The porter revival began with the Americans, and there’s no shortage of fine examples on that side of the pond. Craig Heap reviews Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog.
Gonzo Imperial Porter
It has a picture of a guy with a skull for a face on the bottle, which gives you an idea of what you’re in for here. Said guy, with cigarette holder and Nevada desert background, is Steadman’s homage to the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, for whom the beer is dedicated with its gonzo epithet. Thompson was the sort of guy who drank Wild Turkey and chewed human adrenal glands as a morning pick-up, so you would hope the drink dedicated to him would pack a kick like a suitcase full of drugs.
Gonzo pours black into the bottle. No surprise there, being a porter, but there’s a gravity to it, which pulls in the light and makes it that little bit darker. Already, the oil thick body is evident as it oozes into the glass. The frothy, tarry head levels out into a smooth, creamy consistency which goes the distance.
It doesn’t wait around for you to sniff the glass – the aroma assaults your nostrils more or less as soon as the bottle cap is popped, and then every time you go in for another mouthful. There’s a pronounced, oily hop aroma, with bags of strong, sweet liquorice, a hint of nuttiness and a warming, boozy hit.
In line with the strength, the body is dense and alcoholic, but is smooth and blends its flavour profile very well. Gonzo delivers a sweet, liquorice taste, balanced by resinous hops and then the looming booziness stomps down in the finish. The sticky brew finds its way to your lips and rewards you when least expect it with a burst of sweet and sour flavour anytime you should run your tongue across your lips or smack them together in appreciation.
This is without a doubt a fine beverage, and one the good Doctor would be proud of. It’s a bold example of an American porter – an absolute heavyweight battlecruiser of a beer, full of enough punch and flavour to take your face off and leave it a grinning skull.