Ralph Steadman chose not to emblazon this beer with a canine, perhaps because this beer doesn’t have any reference to a dog in its name. Gonzo is a beer dedicated to Hunter S. Thompson, the eccentric American writer, and named after the style of journalism which he became the figurehead of. The bottle art is therefore eccentric and American: A skull in a stetson sits atop the long neck of a hairy male body, which is holding a cigarette in one of those Cruella de Ville-type cancer-stick caddy. The desert behind is desolate, apart from a cactus and a pillar, on top of which the red Gonzo fist sits.
Steadman and the founder of Flying Dog, George Stranahan, were friends and colleagues of Thompson. Gonzo is a tribute to the man who reminded the world of an ancient Celtic axiom: “Good people drink good beer”.
Gonzo is a supercharged version of Flying Dog’s Road Dog Porter, a beer which Thompson wrote a toast for, and a very short essay called “Ale According to Hunter”:
Ale has long been the drink of thugs, convicts, rowdies, rakes and other depraved outlaws who thrive on the quick bursts of night-energy that ale brings. In the 17th century England gangs of ale-crazed fops would often fight to the death in all-night brawls on public greenswards, which terrified the citizenry and left many of the infamous “youngblood horseman” chopped up with grievous sword and dagger wounds… These were the Wild Boys of Olde English story and song, rich sots on horseback who amused themselves in London by riding out at night, ripped to the tits on strong ale, and “popped old ladies into empty booze-barrels and rolled them down steep, cobblestone hills with crazy screams and shouts.” If you must roll old ladies down hills and you don’t want to pay the bills, try to be nice and clean off their lice with a powerful Road Dog Ale.
What better way to commemorate a friend than to take what he praised and crank it up a notch? Take a porter, and turn it Imperial. True Gonzo brewing.
Visual: Black with a caramel head which sticks around. After a good few minutes, the glass is laced with sticky-looking foam. Can’t see any carbonation because of the opaque colour.
Nose: Aroma of very rich roasted malts, with a dark chocolate and raisin kick. Very faint whiff of alcohol, which is tempered by a sweet smell of caramelised sugar.
Taste: Tremendously malty, with a pleasant bitterness that brings an ever so slight coffee flavour. Pine and burnt, sugary sweetness come through with a boozy kick.
Mouthfeel: Very little carbonation really, with tiny bubbles hitting the back of your throat on the way down. It is an astringent liquid that veers on the lighter side of medium bodied, but it is a little sticky.
A great beer all in all. Easy to drink, though at 9.2% you won’t want to quaff too many. Packed with roasty flavours, with a little hint of smoke, a big, bitter bite and a sweet, syrupy kick of booze at the end, this is a great beer with a lot going for it.
- Double Gonzo: Hunter S. Thompson interviews Keith Richards (dangerousminds.net)
- American Month! (morebeerforme.wordpress.com)
- BrewDog (with Lost Abbey) Lost Dog (morebeerforme.wordpress.com)