The head takes a few good minutes to settle down.
Has a very nice mild coffee aroma with hints of toasted malt & light hints of alcohol. One of the best smelling porters I've came across in a while.
Taste is of a very smooth coffee with some chocolate hidden sweetness & very slight hop presence come through shortly after drinking.
Nice & creamy mouth feel, very smooth going down.
I have passed by this one several times, but will be sure to grab some from now on.

Photo of danny013
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into an snifter. Body pours a deep jet black and forms a thick tan head that sticks around and leaves some nice lacing.

Aroma is of sweet malts, some alcohols and a big floral hoppiness. Faint coffee/charcoal.

Taste is initially of sweet roasted grains, good coffee flavors with a good amount of hop presence to back it up and balance the beer out from the get-go. Big charcoal flavors pull out as the beer is swallowed, mellow out and linger on the palate with some sweet malts and a big assertive hoppiness, some warm alcohol flavors float about.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, coats the mouth and goes down smooth. A nice light carbonation livens the beer up a bit. Very smooth and pleasant for the almost 8% ABV.

Overall, a very good brew. Easy drinking and filling, definitely something to sip on and relax with.

Photo of Proteus93
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Deep black with a tan head that started a little weak, but formed well towards the end of the fill. Leaves a decent lacing behind and a trim of head remains as it goes.

S: The roasted malts take it for the most half, with some hints of spent coffee and chocolate. Oddly, there seems to be something like a sprig of spearmint in there... it just appeared out of nowhere without having anything nearby or recently consumed that would have contributed to that. It's nice, but unexpected!

T: Roasted malts and a sweet chocolate, with a little hint of fruit - plum? There's a pleasant bitterness to it that's not attributed to an unsweetened chocolate kind of flavour. Quite nice. On a side note, I did the taste BEFORE the scent for a change. After noting the perceived mintiness in the aroma, it carried over into the flavour, which was a bit strange. It's just a touch... just enough to give it a little edge.

M: An assertive carbonation, body is a bit slick feeling, but smooth. It goes down feeling clean but leaves the flavour behind to linger and grow after a sip.

D: Alcohol is not an issue with this at all. It goes down very easily, almost a little too much so for the content. This brewery wasn't among my favourites before, but this one stands out and has me interested in revisiting others. Nicely done.

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

Gonzo Imperial Porter
Flying Dog Brewery
Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 7.80 %

Reviewed 11/9/08, bottle>dimpled mug
A 4.0 - dark opaque tar/black in color, small mellow head, reduces to a frothy coffee lace/skin on surface, pours like oil!
S 4.0 - dark fuity notes, intense notes of bitter coffee and roast, subtle hop spice
T 4.0 - not my preference, but intense and rich on palate, deep malts with hints of coffee, bitter cocoa, and fruitcake
MF 4.0 full body beer, pours like an oil, low on carbonation - is this expected????
D 3.5/4.0 - Solid rep of what I thought an "Imperial Porter" might taste like, this is a cold weather heavy beer in my book, but it interesting and worth a try for sure.

Photo of magnj
4.47/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2008, Poured into a pint glass.

a - Nice 1 finger head to start, drops off quickly. Deep brown body.

s - Big nose, chocolate, roasted grains, old dark coffee. Caramel seems to have turned to more of a toffee, subtly sweet. There is a hint of heat even right out of the fridge.

t - Toasted malts up front, chocolate and slightly roasted grains in the middle, ends clean with some coffee and more chocolate. As it warms the heat comes through and I am reminded of the only downfall of this beer. Also getting some dark fruit in the finish as it warms.

m/d - Relatively thin body but not watery. Not really sticky, coats the mouth but doesn't linger exceptionally long. Overall appropriate for the style.

Rating reflects most recent review, overall similar to what I remember it being like last time but a little less hot.

Vintage 2008, poured into a pint glass.

a - Big, thick brown head dies down quick and leaves nothing behind. Deep brown, impenetrable by light.

s - Smells heavily of roasted, dark malts. Chocolate and caramel, hints of coffee.

t - Really complex. Lot's of chocolate, but not bitter like some other examples. There is also some coffee. None of the flavors are overpowering, they all work together to make a very tasty and complex brew. The alcohol is sneaky and not harsh at all.

m/d - Nothing bad to say here. Feels like it should, coats the mouth with flavor that lingers. Quite drinkable, begs for another taste.

Photo of adamette
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Live review. The 800th for this beer! Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Great Lakes Christmas Ale goblet. Purchased at World Wines and Liquor in Mentor, Ohio a few weeks ago.

A Pours a jet black that allows no light through, even direct light. Nice light brown head that stayed around for 3 minutes with good lacing.

S Dark dark roasted malt with coffee and chocolate smells. Very inviting.

T Wow...this is really close to a stout IMO. Deep dark roasted malt, black coffee and a distant dark chocolate. Really, this is much like an RIS to me.

M One of the biggest mouthfeels. Huge dark tastes of malt, coffee and distant chocolate with big ABV.

D Not really that great at all. One and done for me.

Notes: I realize that this is a "Baltic Porter" but to me it is very much a Stout. I may need to look up the definitions of both to understand the difference I guess.

Photo of WalrusJockey
3.48/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into Duvel tulip.

A- dark, nearly opaque, clear. Head is not worth describing because it poured next-to-none, and what there was fell almost instantly.

S- the aromas of roasted malt. Caramel and chocolate, sweet and sugar. Also alcohol is noticeable, as is a wine-like (though not especially fruity) aroma.

T- sweet, roasted malt flavors, fading eventually into a more chocolaty, more cacao, more coffee, more roasty flavor. Swallow is chocolate malt and a hint of cleansing hops, while the after taste is a relatively clean hint of roast.

Edit: as the beer warms and flattens over the coarse of the glass, it goes from pleasant, to unpleasant: cloying, heavy, and too-sweet. At 9.2%, rushing it is a poor option, so I recomend drinking this one a bit cold.

M- I would prefer this beer to be a bit creamier, to complement the flavors more; but porters aren't especially heavy-in-the-mouth beers, so this one isn't overly light for the style, just a bit lighter than I would prefer.

D- Ok. This is a tasty, enjoyable beer, when cold, but when warm, it is a flat, syrupy thing I don't much care for. I'll finish the four-pack, but I doubt I will hurry to buy more, Thompson or no Thompson.

Photo of alpinebryant
4.83/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 9.6% abv 12 oz bottle
Appearance - Nice and dark. Has a slightly thick colored head.

Smell - Smoky aroma of sweet chocolate , fruity aroma in background of maltiness, smells delicious

Taste - Taste quickly made me a believer that there have to be great porters out there that I have never been aware of. Slightly heavy malt taste, possibly could be from sitting on the shelf for too long, but great nonetheless

Mouthfeel - Nice and thick, but not too thick that you think you are drinking a Guiness or a stout. Gentle on taste, but complex with smoke and coffee hints

Overall opinion.... I believe I have a favorite Porter on my list now, and I wasnt sure that I liked porters before drinking this beer. Ill have another please

Since the alcohol has been lowered to 7.8% abv, I thought I would add that I could not taste any major differences in the beer other than it all around seemed sweeter than the 9.8 abv that I had tasted before. The difference in taste could have to do entirely with how old the 9.8% abv had been. I still love the beer after losing 2% abv.

3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Pours a deep, dark brown, red around the edges. A thin soapy brown head quickly receded into non-existence.

S: Charcoal smoke and burnt chocolate with a faint pumpernickel aroma.

T: Chocolate and dark roasted coffee up front with molasses and faint herbal hops following. There's a certain unctious quality missing. A noticeable alcohol warmth reminds you of the ABV.

M: Medium-heavy viscosity with slightly more carbonation than I prefer in a porter.

D: I could drink this as a nightcap, but there's several others I'd prefer.

Photo of scofielj
3.5/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: deep dark brown pour with thin head.

S: deep malty smell with hint of coffee.

T: Complex balanced with a frituy blackberry finish.

M: On the thin side but paired well with a steak.

D: When in the mood could sip a couple of these in an evening.

Photo of biker30x
4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured into a pint, nearly pitch black with a thin brown head that is quickly gone. the smell is of burnt coffee and rich figs. Those two themes carry over to the taste which also adds dark molasses and a hint of nuttiness to a thick and rich mouth-filling feel. the coffee and sweetness (both dark and deep) linger afterwards with a roasted fullness that is not overpowering. a full and warming drinking experience that is not too filling or to bitter. perfect on a cold winter evening.

Photo of Greggy
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours a pitch black color with a 1 finger thick tan/brown head with great retention. Sticky lacing rings the glass.

S- Very nice dark chocolate, raisin, fig, blackberry, nice roasted malts, fresh coffee notes, and cascade aroma.

T- Starts out with very nice dark chocolate, hints of coffee and a blackberry note right in the middle that is extremely reminiscent of chocolate covered fruits. The finish is fruity but has a nice whack of dryness from the hops. Eventually into the finish, bits of coffee come into play.

M- Nice big feel with light carbonation. Finish is very long and complex.

D- This is a pretty nice imperial porter. It has a big juicy fruit note in between the typical chocolate and coffee. I'm sure I'll drink this again sometime.

Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery
90 out of 100 based on 2,612 ratings.