Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gonzo Imperial Porter: Honoring Doctor Thompson One Bottle at a Time

(Warning: This is a long post and it contains some editorial content. If you're only here for the beer, skip down and read the last three paragraphs, I'll understand.)

I’ll be the first to admit; I know damned little about Hunter S. Thompson. I think I read his Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas while I was in the army, maybe before. I know that I read his Hell’s Angels while I was in the army because I remember that my section sergeant asked to borrow it and my paperback copy is hammered from traveling inside an alice pack during field duty. I’ll also admit that for a time, Doc Thompson was an appealing figure to me. I aspired to be a writer at one point and I believed, mistakenly, that the road to literary success traversed a vast wasteland of drug and alcohol abuse. I bought into the notion that the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Thompson were great writers because of their addictions. Now, I know they were great writers in spite of their addictions and because of the times in which they lived. Thankfully, I managed to survive my little sabbatical from sanity having sampled nothing stronger than the odd guzzle of Everclear and MD20/20. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn out to be much of a writer either, but it isn’t because I wasn’t drunk enough or high enough; I’m just lazy.

I still have a warm spot in my heart for Thompson and I must confess to being mildly uncomfortable with the close connection between Flying Dog Brewing and Hunter Thompson – mostly because, like Elvis, Hunter Thompson is living somewhere else these days.

How is Flying Dog connected to Thompson, you might ask? Thompson, the alcohol and drug addled “gonzo journalist” evidently introduced “artist” Ralph Steadman to Flying Dog founder George Stranahan in Aspen, Colorado. You can read the details at the Flying Dog website here.

Monumental figures attract hangers-on like “free beer” advertisements attract drunks. Unquestionably a monumental figure, Thompson appears to have attracted his fair share of folks who seemed content to warm themselves in the reflected glow of his notoriety, picking up the odd scrap of fun and profit along the way. In my opinion one such example is Johnny Depp – whose hipster, cynic, doper-expatriate persona will never live up to his royal Gonzo-ness - but I won’t go into further detail regarding that except to say that when the likes of Johnny Depp can serve as a surrogate for a Hunter Thompson, we’re seeing a real dumbing down of coolness, folks.

So, “hanger-on” might be a way I’d describe the whole line of Flying Dog beers, but that would be wrong since most of the folks who are drinking Flying Dog products probably don’t have the foggiest idea who Hunter Thompson was – or is, depending on your propensity to buy into conspiracy theory. (Hell, Thompson is, this very second, partying with Jim Morrison in Africa!) It may be more apt to say that the Flying Dog people have used the Thompson persona as something of an inside joke, pulling back the beaded curtain just enough to let a few of us squares have a peek from time to time and their Gonzo Imperial Porter is perhaps the best example of that little trick.

And, in honor of this day in history, I offer my sampling notes for Gonzo Imperial Porter:
Smells like a stout in the bottle. No alcohol bite in the smell as I’d expected. Pours dark with a thin head and light lacing. Chocolate/sweet tasting with a thick mouth feel at first. Perhaps a hint of licorice in the finish. I expected an off-putting alcohol bite but I’m happily proven wrong. This beer is one I’ll try again.

Why honor this day in history? On February 20th, 2005, Doc Thompson, reportedly bummed because the Super Bowl had come and gone for another season and figuring his best days were behind him, and perhaps contemplating a sink full of dishes, took his life by shooting himself. Like Hemingway, but not like Fitzgerald. Not fade away, as the hipsters are want to say, right?

For something regarding Thompson’s “accidental outlaw” status, check this out. For more stuff on Thompson and the myth of Thompson, do your own search, but don’t futz around with that so much you forget to go out and buy some Gonzo Imperial Porter – perhaps like so many things associated with Hunter Thompson, it comes at a fairly high price but it’s worth it.

Hope to see you 'round, Doc.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last of the Winter Wine?

The holidays are definitely over and it seems that some of those special winter beers that I'd loved so much - and so well - are long gone. I can't tell you when I last saw a bottle of Shiner Holiday Cheer and though I was tickled to find six-packs of Anchor Christmas beer on sale for $3.99 a couple weeks ago, I had the sad duty of pouring the last of that six-pack last night. I still have a couple bottles of Gordon Biersch Winter Bock, even as their local outlet is announcing the tapping of their most recent seasonal (an alt if I remember right).

So, imagine my indescribable joy when I stumbled upon six-packs of Pyramid Snow Cap on sale at the local grocery store this afternoon. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I'd wandered in there hoping to score a carton of Sam Adams' Blackberry Witbier. Didn't find the blackberry but the two cartons of Snow Cap will (hopefully) dribble away slowly over the next few months and, as their shelf life of June 2009 approaches, I'll sit in the shade of the back patio here at Beer Rant HQ and watch the grandchildren grow and the summer seasonals march by. I think it will be grand. I'm almost looking forward to the hot weather that spring ushers in! Bring it on!

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