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Classic Beer of the Month April 2013: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

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Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, 9.2%

'To be drunk wherever fear and loathing strike', Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter is a tribute beer to the late writer Hunter S Thompson.

Flying Dog Gonzo PorterThompson, to put it mildly, was always a rebel – in trouble as a teenager, later thrown out of the US Air Force. Even when he took up journalism, he refused to bow to convention, instead developing a new style of writing that was termed 'gonzo'.

This was a method of storytelling that got its message across by blurring reality and fiction and thrusting the writer himself into the heart of the action.

Thompson's best-known work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, exemplifies the gonzo style as he manically tells of a hedonistic, drug-crazed weekend in the world's gambling capital in the early 1970s.

The Maryland brewery's tribute to him is more than a token. The writer was a good friend and beer buddy of the brewery's founder, George Stranahan. Fittingly, too, Thompson's long-time collaborator, the English illustrator Ralph Steadman, has designed the label, as he does for other Flying Dog beers.

No Pussy Cat

The beer itself, as you would expect, is no pussy cat. This is a big, beefy imperial porter, rattling the brain at 9.2% ABV and swamping the palate with flavour.

Liquorice, caramel and chocolate combine in the taste as dark malts – crystal, black and chocolate – make a favourable first impression.

Then come the hops, Warrior, Northern Brewer and, most emphatically, Cascade – not just enough to balance the malt but, as the brewers themselves put it, 'a shitload', leading to a resoundingly bitter finish, especially once the dark grain notes join the party.

In all, the beer delivers 85 bitterness units and, while such a figure can be misleading, it certainly points to the fact that this is a beer that will make you sit up.

Perhaps I should but I never tire of using the phrase coined by Thompson that 'good people drink good beer'. It graces the label of this beer and there seems so much truth in it.

It seems to me that bad people will just not have the good taste to appreciate a bold, outspoken beer like Gonzo Imperial Porter, so wherever it's drunk – even when fear and loathing strike – I reckon you'll be in fine company.

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