Imperial Spruce India Pilsner | Short's Brewing Company

very good
158 Reviews
Imperial Spruce India PilsnerImperial Spruce India Pilsner

Brewed by:
Short's Brewing Company
Michigan, United States

Style: American Double / Imperial Pilsner

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.15%

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.

Added by hoppymeal on 06-30-2007

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Reviews: 158 | Ratings: 402
Photo of kogutmic
4.9/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The smell is wonderful, and is backed up with the taste. Love the bitterness. I love gin, and i love beer, and this is a sort of marriage of the two.
Me likey

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Photo of claminat420
4.87/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

got at short's a couple days ago.

A- poured a transparent golden color. frothy white head that left a nice bit of lacing.

S- just some crazy pine needles.

T- the pine needles are hit more with the hops i can tell. i drank a 12oz bottle yesterday and have to say that. really delicious.

M- seems more lighter bodied coming in the growler. good carbonation.

Drinkability- shoulda got another growler!

Overall- the growler tastes alil different than the bottle. like i said it seems like the hops are coming through more there. really tasty!

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Photo of BMoney575
4.84/5  rDev +21.9%
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.

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Photo of GordonQuid
4.84/5  rDev +21.9%
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!

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Photo of rallison
4.79/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #150 shared amongst some good friends at a little Homebrew fest pre-party. Huge thanks to northernbrews for hooking me up with a couple bottles of this gem.

This is one of the most unique and well pulled off beers I have had in a long time. The double pilsner base beer is nicely soft and creamy (carbonation is low to medium and works perfectly) with an almost toffee-like sweetness. The spruce tips are absolutely amazing - the aroma here is all spruce. Think of the most piny beer you've smelled...but take it that next step to where the smell really is from a tree. The growth was obviously early growth, with a great freshness. The taste? Like sucking on a tasty, tasty Christmas tree. As strong as the spruce flavor is, you can still taste that nice pilsner behind it.

Incredible. I really hope some other brewers get on the spruce tip bandwagon...perfect response to the hop shortage! And with that, I bump this one up to the 10 reviews it needs to be in the top 10 for style, and deservedly so!

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Photo of sfoley333
4.79/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Been sitting on this bottle since Feb. when I did a trade for several shorts beer with Hoppymeal(Thanks Derek), and wanted to open it ever since. Bottle number #202 of 886 poured into Pizza Port 6th Ann Real ale glass. Pours a golden hazy color with a very slight orange tint and a thick white foamy head, good lacing on the head. Smell is like the name, I got a huge whiff of pine mixed with some citrus and a little spice in the background inter mixing with a sweet malt profile. Taste is pine sap and lots of it but still layers of citrus and bitter sweet malt profile. Mouthfeel is light body with low carbonation. I wish I had another bottle of this beer, I love hops but now I love Spruce and hops together. This beer should be made year round.

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Photo of Roman5150
4.78/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

bottle into tulip

appearance: clear golden yellow, 1 finger white head, some lacing

smell: pine, pale malts, earthy hops,

taste: Lots of pine, you can literally taste the spruce trees they put in a it. It gives it a sharp, crisp earthy bitterness (more like an IPA) that lingers well into the aftertaste, quite a lot for a "lager". You hardly taste the alcohol, completely masked by the piney bitterness. Malt backbone is a little sweet but not very forward, it's hard to distinguish. You can very subtly taste the typical bready notes found in a pilsner, buried underneath the more dominate flavors. Despite the huge amounts of pine, is surprisingly balanced and drinkable. Very satisfying.

mouthfeel: medium to high carbonation, medium bodied

overall: Another cross-breed of a beer, Shorts never disappoints with their experimental creations. Reminds me a lot like Beard of Zeus from two months ago, but with a lot more pine presence and it's a little thicker/more syrupy. Glad I got my hands on a sixer, will be going to pick up some more while it's still available. This may be one of my all time favorite's from Shorts, right up there with Huma Lupa.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.76/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This pours a clear white gold with nice foam.

It has a light, grassy aroma which turns into a crisp lemony grass flavored hop profile with pleasant bittering and a delightful finish. This is spruce tips? Fantastic!

Bright, clean, crisp and delicious. A definite stand-out.

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Photo of ShogoKawada
4.74/5  rDev +19.4%
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.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.67/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Shared very graciously by gford217 at the Brick Store Pub awhile ago. I'm fascinated by these Short's beers, and especially by this one. I happen to be a fan of that spruce flavor, and I strongly suspect that more than a few batches of spruce beers were made by the early settlers. If you like gin, you'll probably love this beer as its got that same strong piney aroma and taste- but sharper and sappier, that gin gets from juniper. Pours a hazy golden with a thin wispy head. Not too bad for a beer this strong that's been around for a while. Smells strongly of spruce and juniper, like a northern forest on a warm day, and with undercurrents of candi sugar. The taste once again spotlights the spruce with the sappy snap of pine ringing out against just enough malt to provide a nice framework for the spruce. You may or may not care for this, but for what it is I think it is perfect and very nicely balanced- this is clearly still beer, and not a spruce eau de vie. Smooth and piney, but not sticky or sappy or too bitter in the mouthfeel. Extremely interesting beer and well crafted from this most exciting brewery. Thanks a bunch, Grant. I'd been wanting to try this for a long time.

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Photo of chromemittenman
4.65/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What can I say but WOW. I loved this beer last year but thought, maybe it was just because of the circumstances of when I tried it. Well, this year i bought a six pack and needless to say had to go back and buy 12 more. This has to be one of the most unique beers I've ever had. The smell of spruce works SO well with the IPA and the flavor is just exceptional. This is a beer I hope to stockpile a bit more of, as last year it really lasted a long time and still tasted good.

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Photo of SacoDeToro
4.64/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had a ton of this at GABF.

The beer pours a hazy straw yellow with a dense white head.

The aroma of the beer... holy shitballs! It's like I've got my head burried in a Christmas tree. Mad spruce I tell ya. There is some faint light malt in the background, but not much else.

The flavor of the beer was full of intense spruce resin flavors. The rich pilsner malt backbone helped to support the intensity of the spruce. The hops were assertive and had floral and earthy qualities.

The carbonation was dialed in pretty well for the style. I prefer not to have my imperial pilsners as carbonataed as my German pilsners. The mouthfeel was medium/light and had a touch of creaminess. The alcohol was pretty hidden.

I gave this beer a 5 in flavor and aroma because it was so unique and so outrageously intense. I have no doubt this is what Joe was shooting for when he brewed it. According to him, he used about 16lbs of fresh sappy spruce needles in a 7bbl batch.

This is one of the most unique beers I've ever had - period. IMO, Joe Short is pushing the envelope of extreme/experimental beers in a very meaningful direction.

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Photo of alexgash
4.63/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle #99 of 886.

Pours a faintly cloudy golden hay with a cumulus pillow of thick, rocky, light beige head. Exceptional lacing. Doughy biscuit and buttered roll malts hide behind a big wall of grapefruit and marmalade hops and an incredible fresh spruce needle/sap aroma. Wow. The name does not lie: this is a spruced beer! Conventional, herbal hop bitterness hits up front. Caramel and powdered sugar pastry malt mix with rummy fruits mid-palate. There's considerable sweetness coming from these malt flavors, but the citrus, minty, and mostly evergreen hop bitterness and the huge spruce needle/sap more than balance it out. The finish is so herbally bitter and spruce-y that I can hardly believe it. Phenomenal. Full-bodied with a syrupy feel (although the finish is drier). So intensely spruce-y and hoppy that it would be hard for even the most hophead of BAs to drink more than one bottle. But what an experience!

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Photo of weizenbob
4.62/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had this at the brewpub last month and was really impressed. I was excited to find this bottle at Jimmie Garant's in Alpena, MI. This was bottled on 8/20/11. It was poured into a pilsner glass...duh.

A moderate pour yields three big fingers of fluffy, bone-white head. Retention is fantastic. The brew is pale golden and hazy. Awesome amounts of lacing lines the entire glass.

Unfortunately this bottle is heavily skunked. I suspect mishandling at Jimmie Garant's as this was a loose single sitting near a window. I should have known better, but I've been craving this brew since I first tasted it. Skunking notwithstanding (my rating will ignore it), this beer smells quite literally of spruce. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree! A tart lemony twinge manifests in the middle of the aroma. Supposed high-alpha hops are totally tamed by pine. I have smelled no other beer; nay, no other beverage like it. Your enjoyment of the aroma will wholly depend on your feelings toward coniferous trees and whether or not it weirds you out to smell it in drink form. I happen to like it...a lot

Descriptions of pilsner flavors often bring forth adjectives like "delicate" and "subtle". Make no mistake; there is nothing subtle about this beer. C'mon; this is Short's we're talking about. The flavor comes on blunt and strong with lots of oily spruce. Balancing out the spruce is a brutal dose of bitter hop oil. That's it: two alpha flavors slugging it out. Luckily the two flavors are distinct, complimentary, and manifest separately of each other.

It's a pleasant experience in the mouth as well. Riding the line between light and medium bodied, the feel compliments the flavors well and adds up to a beer that is thirst quenching and refreshing. Carbonation is pleasantly fizzy. It doesn't feel very pilsner-like, but it works on its own terms.

Short's does some weird things and most of their brews are hit or miss affairs. As far as Spruce Pilsner is concerned, this is a big hit. It is my new favorite Short's seasonal as well as my new favorite Pilsner. Absolutely awesome!

[As an odd side note, I believe that I'm having an allergic reaction to the spruce in this beer. I work in the landscape industry and throughout the years I've noticed that any time I come into contact with spruce trees I develop a rash. Both times that I have sampled this beer have been followed by an evening of itchy skin and difficult breathing. I don't care; this beer is worth the reaction.]


The Two-Schlitz Scale: (see my profile for an explanation)
For all their oddities, Jimmie Garant's had no Schlitz on hand. Regardless, I enthusiastically give two Schlitz for this amazing brew.

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Photo of gford217
4.6/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Randy for passing along this rarity, bottle #466, shared with the usual suspects at the Brick Store.

Pours a light clear golden amber with a creamy off-white head that recedes to a collar pretty quickly and leaves very little lacing.

The aroma is seriously fragrant and jumped out of the bottle. It's dominated by the spruce and pine with some grassy notes and only a hint of the underlying malts. Plenty of similarities to this aroma and that of gin.

The taste is even more intense. I have to imagine this is the closest I'll get to drinking straight spruce sap. There is some juniper and grassy hops as well, but the hops have faded to the point that the spruce steals the show completely. I'd mentioned the underlying malts but I'm not sure I could really taste them.

Them mouthfeel is definitely on the fuller side of things and pretty thick and sticky on the palate.

Well, being a lover of pine hops, I was really looking forward to this one and it absolutely delivered the goods. It's certainly intense and probably a little over-the-top, but since it's intensity is focused on something I enjoy so much, I've got no other option but to love this beer. Thank you Short's!

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Photo of techfed87
4.59/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Head is slightly lower in the glass than I would expect from a beer like it. Color is a light amber, fairly normal for a pilsner-like beer. Smell on the other hand smells full of pine needle resin. Having had it before a while back, I'm really looking forward to the refresh.

First sip is very rewarding. All of the pine resin flavor that came off on the nose comes off as an excellent herbal addition to the overall flavor of the beer, carrying what would usually be an alright pilsner to new levels of awesome. Mouthfeel is great, as is the aftertaste, which diminishes nicely over time.

This really is one of my favorite Short's seasonals. You really should try this if you find it in stock. It really is an experience to be had.

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Photo of rapayn01
4.56/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bought a 6 pack of this at the brewpub after having the 9.3% version on tap. It is simply terrific, with the spruce and hops combining to make this taste like an IPA.

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Photo of marcobrau
4.55/5  rDev +14.6%
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.

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Photo of dfillius
4.52/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Aggressive pour yields 2/3 finger of white head with good retention. Chill hazy gold color. Very pretty, with haze as the only negative.
S: Very aromatic, I can smell from feet away. Citrus hops - grapefruit, orange, lemon dominate. Some tropical fruit. Man candy, sublime.
T: Tastes very piney, a bit of rosemary flavor even. Interesting! I'd like a bit more of the citrus to come through. Flavorful, but odd, Maybe thyme and oregano. Tasty, like the flavor in chicken stock almost. A bitter hoppy one.
M: Very bitter. Clean, very little warmth.
D: I like, but I wouldn't buy it all the time. I'd definitely order a second pint. It's unique. It grew on me.

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Photo of DCDevilDancer
4.52/5  rDev +13.9%
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!

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Photo of InsidiousRex
4.52/5  rDev +13.9%
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.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of simplejj81
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%

Very strong pine taste, which i like. Yards brewery makes a spruce amber which is also good but tame in comparison. A good beer to share if your friends have an open mind and a broad palate.

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Photo of xnicknj
4.49/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

12oz bottle poured into tulip - thanks to erikkoppin

Pours a clear golden color with a thin crop of white head resting on top. Dissolves almost completely, leaving a collar of haze and a few spots of lacing.

Tons of bitter pine hops and spruce in the nose. This reminds me of Christmas tree shopping with my parents when I was a kid, very earthy, herbal and fragrant. Biscuit and grain malt with some soft sweetness. Faint warmth on the back end.

Bitter and piny right up front with tons of resiny bitterness. Sticky and juicy with herbal spruce tones that continue to remind me of Christmas trees and camping. Mild backbone with grain, lemongrass and bread. Underlying sweetness with more spruce and pine tones towards the finish with a spike of warmth and bitterness.

Medium body, well carbonated, dry and lingering on the tongue. I've been a Short's fan for a while, but this might be one of my all-time favorites. This completely demolishes nearly every other beer in the genre, while completely nailing the described intention from the label - I want more of this immediately.

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.49/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is probably my favorite offering from Shorts, so it is about time I wrote a review. My two cents, I wish this was the summer seasonal and available the whole summer.

Appearance - Poured into a pint glass, the beer was a handsome golden color with a modest white head. The bubbles were fairly large and clung to the sides of the glass.

Smell - The spruce really shines in the aroma and I love it. It comes through like a really good gin.

Taste - The sour of the spruce jumps through in the initial taste. It really is a little like beer with gin notes. Gentle hop action occur with the background, melting nicely with the sourness of the spruce. The finish is clean and dry.

Mouthfeel - Recalling that this is an imperial pilsner, it runs a little thicker. The sour notes linger nicely in the back of the throat.

Overall - I usually grab a couple of sixers of this one to get me through the year. I would highly recommend cracking open a bottle with some Indian food.

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Imperial Spruce India Pilsner from Short's Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 402 ratings.
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