Gonzo Imperial Porter | Flying Dog Brewery

2,923 Ratings
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Gonzo Imperial PorterGonzo Imperial Porter

Brewed by:
Flying Dog Brewery
Maryland, United States

Style: Baltic Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
ABV varies.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 06-04-2005

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Ratings: 2,923 |  Reviews: 1,477
Photo of ryan1788a5
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a Guinness goblet.

A: Pours a solid black with a two-inch brown head. Good retention, lots of sticky lacing.

S: Big whiff of citrusy hops, some pine, vague herbal smell. Token roasted malt underneath: coffee and chocolate. Maybe a touch of smoke. Hints of vanilla as it warms.

T: Herbal hops open. Very herbal actually. Maybe thyme and oregano. Citric hops are there too, but not to the degree that they were in the smell. Some grapefruit and maybe even a bit of orange if you search for it. Pine. Vanilla. As in the nose, roasted malt tastes kick-in after the initial hop blow. Milk chocolate, muted coffee, and big woody/smokey notes. Bitter dark chocolate, wood, and smoke in the finish.

M: Medium bodied, very lively seltzer-like carbonation. Too thin and overly carbonated for my taste. Mouthfeel is definitely the low-point of this beer.

D: Decent.

Notes: A good beer, though I do take issue with it being entered on this site as a Baltic Porter. A bit of a hop bomb. I sat on this bottle for about six months. It is better with age. The hops mellow out somewhat. There are some big, bold flavors in here, but in the end this beer just didn't impress me as much as some of its competitors. Good, but not elite.

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Photo of BrewCrew2010
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a black body with a massive brown head. The head sticks around for a while, a bit rocky in texture, and leaves behind a good amount of lace.

S: A pleasant aroma of roasted malts, dark chocolate, dark fruits, and a hint of vanilla. The nose ends a bit boozy as well. For such a great smell, it's very light and takes a lot of effort to get all of the aromas.

T: Initial flavor of sweet caramel, dark chocolate, roasted malts, and coffee are on the palate followed by hints of dark fruits. Bittering hops, which are very good, break up the upfront flavors and ends a bit boozey.

M: A smooth and creamy texture with a full body and medium to light carbonation.

D: A great beer. Easy to drink and an interesting porter. I will definitely get this again.

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Photo of Bierman9
3.61/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bought a 4-pack of this the other day at Jaspers's for $7.99. Gonna enjoy some while watching the NFL... Label says "vintage '09" , and the ABV is listed as 7.8%, not the 9.2% noted on BA.

Poured one into a small tulip. It foamed up quite a bit, about 2" worth of tan bubbles atop a very dark, dense brown liquid. The head ebbed a bit, allowing a bit more Gonzo to go into the glass, saving just a smidge with the yeasties in the bottle for later. The topping is a nice mocha color and is mousse-like in its consistency, leaving a nice curtain of lace on the glass. The aroma, not overly strong, is a combo of chocolatey malts and some roasty bitter notes. The body is in the medium range, and it is light on the tongue, with some bubbliness present.

I swirled in the yeasty residue and went to work... Lots of dark chocolate is present here, with some espresso-like aspects. It has a cocoa powder dryness, with heaps of roasty bitterness greeting the palate. Despite the labels claim of being"complex", I feel this one is fairly straightforward, with lots of choco bitterness. Not bad, but likely a one-time purchase for me.


look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 3.5


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Photo of NittanyBeerFan
3.23/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Received as an extra in a not-so-recent trade. Sorry for no shout-out, but thanks to whomever this was from!...Poured into my tulip glass.

Deep brown in color with garnet and ruby highlights around the edges when held up to light. Spotty lacing from a thin ring of foam that remains along the glass long after the creamy 1-finger cap of foam has dissipated.

A swirl before I analyze the aroma...Chocolate, caramel, coffee, and a light roastiness spring right out at me. Some figs, dates, and a splash of raisin contribute sweetness to the aroma. There is also a warm alcohol component. In the taste raisins, chocolate, and the other dark fruits are the biggest components. Some bitterness from both roasted barley and earthy hops. Finishes up with that warm alcohol flavor and vanilla. Unfortunately, nothing really leaves any impression on my palate after the finish.

Medium consistency with a light carbonation. Pretty much average for any robust porter, whether it be a baltic porter brewed with lager yeast or an imperial porter with ale yeast. Easy to drink, but the relatively high ABV, coupled with the relatively unimpressive palate makes me hesitate to seek this out again.

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Photo of AdamBear
2.92/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- pitch black, thick dark tan head

S-very dark chocolate, almost like baking chocolate. there's a small bitterness as well, light strength

T-just a subtle hint of really dark roasted malts and really dark chocolate. there is a small alcohol burn and bitterness as well. there's no great after-taste. this is fairly complex yet forgettable (hopefully)

M-medium carbonation with a very dry, sharp finish

D-well...the ABV hits quicker than expected...too quick for even 9% beer. this is a very heavy, warm beer which is why i imagine the russian czars favored this style...but its just not drinkable in my opinion

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Photo of mulder1010
3.74/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

7 oz bottle poured into a tulip. Note: my bottle is 7.8%

A-- Poured a dark cola color, settled black with touches of red at the top of the glass. Short lived dark brown head that was no more than film. That quickly died off. Not much more for head retention when swirling the glass. No lacing either.

S-- Chocolate, prune, vanilla, Carmel, and dates. What I like most about this beer is the nose. Big smell but not too big.

T-- Milk chocolate, prune and dates. Longer it sits in the mouth the taste changes. That goes more to mouthfeel though.

M-- Prickly carbonation. Higher than I would have thought. Medium feel to this. Get a lot of milk chocolate covered grapefruit in this. Do get some floral aspects as well to this. Finished with chocolate, coffee and prune taste. Kind of like Dr. Pepper in a way. Has a bit of an acidic finish to this.

D-- Only reason I bought the sampler pack from Flying Dog was because of this beer. I like it mostly due to the nose. It is a bit thin in spots and still not too sure about the Dr.Pepper finish but it is good and easy to have 2 in a sitting. ABV is well hidden.

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

Poured from bottle into pint glass directly from refrigerator.

A. Black, with a faint molasses-colored rim at the top and bottom if held to the light. Minimal acorn-colored head dissipates quickly. Almost no lacing in the glass.

S. Malt, dates, very light nose. A long whiff produces chocolate, maybe vanilla.

T. Almost floral on the attack, light, fragrant (tulip?), possibly grapefruit. Hints of roasted almond. The attack gives way to a thick, malt flavor that is not quite as roasted as I was expecting. Finish is bitter, hoppy, strong black coffee which lingers. Not nearly as smoky as other porters. The fruity notes mellow as the beer warms, however, and the roasted malt flavor I was expecting starts to rear its head.

M. Light for a porter, well-carbonated, not particularly smooth.

D. Feels lighter than it is. For a 7.8% ABV beer it hides the alcohol well.

Overall: Drink this beer warmer than refrigerator temperature; it really brings out the roasted, porter-like flavors one expects. This beer went from a low B to a low B+ over about 30-40 minutes.

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Photo of mjaskula
4.53/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a pint glass. I may have poured it a too quickly, as the thick dense brown head domed up over the top of my glass. The head thins a bit and leaves thick sheets of lace. The beer itself is black as night.

The roasted malt aroma is apparent as soon as you start the pour. There's also some sweet carmel, and hot alcohol. The flavor is as expected from the nose, coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, a smooth sweetness and ends with a bit of a nutty flavor. Mouthfeel is dry. Overall this is an excellent porter.

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Photo of bens0n
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I like the Hunter S. Thompson quote on the bottle... "Good people drink good beer."

Although... mine is 7.8% ABV..

This beer pours a very dark brown, almost black, with a good amount of creamy tan head that leaves a moderate amount of lacing on the glass.

On the nose there is a good amount of roasted coffee with a hint of dark fruit and malts. The roasted qualities are the most prevalent though.

Flavor wise, its very similar to the smell, very roasty and very rich. There is a trace of hops that are distinguishable, but fairly minor in comparison to the rest of the stuff going on.

This beer has a fair amount of carbonation, but not enough to ruin the smoothness, very drinkable.

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Photo of StoutLoverJon
4.65/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I stare intently at the amber bottle, and notice the blackness that begs to be consumed by me, from its current position, on the top shelf of my fridge. I hastely grasp for a bottle opener out of my gadget drawer, on the day after Christmas, and grasp the cold glass container, from the fridge, and set it, ever so softly onto the counter top. I place the bottle opener to the bottle cap and unhinge the barrier to greatness, and as the wisp of CO2 dissipates from the bottle mouth, I place my nostrils to the mouth and take a little whiff of heaven. There is a faint smell of alcohol, intertwined with coffee like olfactory pleasures.
Next I place the opening to my mouth and, take a miniscule sip, so as to savor the flavor, that I know will be presented to my aroused tastebuds. The head is the perfect thickness, bubbly, and a milk choclate cream color. It compliments the cool liquid that graces my mouth, which is blessed with notes of chocolate and coffee. It is an absolute pleasure to my senses.
It's carbonation is not too strong, as it is a slightly more viscous beer due to its added coffee and choclatey goodness. Lastly, it has a good drinkablity, and the only reason I do not consume another is so that I can draw out its survival within my household for as long as possible.

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Photo of Ryanm1
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was served cold poured from a bottle into a glass. Dark brown in color, very dark and smells of roasted malt which is a distinct characteristics of many porters. Not sure what makes it an 'imperial porter' though.

Very high alcohol content with hints of chocolate, medium head.

Respect this beer otherwise it'll bite ya.

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Photo of buschbeer
2.62/5  rDev -34.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle

A - Served in pint glass. I'm gonna call this one black with a three inch cocoa head.

S - Grapefruit. Faint hints of roasted malt.

T - Grapefruit again. I'm really trying to get some roasted malt, and it's hard to find.

M - The mouthfeel is great. Thick and viscous.

D - I actually went back and read some other reviews after I started to see if I was crazy. A couple others seem to have found this beer hoppy as well. I'm not sure what's going on here but it doesn't taste or smell like a porter, way too hoppy. The alcohol is very well hidden though.

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

12oz bottle from a 4-pack. 7.8% abv, 85 IBU.

Thick black pour right down the middle to get a nice dark tan head that disappeared surprisingly quickly. Lacing isn't too bad. Sticks to the glass OK at near-room temp.

Chocolate, semi-coffee smell with a bit of sweetness.

Big body and a sweet, burnt flavor. Has a sweetness akin to an oatmeal porter, though not quite as smooth. Leaves a stickiness on the lips that might suggest some caramelized brown sugar. The carbonation/alcohol level is a great mixture. Not overly fizzy, but enough for the bubbles to coat the palate with all the flavors and the alcohol warm in the throat. At 85 IBUs and it's sweetness, you would think this brew is dangerously close to Indian Brown territory, but it is balanced VERY well to keep in the ball park of a Baltic Porter. Hops are there just long enough for you to notice them drowning in the malty goodness!

Not sure how the more recent reviews have stated this beer as being 9.2% abv. This is only the 2nd year I have had this beer and it has been 7.8% since then. Maybe it was higher in years past? Either way, at 7.8%, it makes the cut as being an imperial porter. However, it's not as strong as the website description. As great as that would be, this a beer all of you dark beer lovers must keep in stock.

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Photo of brown2cu
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Poured from a bottle into a standard pint glass. Pours an inky obsidian with a rocky beige head that cools down and leaves minuscule remnants of lacing. Hell, it's a porter what more can you say or want?

Smell: Not much here I am getting a fair amount of raisin and other dark fruits a lot of burnt malt. Maybe some cocoa way down. I feel that it is overridden by a fair amount alcohol that asserts itself.

Taste: A lot of malt presence hops come into the picture at the end. a little fruity in spots not citrus or anything but strong dark sweet fruits like plums and black grapes. The sweetness is slaughtered by the alcohol presence that pleases more than offends, the hops contribute a bitterness that really balances it off nicely.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and silky very little carbonation. Enjoyable, not a thirst quencher by any means but on a bitter cold winter evening on the preface of a huge winter storm, this is fitting. The alcohol warms you right up too (figuratively).

Drinkability: This stuff is deceptive. It isn't like an imperial stout it doesn't remind you how potent it is. I could easily put another down. Top notch stuff here.

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

A - Pours into my Samuel Adams Globe pint glass an intense dark brown-black with a thin, one-finger thick tan head that retains as poured with nice clingy lacing (4)

S - Slightly sweet nose of coffee, cocoa and some nuttiness; hints of alcohol present as well (4)

T - Sweet, caramel flavors upfront immediately decked with a good amount of roasted/toasted malts; notes of chocolate and coffee show up in the middle lasting towards the finish which is hoppy, moderately bitter and dashed with some dark fruits. A taste that's well-balanced and moderately complex on the palate (4.5)

M - Medium to full bodied on the mouthfeel with some perceived weight from the alcohol; moderately carbonated and creamy smooth with obvious alcohol warming (4.5)

D - Very Good flavors and feel adds to this being a sessionable brew for tasting/appreciation but the obvious "weight" from the noticeable 9.2% ABV detracts the drinkability a little. (4)

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Photo of bubseymour
3.61/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

When I poured the bottle into my pint glass, it left a large 3 finger beautiful head.

Smell - strange...but it smells of citrus hops. Nothing chocolatey, coffee or malty as I would expect. All IPA in the smell. Did they brew a wrong batch or is this how it goes?

Most porters I've had were smooth and chocolaty/malty. This one was just a hopped up IPA that was black with nice head. Very bitter, more than most IPA's in fact. On the flying dog box, this was listed as very mild hops on their scale but I would put this at least an 8 out of 10 on the hop scale (IBU). Some roastiness in the finish, but it tastes way more like and IPA than a porter/stout.

Mouthfeel - very full bodied and smooth.

Overall - I do agree with others, the 9.5 ABV was well disguised and I liked the strongness of this beer. I still wonder if this was brewed properly though. Overall flavors were weak and hops stole the show.

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Photo of BeerLover99
4.25/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - A dark stout like color and pours thick with a lasting head.

S - hint of nuts, cocoa, coffee, hops in background.

T - nutty, roasted, chocolate, mild coffee, hint of toffee.

M - smooth, creamy, medium/heavy, the alcohol will sneak up on you.

D - Outstanding, this is a big SIPPER! Share a 4 pack with a friend, the price and the intensity won't be so much then; this is an outstanding Baltic Porter.

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

Big-time porter fan here. My first try of this ale is poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass. Absolutely beautiful pour: 3 fingers of tan foam, leaving behind tons of lacing on top of a very dark beer.

Smell is malty, with dark fruit and sweet chocolate. Alcohol is noticeable once the beer warmed. The taste leans to the sweet chocolate side rather than the burnt coffee style present in many porters. The alcohol is well hidden except for a slightly, and I mean slightly, spicy finish. Quite smooth for a porter. They definitely left out the 85 IBUs alleged on the bottle. Tastes more like in the 20-30 IBU range. Addendum: Subsequent bottles have revealed much more of the bitterness, which I really like.

Mouthfeel is smooth, not too thick, but coats the inside of my mouth in a creamy way. The carbonation is appropriately low.

The alcohol is very warming on a cold night. It's a very easy drinking beer, especially one with a relatively high ABV.

A very good porter. My only complaint is I would prefer a little more bite somewhere. It's perhaps a little too smooth for a porter, particularly one named after Hunter S. Thompson. I could not pick up on the claimed bitterness. See addendum above. My complaints have been silenced. But a must try for anyone who likes porters.

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Photo of VMWhelan
4.21/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a completely opaque chocolatey brown with a two finger frothy mocha head which shrinks down to one finger after a few sips. Excellent lacing and fairly good head retention. Overall a very nice looking porter, though it looks more like a stout.

S: Hop aroma dominates with some malty characteristics in the background. Not picking up the chocolate as much as everyone else seems to unless I take a big whiff, but it's definitely there.

T: Taste is a very roasty/smokey malt with some chocolate notes. Chocolate is more noticeable in the taste than the smell which is nice. Nice hop bitterness which lingers for a while. Overall it seems fairly balanced.

M: Smooth medium body with a dry finish (probably from the hoppiness).

D: Goes down pretty easily and very enjoyable. I could have a few of these.

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Photo of TheGarvenator
2.74/5  rDev -31.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A - A dark stout like color and pours thick with a lasting head.

S - smells malty with a small sweet scent...smells like most of Flying Dog's beers...

T - very thick and extremely malty

M - strong and bitter

D - extremely bitter and filling....i would probably only be able to drink a couple before feeling full.

Im not a porter guy and this was my first one so I can really say it does porters justice...Its very bitter and reminds me of a stout being so dark and filling. I might buy this particular one again but only time will tell or if I find a better tasting porter.

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Photo of bwan15
3.34/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours black as midnight on a moonless night. I can see my reflection in the glass. Tan head is luxuriously thick and foamy, shrinking from two fingers to half a finger over the course of a couple minutes.

Smell: The bouquet is underwhelming but has hints of sweet, pungent cocoa wafting up. There are also trace notes of alcohol stabbing through the relatively mellow nose.

Taste: Initial impression is of an astringent top-layer shrinking the middle of my tongue. Roasted malt reeking of burnt coffee anchors this beer at the bottom, and there are hints of brandy or whiskey stirring around just above it, but they are faint. There is a ghost of salt lurking in there somewhere.

Mouthfeel: Not crazy about the acidic tongue-buzzing. Otherwise smooth and pleasant; coats the mouth and palate just enough to live up to its Imperial claim.

Drinkability: The last time I had this beer I was sitting in a life-guard chair on a deserted beach just near Montauk, watching a roiling blue sea fade to grey with the dimming autumn light. Maybe it was the romance of the place, or the fact that I was pretty high, but I was fucking in love with this beer. Now, over a year later, I am underwhelmed. It's interesting and big (not huge), but lacks complexity and nuance. This porter was brewed in honor of Hunter S. Thompson, the best-known champion of Gonzo journalism, which was a type of writing in which the authors immersed themselves in whatever their subjects were so that they could write from an experiential point of view. It was all about putting your ass on the line and your guts into the writing, and I think that if the fellows at Flying Dog want to truly honor Mr. Thompson, they should go stir up their guts by picking a fight with the Hell's Angels, partake in a protest in the Pacific Northwest, and experiment heavily with several psychoactive drugs. That way, when they drag their broken heads and bodies back into the ol' brewery think-tank, they'll have some heady fodder to ferment into something worthy of the late great Hunter S.

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Photo of ztaylor1
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- dark chocolate brown with a tan/brown head that lingers nicely

Smell- less chocolate than expected, but very rich malt and roast aromas.

Taste- bitter chocolate followed by a burnt malt with a little coffee in the finish. Very subtle hops.

Mouthfeel- smooth and silky

Drinkability- the mouthfeel makes this beer pretty tough to stop drinking.

A very well balanced beer, I'm very stoked on it and I will definitely be buying again.

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Photo of beerdown77
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This poured a nice dark brown, almost black with two fingers of brown head. This was medium bodied for the ABV, but it was a little sweeter than I prefer. This was definitely more chocolaty than coffee-y. This beer had a really unique smokiness that I really enjoyed. I could drink another one of these, but the sweetness would get to me.

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Photo of BamaViper1
4.2/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

The Gonzo pours opaque chocolate brown into the glass forming a mocha-brown colored head. The head dissipates rather quickly leaving little whisps of lacing, and swirling causes a 'soap bubble' ring to form.

This beer has a moment of hoppy aroma that's followed by a strong malt backbone with hints of espresso and chocolate. There is also a woodiness or earthiness mixed possibly with currant lending a supporting role. Its overall aroma is quite rich.

This beer opens with a strong malt character with the rich chocolate and light coffee flavors previewed in the smell. This fades into a hoppy bitterness that forms the basis of the end notes and finish along with a marked but nice presence of alcohol, and that bitterness is supported and balanced with all of those flavors first experienced on the nose.

This beer is pretty full bodied with nice carbonation. The finish mouthfeel is quite clean as well.

I like this beer a lot and could probably drink a good bit of it. Overall, this is one of, if not my favorite, Flying Dog beer.

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Photo of arboristfish
4.8/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer pours a thick black color. Holding it against a light, I dont see any amber color to it at all, there is no light that shines through. The head is tan almost brown. The aroma smells of citrus hops and a hint of roasted malts. The taste is a full roasted malt flavor. There is a good balance between roasted malts and the hops. The mouthfeel is heavy, and yet it is a very drinkable beer!

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Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery
4.02 out of 5 based on 2,923 ratings.
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