12 May 2006

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

I've got a cool wine tasting to attend Saturday, and then the following Saturday should produce a rather unique wine writeup... And the week after that I've got a big wine-based dinner party planned. But for tonight, it's yet another big beer.

I've always enjoyed the beers of Flying Dog Brewery, and though it's a shallow reason, I've always loved the labels, which are drawn by the great Ralph Steadman. In addition to doing some wine labels for Bonny Doon, he's also written and illustrated several books that take you on a bizarre and irreverent tour through wine country and whiskey country. His writeup on "Brit", a short-lived English version of Port, is hilarious.

Steadman was a longtime friend and collaborator with the immortal Hunter S. Thompson. To commemorate Thompson's death last year, Flying Dog has released the special edition Gonzo Imperial Porter, which features a skeleton dressed as Thompson on the label, as well as an amusing quote from the good Doctor.

This is a hell of a beer. It clocks in at a whopping 9.5% alcohol, surpassing some wines. It's got a slightly sour aroma at first, but don't let that fool you. It's a surprisingly smooth brew, almost solid black with a very light head on it and almost no carbonation. The flavor is dominated by chocolate and coffee, with just enough sweetness to keep it from being too bitter. Still, this is a powerful wine, thick and almost sticky. It actually clings to the side of a glass like brandy (and, in fact, it was consumed out of large red wine glasses). Perfect for relaxing and sipping. A buddy and I consumed one each while watching a movie and could barely move afterwards.

A box of four 12 oz. bottles runs $10, which is a bargain for such a fine beer. A single bottle is plenty to savor over the course of an hour or two following dinner--drinking this with a meal would be like trying to drink espresso syrup. I can't imagine drinking two in a row. You know that lovely golden crema that forms on the top of a properly made espresso? That's exactly what the head on this beer looks like.

I'll close with a classic Thompson quote, the opening lines of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"

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