Gonzo Imperial Porter | Flying Dog Brewery

2,919 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: 2,919 |  Reviews: 1,476
Photo of TheSarge
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Perfect amount of three fingers thick of milk shake looking head that lasts all the way through a 12oz serving. The body is opaque and barely has a hint of dark ruby red outlines at the bottom of the glass.

Lots of chocolaty and coffee like qualities to the beer. There is also a hint of a raison sweetness to the brew as well.

In the taste, semisweet chocolate is dominant. Coffee flavors are there too. This is a rich and tasty beer.

Has a creamy smoothness and oily hops appeal. Overall a great Imperial porter.

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

Although there are dark mahogany highlights visible when held to light, let's just call this beer black. It has a very dark tan head that really doesn't stick around long. Lots of roasted nutty chocolate in the nose. There's also a dark fruit aroma leaning mostly to fig and dark cherry. This stuff is pretty bitter up front with cocoa and finishes with a roasty espresso. There's some piney hop presence, but you've got to search for it a little which kinda surprised me considering the high IBU's. The alcohol, while not terribly high, is hidden well. My only want would be for some more viscosity, but that's a common theme for me.

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

A - Deep brown almost black pour with a huge tan head. Massive head on this one, took two pours to get all of it out of the 12 oz. bottle.

S - Beautiful mix of piney/citrusy hops with a dark roasty grainy malt sweetness. Very hoppy porter.

T - Sweet caramel & toffee malts up front followed by a roasted robust flavor. Hops add a pleasant bitterness throughout (pine, citrus, grassy) and a big bitter finish.

M - Higher than average carbonation. Dances around on the tongue and leaves a nice coating in the mouth.

D - Only picked up a bottle from my local bottle shop just to try. Next trip, I'll be buying a sixer (or two). The 7.2% ABV is extremely well hidden and I can't seem to put my glass down.

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Photo of velosuds
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled." - Hunter S. Thompson

Hopefully, this doesn't apply to the makers, and drinkers, of good craft beer. This one is brewed to honor Thompson's life.

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a clear pint glass. Vintage 10EE. Single purchased for $2.55. 9.2% ABV 85 IBUs per label.

A-Pours a dark brown almost black hue with a two finger, thick, creamy tan head with good retention and ample lacing.

S-Chocolate and toasted malts, coffee, and piney/citrus hops. A very nice aroma.

T-Rich malt and creamy dark chocolate. Sweet, but hoppy. Coffee is also present with piney/citric hops. Well balanced.

M-Very smooth and nicely carbonated.

D-This is very drinkable at 9.2% ABV. The alcohol is not noticeable. The best beer I have had from Flying Dog.

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Photo of brontosaurus
4.17/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

It was a fantastic beer! I had heard mixed reviews of flying dog but was impressed with the Gonzo. It has a very nice presentation - good color and head. olfactory senses were working with the chocolate, coffee, caramel and hoppy bouquet.
Its an imperial porter that i could drink in quantity.

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Photo of BeerSingh
3.77/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this bottle imported from NJ to Delhi with the help of my lady's brother who stays there. Poured from the 33cl bottle into my trustworthy and beautiful Chimay glass. I was highly anticipating this beer, being a fan of Flying Dog. Well, the pour happened to let me down a bit. Being an aggressive pourer, I expected to get a decent sized head above a dark, black-brown body but all I got was a thin collar of a coffee colured sheet crowning the body. Did I pour the beer too cold, I don't know but I did what I usually do with my beer. The beer appeared a tad syrupy during the pour, something like coffee liqueur. Probably the thickest beer I've experienced till now. The smell was extremely hoppy for a porter, backed with notes of coffee and dark malts. But the hops simply dominated the nose, something very similar to their Double Dog.
The taste was hop bitter upfront with a decent background of coffee - chocolate bitterness. This beer was tasting very, very similar in the bitterness profile to the Double Dog, maybe it was the use of the same variety of hops. The taste was not huge, rather concentrated on the hoppiness. I would expect a bit more malty sweetness from a porter. Even as it warmed up, the taste did not pan out, but remained hop centric, with only slight residual porter like bitter sweet flavours developing. The beer left the palate quite moist, maybe it was because of the abrasion that the bitterness had caused.
I swear, I would have placed my bet on Double Dog in a blind tasting. I may have had the beer cooler than desirable, but I had frankly expected more from the Gonzo.

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Photo of RuudJH
3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Together with the IPA, this porter is making up for some average experiences I've had with Flying Dog in the past.
Glad I tried this as well.

Colour is very dark brown, light brown fluffy head.
Smell is suprizingly hoppy for a stout/porter. Some roasted malts, caramel, coffee and chocolate in the background.
Similar is the taste, it's quite bitter (IBU: 85) from the hops, more than from roasted malts, I'm sure. Bitter aftertaste as well.
Mouthfeel is decently smooth. The alcohol isn't a problem.

Very decent brew.

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Photo of kjyost
3.71/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a light tan head atop an inky black body. The head though is not very tall and disappears completely leaving no lacing. An enjoyable nose on the beer, with aromas of molasses and licorice. The body has a nice residual sweetness with a molassesy taste. The beer though feels incredibly thin, and almost without any substantial carbonation. The major deficiency in this beer is mouthfeel, but it isn't overly alcoholic for its type.

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Photo of RobertTh3Texian
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The opaque beer before me is inviting. The tan head warns me of what is to come. I have been here before. It's comfortable. Warm and safe. The smell is that of the old and familiar flavours of any good roasted malt. Sweet and fruit, roast and choco/java. The taste tells of something more. delightfully creamy and smooth for a beer in the fridge for five months. A bit of ...plum is it? My palate is not good enough to identify those things yet, but I thinks it be plum. Like all good porters and stouts it leaves those roasty bits of taste on the side of your tongue. Just steller all the way around. Great beer.

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

I had never seen an imperial porter before - didn't even know such a thing existed. When I saw this on the shelf, there was no question I had to try it ...

A - Very dark liquid, forms a nice head with good retention, but minimal visible carbonation in the glass after the pour.

S - Roasted malts, thick caramel, hints of chocolate and dark coffee.

T - The flavors follow the nose: a fulfilling and complex combination of roast, caramel, chocolate and coffee, and ends with a pleasant twist of extra hops. I found the aftertaste revealed hints of fruit (maybe black cherry or dark plum). The typical raw alcohol taste of many imperials is almost entirely absent from this brew.

M - Pleasantly full, with light carbonation that enlivens the roasted character on the tongue. Very reminiscent of the best stouts.

D - Very drinkable, to a degree that could be dangerous. This porter goes down easy and does not reveal its extra punch.

This is one beer worth stocking in the cooler. Very satisfying.

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Photo of NightINgale
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 US fl.oz bottle poured into a small snifter...

A - Dark, opaque brown body with a bubbly brown head. Some lacing and decent head retention.

S - Highly roasted malts, with hints of bitter chocolate. At the same time, there is a very pronounced Cascade hop aroma, with piny notes.

T - First tastes like over-roasted coffee beans or burnt toast, with some sweetness to it. Then you get a good hop bite, with resinous and floral notes. The finish is definitely bitter, as a result of both the roasted malts and the dry-hopping. I liked that unusual hoppiness in it a lot.

M - Medium-bodied and quite highly carbonated. No booziness at first, but after a few moments it starts to show, only getting stronger as you drink it.

D - Good for what it is. It's not a hassle to drink, and it is also an enjoyable beer overall. I do prefer the traditional European Baltic porters, though...

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Photo of juju7
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of the most perfectly balanced noses I've come across. Milk chocolate, roasted malt, liqorice and a hint of truffles and dark fruit all lined up in beautiful sync. There is no one dominating aroma. Fantastic. Smooth, delectable and moreish. Alcohol level is spot on - a little stronger and it would start to become apparent. After the shitty beers I've had today, this is delicious.

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Photo of jrallen34
3.91/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I drank this from a 12oz bottle into my Orval glass...The beer pours a very nice black, dark with very little brown. The head is a little disappointing, only rises about half a finger and is gone pretty quickly. Light lacing...The aroma is really light, I can barely pull anything out, a little sweet coffee but that's about it...The taste is pretty and a surprise. Very flavorful, a baltic should be sweet but this is pretty roasty and light smoke which actually is really nice. A little sweetness, but super easy to drink, could easily do a 4 pack...The feel is a little on the lighter side, not a ton of aftertaste... Overall, good not great, but a easy to drink to porter.

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

A - Very dark black color, with a light tannish head that had some good retention and moderate lacing.

S - Roasted malts, slightly bitter chocolate, carmel, and a touch of coffee.

T - A nicely, but not overpoweringly, bitter taste that made it a hoppier porter than I was expecting. Very rich flavors made this seem quite stout-like. Roasty bitter cocoa malts, and a touch of coffee, a little bit of dark fruit, but the roasty and bitter tastes are what dominates in a nicely rich blend of flavors.

M - Nicely weighted, full bodied, viscous. Moerate carbonation.

D - Very, very easy to drink, especially considering the style.

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

A: Deep black color. Poured almost a 2 finger chocolate head with excellent retention. Lacing mostly washed down the glass.

S: Very complex; nuts, coffee, black bread and all manners of toasted malts. Also raisins and figs. Alcohol.

T: Surprisingly big bitter in the nose. Dark fruits followed by toasted malts; bitter chocolate, burnt coffee. Warming alcohol finishes like bourbon.

M: Light body. Low carbonation. Thin and dry.

D: Dfinitely nurse this one and enjoy the rich, complex flavors.

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

This was part of a trade with ritzkiss. I'm not familiar with Flying Dog and excited to check this out.

The bottle lists the style as both Imperial Porter and as American-style Imperial Stout...strange. Vintage 09AA, whatever that means.

Pours with a nice creamy tan head, settling as a light covering and presenting some decent lacing. The body is pretty much black; I'm not getting any light coming through.

This is an awesome smelling beer. Tons of caramel, butter, earthy hops and dark malt along with some vanilla, dust and light molasses. It actually almost smells more like a barley wine than a stout/porter, though whatever it smells like...it smells amazing.

More roasty malt comes through in the flavour, announcing for certain that this is a stout or porter. The label doesn't want to make up its mind and I'm not sure that I can either, based on the flavour. Maybe it is just that: a stout-porter. It's strange that I didn't pick up any roast in the nose because there's quite a lot here. The lactic quality from the nose is present here as well, in copious quantities. It almost seems like diacetyl, but even if it is I feel that it's working nicely in this context, presenting itself as caramel and butter. The IBUs are listed at 85; I'm not sure it feels quite that bitter but it is certainly fairly hopped. I would have guessed more like 70 IBU. Being an '09 bottle, it seems to have lost any real hop character as described in some other reviews here of fresh bottles. What does come through is a generic bitter earthiness. For 7.8% ABV, the alcohol is pretty hot. I was almost going to rate this as 4.5 but the alcohol should be smoothed out for it to merit the extra 0.5. The drying finish is of lingering dusty cocoa and alcohol.

The feel is good: slightly sticky medium body and light carbonation. Pairs well with the taste.

This is a pretty solid stout...or porter. I feel like the harsh booziness is holding it back from being great. I would think that some age would do it good, but at 7.8% you probably couldn't age this for long enough to achieve the desired effect. I wouldn't want more than one of these at a time but am definitely enjoying this bottle. Thanks Eric!

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Photo of KrisPaulk77
4.32/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage, poured into a Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass.
The beer poured a deep, inky black, with a big, fat cocoa colored head. The head lingered for a good long while, and then faded down to a respectable cap of foam. Chunks of lace clung to the sides of the glass as it was drank.
The aroma portrays a rich experience, with notes of bitter chocolate, raisins, rummy alcohol, burnt sugar and roasty tones. Piney hop notes make an appearance and completes the package.
The taste of this beer is delicious, following the nose with chocolates, raisins and other dark fruit, warming alcohol, anise, rich malts, and a good brace of hops. Good complexities and rich flavors all around.
The beer feels slick and oily, and coats the mouth.
This is a great beer, and I try and buy it anytime I come across it. One of these after dinner, or two in an evening seems like a great day to wrap up a day.
An excellent offering from Flying Dog. I'm saving two bottles of 2008 Gonzo and I'm anxious to break into one of them and compare it against a fresher one.

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Photo of blammasterj
4.29/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage from the Canis Major mix pack poured into a Mayflower Brewing pint glass.

A: Poured a rich, midnight black with a substantial dark brown head that stuck around for the duration of the beer and made some decent lacing down the entirety of the glass.

S: Very complex nose of raisins, prunes, toasty malts and dark bread

T: The first thing that I noticed was the (awesome) bitterness that comes from the 85 IBUs as I really didn't expect the hops to hold on to much of a punch after ~2 years of aging. The taste followed the nose with more dark fruits, beautiful roasted malts, bitter chocolate, burnt coffee and a slightly boozy, almost bourbon-like finish. It seems like this really opened up while it was sitting in the cellar.

MF: Viscous, chewy, very low carbonation

D: A wonderful slow sipper that really opened up as it came around to room temperature. I never really noticed the ABV until I had consumed the entire beer.

Now I need to go and get a recently brewed iteration to compare with this 08 beauty.

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Photo of turnstile
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Wow. Pours thick from the bottle and erupts into a rocky two-inch head. Color of the body is almost pitch-black; head is light brown. Some lacing and the head doesn't go anywhere.

Smell: Aromas of spiced rum and some licorice. The alcohol content is not masked and dominates the smell. Malt aromas are sweet and toasty, like dark bread.

Taste: Dark bready notes up front with sweet black licorice and alcohol in the end. Moderate bitterness and root beer-like spice in the end. Finishes slightly dry.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied and much thinner than I imagined for this imperial style. Carbonation is medium-hight; fizzy and slightly coarse.

Drinkability: Not as drinkable as other imperial/baltic porters. Not many familiar taste notes and a little too boozy. A little bit of a struggle to get through so I'm content with just one. Overall, the label is accurate; it's very malty and complex - IBUs are up there as well.

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

Pours a deceptively dark ruby with a large foamy tan head. I say deceptive because at first glance you'd mistake this for black, but holding up to the light reveals some red at the edges. The head demonstrates good staying power, and lays down some attractive streaks of lace on the side of the glass. Its certainly an above par appearance for a Baltic porter.

The rich aroma has all the expected notes of chocolate, dark fruit and mild coffee grains, but this is also where Gonzo really begins to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. The typical sweet and molasses heavy nose has been replaced by a burst of piney hops. Its instantly recognisable as both a baltic porter and an American beer.

There's no doubting this is a fresh bottle, and its bursting with hoppy goodness in the kind of beer where hops almost always play a secondary role. Of course the usual elements are obvious to even the most virgin of palates - chocolate, raisin, dark fruit, light roast - but it's the hops that really differentiate and elevate this beer. An occasional criticism I have of Baltics is that they rend to be too sweet and have a tendency to become cloying and alcoholic at higher temperatures, but the hopping in Gonzo counters the sweetness with a moderate bitterness that helps to lighten and freshen the palate. Also, while there's obviously some evident alcohol it never becomes more dominant than a background accent. The luxury and depth of Gonzo's flavour is matched by the full and smooth body and moderate carbonation, which makes the beer almost creamy.

It would be interesting to see how this tastes with some age on it, and a less dominant hop profile, but my thinking is that this is a beer best drank fresh. The hops really set it aside from the other beers in its category and make it a unique and interesting experience. While I wouldn't say it's the best Baltic Porter in the world its definitely in the top echelon and it's an interpretation of the style that deserves to be tried.

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

A- Black with dark brown edges and nice medium brown head, retaining well and leaving a web of lacing as it goes.

S- Notes of chocolate, toffee, some spice, and nice roasted malt.

T- very malty, mocha-like, with hints of toffee and caramel to also pair with some alcohol warmth.

M- Chewy, sticky, with a strong aftertaste.

D- Barely above sessionable, but when the time is right, it really hits the spot.

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

A - Deep black color with some dark mahogany hues on the edges. Very large, foamy, creamy meringue like head that is a nice creamy tan color. Very good retention with a thick and creamy lacing left.

S - A good amount of chocolate and cocoa aroma. Also some mocha and coffee flavor comes out. Good amount of molasses and piney hops and hints of dark cherry. Some sweet and roasted aromas.

T - Strong bittersweet chocolate flavor is the first thing I taste and the strongest thing throughout the taste. Paired with this, at the beginning of the sip there is a fairly strong alcohol and medicinal flavor. This gives way to some more chocolate and mocha as well as a bit of tart dark cherry (and some other dark fruit) taste. In the background are some more typical porter/stout flavors (roasted taste) as well as some pine hops. Fairly bitter with an initial kick, but that soothes down a bit and the beer finishes softer with a linger chocolate/mocha and dark cherry taste.

M - Full to medium body with lower than average carbonation. Slick and smooth, also just slightly drying.

D - The bitterness is a little strong and upfront for it to be really drinkable. Definitely a beer that is meant to be sipped. One bottle was fine and enjoyable, but I wouldn't really want more than one in a night.

Notes: Provides a good amount of porter/stout chocolate, coffee, and roasted flavors but also a good amount of bitterness that is fairly hop-forward. Strong and full flavored beer that is nice for sipping on for a while. Alcohol taste is present and the taste is a little harsh, but there are some nice flavors in there. Worth a try if you can get it.

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Photo of AboutBeverages
2.61/5  rDev -35.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Strong herbal hop aroma, with slight underlying malty sweetness. This beer has a thin body, and is slightly sweet and smoky, with no hop notes. Overall very plain and just not a good balance of flavors that usually can be found in this style of beer.

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Photo of elgiacomo
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle, vintage 09(KK).

Pours very dark brown, black in the glass with an almost two finger light brown head. Maintains a light foamy cap and ring and leaves some spotty lacing.

Aroma is malty, fruity, raisins, figs, currants, licorice, molasses, chocolate, coffee, complex but not terribly strong.

Flavor is rich chocolate, coffee, raisins, dark fruit, roasted malt, caramel, toffee, and then some citrus hops making a surprise appearance. Some lingering sweetness and bitterness.

Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated, medium/full bodied.

This just might be my favorite US-brewed Baltic/Imperial Porter. Shares some similarities with my beloved Sinebrychoff Porter.

The hops are an interesting twist compared to others, none of the lactic-type quality in other examples of the style, want to see what this does with some age.

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Photo of argock
3.33/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 12oz brown bottle into a clear glas Donegal mug. 2009 vintage. Single purchased at Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA) for $2.70.

A: Deep dark brown-black with mottle, fluffy beige head with decent retention and scattered lace specks.

S: Hoppiness is most apparent at the tops with roasted dark malt, coffee, and chocolate meeting pleasantly

T: The flavor falls flat however with a mix of bitter coffee, charcoal, dark chocolate with very piney, citrusy hoppiness and a light char sting in the finish. While the components sound good in a list, the whole is an erratic mixture that isn't cohesive and doesn't work together. The whole is way less than its parts.

M: The carbonation is surprisingly low which gives an oily, slick feel to the beer which is neutral. The body is medium and alcohol is well-hidden.

D: Disapppointing mainly because the flavor profile is not together and thus allows no component to stand out or provide emphasis.

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Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery
4.02 out of 5 based on 2,919 ratings.
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