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Imperial Spruce India Pilsner - Short's Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Imperial Spruce India PilsnerImperial Spruce India Pilsner

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

357 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 357
Reviews: 148
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 18.32%
Wants: 117
Gots: 40 | FT: 4
Brewed by:
Short's Brewing Company visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Pilsner |  7.15% ABV

Availability: Summer

Notes/Commercial Description:
Original batch (from Imperial Series--750 ml bottles) was 10% abv. New, 2010, 12 oz. bottles are 7.15% abv.

(Beer added by: hoppymeal on 06-30-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 357 | Reviews: 148 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of ShogoKawada
4.78/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

750ml 10%. Bottle 668 of 886, big thanks to Doodler for this. A masterpiece of a beer.

A- Strange. Gray-blue tinged head, a very dark body (for the style). Beer is ambery-brown with orange highlights. Head is dull but sticky and plentiful. Spruce must do strange things to a beer.

S- Spruce! Pine needles, hops, etc.

T- Jaw-droppingly good. Spruce is in full effect, and is complimented by a phenominal hop bill. I know this beer is about 3 years old at this point, but I wouldn't be able to tell if I didn't know. The spruce is great and really makes this a one-of-a-kind flavor profile. Like chewing on a pine needle. So hoppy and so much pine bitterness that I am swooning over this. Drinks like a DIPA but without the caramel malt sweetness to get in the way.

M- Great body, nice lasting pine bitterness. Balance is phenominal- Can't say enough good things. Good carbonation. Lighter than expected but wholy welcome.

D- Amazingly high. I love this beer. I will seek out bottles of the old and the new batch. One of the best beers I've ever had. This is what American brewing is all about.

ShogoKawada, Aug 20, 2010
Photo of TCgoalie
4.18/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I've heard bad things about this beer but I am pleasantly surprised.

The pour was very nice as the light yellow hue enabled the brew to show off a tornado like effect of effervescence feeding a foamy head. I'm impressed at the head retention and steady lacing.

There is all kinds of grapefruit in the scent which splits time with mellowed pine needle. Straight out of the bottle the nose is heavenly.

The taste starts thin with a light malt profile followed by an explosion of bitterness. Heavy grapefruit and lemon start the ambush followed by a good dose of pine needle bitterness. I'm impressed at how the spruce blends into the hops without overpowering the lovely fruitiness that the hops have to offer. The alcohol lends enough to help balance the bitterness...don't get me wrong, this is bitter heavy, but the bitterness makes sense.

While in my mouth, I notice how creamy this is. This is the first imperial pilsner I've had, so I'm unsure if this is normal.

When I looked this up on BA after I had had a few sips, I couldn't believe it was 10%. This thing could be anywhere from 4-8% but I didn't think it would be 10%. For that, I will give it a high mark.

TCgoalie, Aug 13, 2010
Photo of CaseyK
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to glazeman for the extra!

A: Pours a nice creamy white head that leaves nice lacing.

S: Smells like Christmas, the pine smell comes through very strongly and a nice hoppy smell as well.

T: Wow, the first taste to hit your mouth is pine, undeniably. Then comes a strong hop flavor, these flavors really linger in your mouth. The taste sticks in your mouth for a long time, but the aftertaste is very pleasant, the same as the initial pine flavor.

M: I would say this is medium-bodied. This stuff is smooth.

D: This stuff does an amazing job of hiding the high abv. Very well-made.

Overall this is a great brew, it masks its alcohol content and has a delicious hop and pine taste that really stands out. I couldn't drink a bunch of these in one sitting , not because of the ABV but rather just how strong and pronounced the flavor is. Really great and unique beer though.

CaseyK, Aug 08, 2010
Photo of BMoney575
4.85/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Sampled on 8-7-10

Pours a hazy golden yellow color, with a fizzy white head that leaves a great ring of lacing that covers the entire glass as it settles.

Smell is extreme pine needles, with a huge amount of citrus hop sweetness to push it over the edge. Unlike anything I've ever had, and unbelievably good.

Taste is exactly where the smell leads you, thick pine resin flavor that is so strong it almost has a meaty quality. The hops come in next, lightening things up with flavors of citrus and even more pine. The finish is thick and sweet, pine all the way. Very strong, but not overwhelming. Ridiculously well made.

Mouthfeel is perfect, thick to go with the badass pine and hops.

Drinkability is surprisingly good, the alcohol is well handled and the pine, amazingly, is very refreshing.

Overall, a unique and epic beer, that ranks with the best I've ever had.

BMoney575, Aug 07, 2010
Photo of InsidiousRex
4.53/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I love unique beers and this one is far from run of the mill...

Golden haze in the glass with sparkly effervescence. Limited head.The smell is the first thing that takes you back. With the first whif I get an olfactory scatershot of pine and black tea and liverwurst (yes I said liverwurst... but in a very good way somehow). The taste is refreshing and piney with a lot of the citrus hops coming through at the end.

This beer does NOT taste like 10%. Not even close. Im not a huge fan of imperial pilsners (some things arent necessary. Its like souping up a pinto). But this one is nice and drinkable without being in the least bit cloying or (alcohol) hot. If someone told me this is 5.5% I wouldnt doubt them. I guess the spruce adds something to this beer that I normally dont get in any other imperial pilsner Ive ever had. Good stuff.

InsidiousRex, Aug 07, 2010
Photo of number1bum
3.63/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to mymrnngjckt for sharing a bottle of this.

Pours a mostly clear golden color with an inch of off-white head. Keeps a thin but pretty full lace, but not any stick to speak of.

Nose is really incredible in the way it nails the spruce flavor, but also reveals some citrus hop aromas and malt sweetness. The spruce aroma is really impressive.

While the smell is really amazing the taste is a bit much. It's also somewhat medicinal. Big spruce flavor, like gnawing on a tree in its intensity, and it reminds me a lot of a cough drop. There is some malt sweetness and some citrus flavor too but the spruce is the star of the show here. It's just a little over the top I think. If it was straight up spruce I think it would drink better, but the medicinal/cough drop nature of it, which really lingers in the finish, detracts from what otherwise could still work really well despite it's extremity. The medicinal flavor starts to mellow as it warms up, which is why I end up at 3.5 here where I started with a 3.0.

Mouthfeel is a medium-full body, not as heavy as might be expected at 10% however, and the alcohol is well hidden. It has a pretty good slickness to it, with a drying finish. It's also somewhat astringent owing to the medicinal flavor mentioned previously.

This is certainly a pretty wild beer by Shorts, and it comes close to really working well. The reason it doesn't quite get there is not because it's over the top but because it slips down the slippery slope toward being medicinal. Beer and cough drops don't mix, and that flavor hurts the beer in my opinion. As I said before, it's better as it warms and if I have it again I will let it warm up before digging deeply into the glass. That's a curious approach with a pils but it helps cut the cough drop flavor. At the end of the day this is a nice effort by Shorts, but I can't call it a triumph.

number1bum, Aug 04, 2010
Photo of GordonQuid
4.85/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

From bottle to an english pub mug.

Clear golden with a huge two inch head and nice thick lace.

Smells lick a pine forrest and/or being slapped in the face with a pine tree branch and a bag of car air freshner's.

Taste is a smooth blend of high alpha piney and citrus hops with a nice melding of malts and honey.

Freakin' smooth as all hell a real hop lovers delight.

Delisiously quaffable at 10%, ouch!

GordonQuid, Aug 03, 2010
Photo of TCHopCraver
3.83/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes on 8-1-10.

A: Pours a fairly dark gold into a standard pint glass. A pure white, 1 finger head fades and leaves a popped-up film on top of the beer. Carbonation bubbles move at a medium pace. The lacing has a fun, Japanese character-like appearance to it.

S: Holy spruce, Batman! That is mostly what I detect from the aroma. It's like sticking my head up the hollowed out trunk of a Christmas tree and taking a huge whiff. I smell a faint aroma of citrus hops to complement the spruce, along with a certain green herbal component.

T: This is certainly unlike any Pilsner I have ever tasted. The spruce is much better balanced in the taste by nice, big citrus hops than it was in the smell. The bittering hops provide a crisp, clean, bitter finish to the end of the sip.

M: This MF is definitely on the full side for a Pilsner with a hefty hop hubris that dries the palate out completely at the end of each sip.

D: I think this is more of a once in awhile experience for me. The spruce flavor is an inventive novelty, especially in a lager, but I don't think this would be a regular in my beer drinking lineup.

TCHopCraver, Aug 02, 2010
Photo of Huhzubendah
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: This beer appears a clear, golden hue with a white head and some decent lacing.

S: The aroma is really powerful, with a huge bouquet of spruce and rosemary.

T: The taste is a huge blast of pine trees and hops. The spruce and hop flavors are incredibly fresh and flavorful. I really respect the way Short's brewing pushes the limits of craft beer and still produces a very drinkable and enjoyable final product. This is really an amazing beer.

M: It's not something of which I want more than one glass, or possibly two, but it's a terrific beer in small quantities.

D: What a cool beer and beer experience. I definitely recommend it if you can get it.

Huhzubendah, Aug 02, 2010
Photo of mattcrill
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Aroma: Lots of earthy hop aromas. Piney and floral hop resins. Spruce aromatics are pleasant and up front.

Appearance: Clear, golden color with a soft and sudsy white head.

Flavor: More spicey, earthy, and piney hop notes. Pleasant cracker-like malt base but followed quickly by punishing piney hop flaovrs. Balance is decidedly bitter. Finish is clean and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, creamy, with medium carbonation. Slighty silkiness and resin hop characteristics that carry over.

Overall impression: Interesting, piney, hoppy pils. Very enjoyable, immsensely drinkable, and delivers as advertised. Thanks to malty for the chance to enjoy this delightful beer.

mattcrill, Aug 02, 2010
Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Beer review from BA Mag Dec 2007.

A generous dose of high alpha hops was not enough for Short's Brewing so they had to resort to using blue spruce needles to kick it up a notch. Oddly, this might be the new trend if hop prices become too excessive.

The clear orangey golden color displays a very active carbonation as tin bubbles stream to the top. The head is quite amazing with an excellent retention and rings of lace are left after each sip. Whoa! Massive, in-your-face aroma with a sharp crest of spruce and deep undercurrent of pungent hops. Slick and smooth, full body with a solid carbonation. Big mouthful of spruce to start, the taste buds try and beg for mercy but the spruce character weighs heavy until the hops come in for a few licks. Bitterness is not subtle at all with a sharpness that is strong enough to cut through the spruce flavor from middle to end. The alcohol lands right in the middle with a noticeable warmth but never becomes hot; malt flavors toss up biscuity flavors and a touch of sweetness. The finish is cleaner than we thought it was going to be with a lingering hop bitterness and spruce on the breath.

Definitive proof that Short's Brewing knows what extreme beer is all about. No pussyfooting here, taste and learn because this one is the real thing. Without a doubt the combo of spruce and hops within a big lager works.

BeerAdvocate, Aug 01, 2010
Photo of association330
3.78/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle (marked only "Spruce Pilsner", though imperial is still included in the subtext), no freshness date.

A - Pours light-to-medium gold, with a small, fleeting head. Just a few spots of lace.

S - Clear presence of spruce needles, with some sweet and fruity malts, and a touch of hop leaf and lemon zest in the background.

T - Spruce is absolutely the focus and it's a perfectly acceptable beer flavor, blending nicely with a vague malt backbone and a lengthy, fairly bitter finish.

M - Body is thin, but lacks the necessary carbonation to give it substance. It may be an over-the-top imperial pils, but it's still a pils; it needs an element of refreshment.

D - I got more than I bargained for with this beer, as I didn't notice the "imperial" distinction until I got home. Still, it's a happy accident. As a proud Michigander, this is a nice regional "re-twist" on a west coast twist, I just wish it drank a little more like a pils.

association330, Jul 30, 2010
Photo of semibaked
3.63/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured into a Pint Glass.

A - Pours a hazy yellow with a light layer of white head and leaves some decent lacing.

S - Wow I certainly did not expect how good this smell, yes you get the spruce and the needles but there is some nice lemons and other citrus fruits and citrus candy. Really good smelling.

T - A lot more of the spruce comes out in the taste, there is also a good amount of citrusy bitter hops, and ends with some lemon peel and zest.

M - Light bodied, super crisp and clean, and a lot of prickly carbonation.

D - This is definitely a different pilsner. Right away you get the spruce and it is pleasant at first but almost becomes too much drinking the whole bottle for me, but certainly not a bad beer.

semibaked, Jul 29, 2010
Photo of david131
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- An ever so slightly yellow liquid with a thin and splotchy white head.

S- Spruce, mint, and passion fruit. Very appealing.

T- Spruce, mint, grass, and passion fruit. Unique and tasty.

M- Creamy and smooth at first, but there is a lasting bitterness and dryness on the finish.

D- A unique, intriguing, and sessionable take on the style. I dig it.

david131, Jul 27, 2010
Photo of marcobrau
4.55/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours very clear yellow with a good amount of carbonation that forms about three-quarter-inch head that falls slowly leaving lace behind, but never really goes away. Really interesting combination of aromas: hops, toasted malts and of course spruce wood. Tastes woody and crisp, with lightly toasted malt and peppery hop notes. Surprisingly light-bodied. Dry, with a powerfully bitter hop finish and slight alcohol bite that eventually fades as a lingering hop bitterness coats the tongue. Overall, I would say this is perilously drinkable and quite tasty and bitter.

marcobrau, Jul 27, 2010
Photo of MbpBugeye
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at the beer fest in Ann Arbor 2010.

Smells HUUUGE on spruce. Piny hops help to accentuate this. There also seems to be a little bit of spice and berries.

Very bitter and massively piny. Loads of fresh cut pine, sappy pine boughs, bitter piny hops. A drying, intense, refreshing finish.

I really liked this beer. I knew it was way more massive than any regular pilsner. Its more like a run away IIPA.

MbpBugeye, Jul 25, 2010
Photo of webmanspidey
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 mL bottle poured into a large snifter. Dark golden color with around an inch of fluffy head. Smell combines pine, hops, and honey... but very sweet. Taste has a strong forest-like flavor, but much more so than the typical hopped-up IPA with a very bitter finish. Alcohol is not that strong, but the flavor is very intense.

This is very interesting and worth trying.


The 12 ounce bottle released in 2010 is lighter with loads of sweet pine flavors and more drinkable than the original. Maybe just being fresher than the 3-year old 750 mL bottle I had previously makes the difference.

webmanspidey, Jul 25, 2010
Photo of nickadams2
4.47/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A_Pale transparent gold with a half inch bone white head. Moderate lacing.

S_Heavy pine and hops.

T_Sweet pine up front. Honey and grassy hops. Bold piny, resiny hop profile.

M_Thin but nice body.Dry finish.

D_Great summertime beer. Ridiculously drinkable for the abv. Very refreshing.

nickadams2, Jul 24, 2010
Photo of 33nickadams
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- golden, hot much head, not much lacing
S- piney (which I assume is the spruce)
T- the piney taste jumps right out at you, then follows with the bitterness
M-a little tough to take at first, then swallows nicely
D- I am enjoying the first couple, I think I may end there though

33nickadams, Jul 23, 2010
Photo of jt31914
2.7/5  rDev -31.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: Nice pale color, with a finger of head or so. Nice lacing.

S: Smells kind of fruity with some spruce notes to balance it out. Not bad.

T: This is where the beer loses it for me; it tastes like straight up tree, which just is not a turn on for me. It just doesn't taste like a pilsner to me, just a spruce tree; I would rather just have the curl again - that was the best pilsner I've ever had.

M/D: yea... it was alright, smooth, but just such a weird taste.

jt31914, Jul 22, 2010
Photo of irishkyle21
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Good head and retention after a number of drinks. Spruce has a hazy golden color, all in all this beer looks great.

Smells like there is a ton of spruce mixed with some hops. It reminds me of a cats litter box that hasn't been cleaned.

Tastes just like it smells only stronger. Lots of bitterness, pine sap and more pine on top of that. This is a really unique beer but not something I would choose to have more than one or two in one sitting.

irishkyle21, Jul 21, 2010
Photo of malty
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My 12 oz. bottle just reads 'Spruce Pilsner'...doesn't have the 'Imperial' in the title. In the descriptor it does say, 'Imperial Pilsner brewed with...' So I'm guessing it's the same beer, just a label update? Can't find their date stamp on it either.

Force poured into a stemmed Ayinger tulip glass. A clear yellowed golden with no real uprising carbonation to speak of. The very light beige loose head settles to 1/2". Handsome chunky rings of lace all the way down.

A few swirls of my glass produces a very, very, very fresh aroma pine needles and mint. Underneath this glorious fragrant bouquet lies some clean pale malts. The pine steals the show in grand fashion though.

Wow! Pine, basil and hearty hops galore! If you're into herbs, spices, hops, gardening, flowers, mulch or basically anything outdors - this one's for you. My palate is totally rocked by this fascinating flavor excursion to which there is no GPS coordinates. The pilsner base is clean and crisp. The hops are dry and prickly, and cut through quite nicely. The 10% ABV is masterfully hidden in al aspects.

Mouthfeel is heavier than light bodied and is oily. The carbonation is medium and at a perfect moderate level. The pine and herbal hopiness goes on for days.

Drinkability is very good. This beer was meant to be paired with food IMHO.

Overall a sensory overload of a lager. I'd LOVE to pair this with some spicy Thai food and/or a zesty herb-laden pizza. Since I've got 5 more bottles, I'm definitely going to be on a food pairing quest to showcase all of this beer's qualities. Leave it to Short's to blow my mind (once again)!

malty, Jul 19, 2010
Photo of coldmeat23
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

GLASS: Pilsner Glass
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 55 degrees, fridge chilled for approx 20 minutes
BOTTLE #499 of 866
Thanks to Popkas for this one!

This one pours a clear, golden, amber color. A mild pour produces a creamy, white, head that appears to be around three-fingers high. As it crests the rim of the glass though, it keeps going, almost with new life and overflows at least a good swallow or two. Nicely active, even after three years in the cellar. The retention is very good and the lacing is sticky and plentiful.
Impressive appearance.

I had a sample (about 3oz.) of this one at about one-year old. I can say that the nose has definitely subsided abit, but is still quite inviting.
The spruce notes are still here and there is a nice piney hops presence, though the hops have faded somewhat. There is a nice, bready, yeasty quality here, that I don't have in my previous notes. A light maltiness is still detected, although it's a little easier to find than it was two years ago.

The malt and yeast notes hit your palate first, in a big way. This only lasts far about a second or so, though. Then you get slaughtered by big notes of pine sap, grapefruit peel, and a big burst of spruce flavor. The next taste is almost exactly the same.
You get a sweet taste that's followed by a drying effect, that sucks in your cheeks and makes you want another sip, so that you can get a little bit more of that sweetness. This brings a moment of relief, then the bitterness kicks right back in and the cycle resumes.
Very tasty!

This is medium-bodied, yet has an underlying 'oily-thickness' that makes it seem more full than that. The carbonation level is medium, but is full of those teeny, tiny, little bubbles that make beers so much more creamy and delightful.

The 10.00%abv brings a slight sweetness and a warming touch with it. This is the part of this beer that will keep it from perfection, as far as drinkability. Other than that, it is very easy to consume and very enjoyable.

coldmeat23, Jul 06, 2010
Photo of DCDevilDancer
4.55/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to scubarex for cellaring this gem for 2+ years! Really a perfectly executed, delightfully unique brew. I would say it has held up fine, but that would be a huge understatement. The Matthew Grockau hand combed Northern Michigan Blue Spruce and piney resinous hops have aged remarkably gracefully together.
Looks good, smells inviting..
On the tongue notes of a wonderfully pure, remote wet evergreen forest, with a clean bitter finish. Flavor waves going on for sure.. a spectrum of pine, spicy citrus, wet stones. Not sure to what degree it was ever there, but the "pilsner" element is gone, while remarkably still screaming IPA 2 1/2+ years after bottling!
Drinkability decreases a bit towards the end of the 750, even though I am sharing it with 2 others.
All in all, a real treat!

DCDevilDancer, May 09, 2010
Photo of akorsak
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A capped 750 mL bottle picked up at the brewpub during our summer Michigan tour.

A: The pilsner is a hazy golden straw color. The base of my tumbler radiates a bright orange hue. The pils is translucent, hazed without the accompanying sediment. A thick head, nearly three fingers of billowy foam, left plenty of dried lace behind.

S: The spruce really stands out in the nose, overpowering with a sweet needle syrup. Honey and excessive hops round out the nose. The aromas are very appetizing for being 2+ years old.

T: Pow! I've had hoppy beers that my wife refers to as tree-like, but this one takes the cake. The sweet, sappy flavors coat the palate, softening the impact of the excessive hops. The spruce is floral and intoxicatingly strong, a sappy blast of flavor that ends with mint. Caramel and pale malts are a support system for the spruce. Bold hops, or the remnants of those hops, still linger with a strong bitterness (if this is the hop profile after two years, I'd scared of what it originally tasted like). The beer has plenty of booze lingering around, mingling with the spruce. Pow!

M: The mouthfeel is arboreal, dripping with sweet minty spruce. I've had sahti, even Siletz's spruce ale but this takes the cake. Pow!

D: The pils is complex. That complexity, including the overpowering spruce flavor, makes finishing the bottle difficult. Pow!

akorsak, Dec 14, 2009
Imperial Spruce India Pilsner from Short's Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 357 ratings.