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Gonzo Imperial Porter | Flying Dog Brewery

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1,465 Reviews
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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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Reviews: 1,465 | Ratings: 2,880
Photo of sinistrsam
3.77/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Always being a fan of the late H.S. Thompson, I was eager to get right into this beer, seeing if it did the founder of “gonzo” journalism justice. The beer poured thick and dark, almost completely opaque with a medium head, smelling of toffee and smoky roast. I had never smelled such a smoky aroma.
The taste was very strong, bitter with hoppiness and roasted malt, lots of alcohol and an even more present smoky taste, which I have to admit I wasn’t impressed with. Let me rephrase that; I personally don’t enjoy that kind of taste, but what I was impressed with was how the beer somehow did do justice to Thompson. It tasted bitter and burnt, smoky and almost dirty if that makes sense. Lots of flavor, lots going on. In that respect, I have to give Flying Dog props on how they crafted this one in his memory.
But, back to the beer itself. Mouthfeel was smoother than the flavor let on, but it wasn’t as drinkable as I had hoped. I have to mention that this could easily be mistaken for an Imperial Stout. Give it a try but beware some harsh yet exciting flavors.

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Photo of maddamish
3.36/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - This beer looks like chocolate malt when poured. This beer retains it head and is slow to disappear. Another thing I observed is that the sheer thickness of this beer. You cannot see through this thing even when held up to the light. This beer is very pleasing to the eye.

Smell: Strong toffee/Chocolate notes here. This beer does have a strong alcohol smell almost overwhelming.

Taste: Very bitter. So much so I was taken aback on my first sip. . You can really taste the alcohol in this beer and it kind of overwhelms the palate. Sweet chocolate malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium thickness that goes down a bit hard.

Drinkabilty: I could drink one of these before having to move to something else.

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

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter:

Black as pitch with a creamy brown head that took a bit of work to muster up…no matter. Diving in I find a burnt-coffee-bitter chocolate quality, with each trying to gain an upper hand rather than providing a seamless well integrated whole. Slightly acidic in nose and taste, and pretty damn drinkable…kind of grows on ya after a while. Long roasted finish, and definitely best enjoyed at cellar temperature.


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

One of my favorite beers inside and out. I was planning on drinking this beer when it came out just being a Hunter S. fan. I’m glad to see they followed through with a beer he may of liked. (even though he was into hard stuff) Very thick lace on the pour. Makes me wish I had it on tap. It has a dark cola look to it. I don’t know if I would call it black. Great coffee and tar taste to it. A small note of hops and just a little punch of alcohol. Nose was great as well. Very crisp earthy smell to it. This is one of my favorite styles and they follow through nicely. Very good beer.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.67/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Deep, deep brown color-on the border of being black. No real noticeable head. Good,mellow and smooth roasted aroma. Big bold porter flavor. Nice blend of chocolate and roasted flavors. Silky smooth flavor-really has some great chocolate notes to it. Touch of raisony and caramel like flavors. Great body-again with the smoothness. An exceptionally enjoyable beer. A great tribute to Hunter S. Thompson and in my opinion the best Flying Dog beer going.

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Photo of UnionMade
3.95/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

First pour off a brand new keg. Yeah!
Opaque black. Thick, sand colored head, which drops out rapidly. Holds a thin collar throughout. Smells of coffee and cocoa beans, with a noticable american hop presence. Creamy and lightly fruity. Plum and apple. Some alcohol is present. Very smooth sipping. Big body, with a velvety mouthfeel. Chocolate and coffee everywhere. Espresso. Caramel sweetness, slight plum fruitiness. Fluffy carbonation. Piney, woody hops in the finish, dryish, with a soft kiss of alcohol. If i had to summarize the flavor in a sentence, it's like a fancy chocolate chip cookie, the kind with the big chunks of baker's chocolate and crushed walnuts. Very nice. Not as complex, at least on tap, as it should be for 9%, but still a good beer. I had a four pack in the fridge for comparison, but my girlfriend drank them all. Ha.

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

courtesy of bditty187.

Pours black with dark brown around the edges, and has a thin dark tan head that fades slowly and leaves a small ring that never fades away. There's quite a bit of lacing.

Smells; roasted coffee, dark chocolate, plum/raisin and a litlle hops. This smells great.

Taste; the hops hit first, followed by the roasted coffee and chocolate, finishing with a dark fruit sweetness. It has a creamy, medium to full body, and I couldn't taste or smell any alcohol. I knew this was going to be pretty good, but I was still impressed. More please!

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Photo of brentk56
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a dark, dark brown color with a tan head that persists for quite a while and leaves plenty of lacing

Smell: The nose is citrus/piney with undertones of dark fruit and cocoa

Taste: Starts out a bit sweet, with rum soaked dark fruit; then the bitter hops kick in and provide a strong challenge; chocolate and coffee appear after the swallow; the finish is roasted and bitter with a good bit of alcohol

Mouthfeel: Thick and luscious; moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Nice for a nightcap; lots of flavor, but the opposite of Lay's (you can only drink one)

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

12oz brown bottle, no freshness date, served in a Stein.

Pours like 20w-50. Thick and pitch black. You can’t see any light through it…I dare you to try. Carbonation seemed very low; the head took a while to develop and it was only a finger thick. It dissipated after a few sips, but a golden halo of foam sat around the edge of the glass throughout the entire drinking session. An imposing color, but that's about it.

Smell isn't bad, strong on the dark malts. A roasted molasses and/or coffee bitterness with very little sweetness to be found.

Very heavy on the dark malts. There is also a definite medicinal flavor involved. So it is slightly reminiscent of burnt coffee flavored throat syrup, but definitely better. It leaves a yeast aftertaste that lasts forever. Mouthfeel is like motor oil…thick. Just a touch of fizz.

Dark, strong, and says “Hey, you SOB, you’re not just going to ignore me while you drink. I’m gonna take over your mouth!” And it does. I liked it.

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

Gonzo Imperial Porter swirls black with shades of brown on the crest and edges as the head forms. Short cream brown head that dissapates quickly. More porter than imperial, the chocolate and coffee taste is well balanced, the dry taste begs for another drink. Not a thirst quencher, but a beer to savor. Goes well with poetry and dark chocolate.

Go out of your way for it--worth the drive to the other side of town if your local store doesn't have it. Cheers.

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

Purchased at New Beer Distributors on Chrystie Street.
Pours opaque with a deep tan head.
The only warning you really get about the alcohol content of this brew is in the odor...you can detect some there but most of your attention is absorbed by the chocolate and coffee notes.
The taste is even more chocolate and coffee. It starts you off with a bite of hop bitterness... a little of such bitterness can be found in the rubble of the mouthfeel but for the most part this is a smooth concoction.
Not quite what I was expecting as a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson, but an honorable tribute it is.
And a tasty brew.

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3.62/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Way huge monster head erupts atop this one after about 1/4 filled and all the rest is head. Blackish brown body with a bronze head that leaves lots of lace as it fades.

Nose is so strong and penetrating that it almost has a mouthfeel all its own. Very smokey rich maltiness is the them here.

The zesty rich malt enters the mouth with developing bitter sweet dark chocolate notes. The palate finishes of with a burnt roastiness. Almost develops some soured notes as it warms a bit. Alchol hides well. Good beer but definetly "Imperial".

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Photo of becktone
2.76/5  rDev -31.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Normally I really like porters, but this porter is not really my style. It looks amazing as it sits in my glass. This porter is pitch black, however it has close to no head. It almost looks like molassas as it comes out of the bottle but is not nearly as viscous as molasses.

This beer has a very unique smell and taste. I can't really describe what this smells like, but I'll tell you that my first thoughts were milk (a sweet smelling milk), and chocolate. I don't know if this means anything but those were the first thoughts that entered my brain. The beer has a very unique taste unlike anything I have ever tasted before.This beer is not bitter and I really can't taste the hops in this beer. All I can really say is this beer is really sweet. I wasn't a fan of the taste, it tastes too much like sugar or candy. When at first this entered my mouth I tasted slight bitterness but it was then followed by an overwhelming sweet flavor. Really not my style, but if you like that sort of thing this beer might be for you.

Feels about average in the mouth, not much to say about that. In my case it would probably go down easier if it wasn't so sweet tasting. I don't think that I'll be buying this beer again, I am just not into the candy like taste it leaves in my mouth.

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Photo of asabreed
4.37/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a few 4-packs of these beauties while I had the opportunity.

Appearance: Dark dark dark, of course, with a head that's surprisingly larger than I thought it would be. Lacing sticking nastily to the glass. Head dissipates fairly quickly, but you knew that was going to be the case with its thickness.

Smell: Lots of good stuff going on, burned and charred malt, chocolate, coffee / mocha, dark berries, and some hop oil at the end.

Taste: I heard this was totally like a malted milkshake, and that's not too far from what this tastes like. First a hint of hop bitterness, then it moves into a sharp malty / milky sweetness, then finishes slightly dry with some hop bitterness. Very original and very balanced. They took some chances, and they paid off. Seems like a perfect beer in Hunter's honor.

Mouthfeel: Velvety, medium to thick body, slightly oily slickness comes in also. Less than moderate carbonation, but it works very well here.

Drinkability: This sucker's like eating a piece of pie, in the delight it brings, the richness, and how long it takes to drink. The alcohol isn't felt too much in taste or aroma, so this could get the best of some people probably. Still, for its limited availablity, these are now going to have to be winter treats. And I wonder what the cellar would do -- perhaps I'll store some away.

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Photo of bashiba
3.56/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a very nice Black with dark ruby highlights and about an inch of creamy head.

Smell was dominated by a strong hop arouma with a very noticeable alcohol smell as well.

Taste was very much dominated by the hot alcohol flavor mixing in with a burnt hoppy finish.

Mouthfeel was super dry, like a good red wine, but alwful thin for this type of beer.

Drinkability is fine, and this goes down pretty easy for a beer of this strength.

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

No useful information on the label other than "Vintage '05".

Appearance: Pours inky black and viscous. A perfect two-finger tan head develops.

Smell: My nose is greeted by a wonderful hop aroma. Very citrusy and slightly musty. Cool. As the beer warms it starts to pick up some roastiness (a touch of cocoa) but the hops seem prevalent to me.

Taste: Wow! What a wonderful balance of citrus hops, chocolate, creamed coffee, oranges, and a pleasantly bitter hop finish. Dang! I'm just digging all the twists and turns this beer takes. Is it hoppy? Yes. Is it roasty? Yes. Very "Storm King Stout"-like in terms of the flavor profile. Very stout like in terms of it's over all flavor, appearance, etc. Very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and creamy. Leaves a dry and pleasantly bittering hop finish clinging to the palate.

Drinkability: What a great balance of hops and roast. This is a great beer. I could see this being a regular occurence for me. With Edmund Fitzgerald and a ton of stouts right in my backyard, it takes a lot for me to be impressed. This one has done the trick for me. I've always been a little skeptical of Flying Dog products but I'll be back for more of this gem.

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Photo of Higravity
4.6/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A- Dark Brown Black with large fluff of a tan head that leaves a great chunky lacing behind.

S- Roasty, slight alcohol with caramel malt and beautiful noble hop bouquet.

T- A slight bit salty that meddles well with the roasty sweetness of the malt, the hops spread before and after as a floral garden that tickles of spice.

M- Dense body, very full nice lasting presence in the mouth after a swallow.

Overall this is a very drinkable beer that goes down easy.

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a main era - -the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle - -that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting - -on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - -the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

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Photo of PatYoda
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Pours near black with hardly any head after a minute. Upon first smelling it, the hops stick out. Very citrusy and piney! This is unexpected. There is definitely quite a bit of roasted malt and coffee as well. Also chocolate. Taste is creamy chocolaty malt at first, then the hops kick in. Unlike what other reviewers experienced, I thought the hops were restrained very well, despite being unusual for the style. The hops in the taste come in the form mainly of piney, bittering hops, which linger in the finish, along with some coffee taste for a couple seconds. If anything, my only complaint about the taste is that the finish is a little weak. This probably isn't helped by the relatively thin mouthfeel either. The alcohol never makes an appearance though and drinkability is off the charts. I can't remember a beer so high in alcohol that is so easily quaffed.

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

I normally do not drink Flying Dog products and received two bottles of this as a gift from a friend.

This is definately a top-notch bier. Although I find it leans towards an Imperial Stout more than a Porter (I would call this a close clone of Victory Storm King Stout), that does not distract from its quality.

Dark thick and viscous. Aroma is sweet and sugary. Strong caramel, chicory, coffe tones throught the draught. Only a slight burnt 'porter' flavor is present.

Extremely drinkable and delicious. I have to wonder if Hunter S would like this?!?!? It seems to smooth for him!

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.83/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Ralph Steadman's bottle rockets and is a must have for any collector but will the beer inside prove to be more than just a gimcrack and worthy of the $9.50 a four-pack price? Let's see.

As it pours into a poboy's pint glass, my nose is instantly pounded by roasted, no burnt, chocolate malts. There's not much else going on so I let it warm a bit.

There it is: a hint of berries and some tobacco leaf. Still, the overwhelming portion of the aroma, upwards of 95%, is sweet, burnt chocolate malts.

The taste largely matches the nose only chocolatier but it is quickly overshadowed by the powerful mouthfeel.

This Gonzo rips your mouth wide open like an old Batman Comic fraught with: "POWS," "BLAMS," and "SLAPS."

It's so dry that it begins to resemble a Super Tuscan or some other big red in terms of mouthfeel. I'm not sure whether I love it or hate it but I'm sure impressed by it.

Very drinkable, dangerously drinkable even, every sip leaves my mouth thirsty for more. I'm drinking this way too fast.

All in all this beer lives up to the hype and the price, although not by much. Personally, I would like a little more for my cheddar.

Note: I'm currently drinking a bottle purchased on 9-26-05.
I thought that this was a one-off in honor of HST's death so I horded a ton of the first release. Today is 3-6-08. This beer is better than I remembered it. Lots of smoke, plenty of fruit, still well balanced, carbonated, with a great body. Overall, lots more smoke than I remember... Very nice. Oddly...this beer wasn't cellared. It has been in my fridge for over two and a half years...

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

Inky black with no highlights, the dark brown head left a fair bit of lace on the glass off the pour and remained throughout. Fresh, grassy hops hit your nose first, with malt and coffee notes following behind along with faint alcohol. Sweet and roasted malt kick off the flavour profile, but the grassy hop character appears soon behind and becomes a major part of the flavour through to the finish. Bitterness is moderate and builds with some citrusy hops into the finish. Chocolate and coffee makes themselves known as well. Hop flavours linger for quite some time, with a tiny bit of alcohol warmth. Full, round body with low, well integrated carbonation that gives it a slightly creamy texture. Slightly dry, roasted finish, but the hops seem to keep this in check. This is a very interesting combination of flavours, certainly not expected. Highly recommended.

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Photo of kingjames1
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours thick and black, as a porter should (I think I saw a couple of chunks splash in during the pour). Wonderful, alluring tan head, dense and bubbly. Consistent lacing throughout...

Smells of dark chocolate, coffee, and of course, roasted malt-goodness.

Taste includes a pronounced hops-bitterness, bringing some orange and grapefruit citrus, as well as chocolate and roasted coffee beans.

Mouthfeel is great. Yes, its a bit syrupy, but that is the nature of baltic portors, isn't it? But the carbonation is great, even crisp.

Overall, a solid and bold beer. This is, in my opinion, Flying Dog's most impressive offering (Though I've not yet had their Wild Dog, nor thier dogtoberfest for that matter). Very enjoyable. However, being a heavier-than-average baltic portor, one is enough, thank you very much.

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

Deep dark black licorice liquid with a nice tidy tan head that stays around a bit and fades off with a bit of lacing along the way.

Smell is a bit fruity with some roasted malt character. Light caramely sweetness and something else that I jsut can't pick out. No trace of alcohol.

Taste is a lightly sweet palate giving off fruity hints along with some wood like characteristics. A little coffee and chocolate with some caramel can also be found. Nice bitter nees on the finish.

A damn fine brew and definately one of my 2 favorite from Flying Dog. The sweetness is a bit pronounced but there is absolutely no trace of alcohol anywhere, until you finish the bottle.

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

Appearance: A deep, nearly opaque brown -- I wasn't able to get any light to shine through. Nice dense coffee brown head with pretty good retention. Surprisingly active carbonation.

Smell: Very nice; among the best porters I've sampled. Starts with a bracing jolt of hops, followed by dark, ripe fruit, chocolate and a cakey sweetness. A touch of sulphur. Very complex and balanced.

Taste/Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is dense, but not oppressive -- it's surprisingly crisp. The taste is, in a word, terrific. Chicory bitterness, hoppy spice, but balanced nicely against a chocolate and fig sweetness. A hint of smoke as well. Works for me.

Drinkability: Well... good. It tastes great, but it's almost 10% ABV and not cheap, so that limits what you can do. Still, this is one seriously well-crafted brew -- the man would be proud. Get it while you can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery
4.02 out of 5 based on 2,880 ratings.
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