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Gonzo Imperial Porter

By Andy Murphy
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“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (1939, born - 2005, cannon fodder)

I’ve never had Gonzo Imperial Porter before, so beer #2 will be a real treat for several reasons. The least important of which is I’m quite partial to porter.

Gonzo Imperial Porter celebrates and honors the life of Hunter S. Thompson. Bruce Paine, a Beer A Day reader and self-styled warrior poet, introduced me to the works of the good doctor several years ago. Most recently, Paine loaned me a copy of The Rum Diary, early work by Thompson and entirely accessible.

The artwork on this bottle is great, by Ralph Steadman. And I’ve never had a bad experience with anything beneath a Steadman label.

Pouring the beer is to watch a syrupy waterfall crash into your glass. It whipped up almost a full finger of foam, and the beer literally hissed at me! A dark ring developed around the mocha head, and after nearly a full minute the foam collapsed on itself, leaving a small island in the middle.

I’m sniffing it now — there’s almost no aroma, which is surprising, especially because I’m using a tulip glass that should really concentrate the smell.

First sip — wow — unexpected, delicious. It’s a porter that dances on the edge.

The description printed on the bottle reads:

“Dark, malty and mysterious, this beer is as complex as the man it celebrates. Brewed to honor the life of Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Imperial Porter is an assault on your taste buds with just the right amount of irreverence thrown in.”

I’ll agree completely with the first sentence. The initial sip is surprising. The malt is strong, toasted and sweet. Another sip — stronger, the toasting comes clear and it almost has a raisin quality. Keep sipping and the smoky aroma really comes through. It’s as if you need the taste in your mouth before you can fully appreciate the aroma; the taste and the smell build upon each other, layer upon layer. But unlike the bottle description, I’d say this beer doesn’t quite assault the taste buds — it lays siege to them.

Dark. No light makes it through this beer. I can see my reflection clearly in the glass, the roundness distorting my face, not entirely like Steadman’s gonzo artwork, but not entirely unlike it either. I would expect such a dark beer to be thicker on the tongue, but the malt and fruit work to keep it just light enough…

Only halfway through and I’m already feeling this beer hit me. IBU is 85, 7.8% alcohol by volume. Glad I had a big dinner.

I’m going to sit back and enjoy the last half of this beer now. I’m feeling good; and though I’m certain this is not true, my imagination and this smoky taste are working to send puffs out of my nose, mouth, and ears.

Let’s leave off with a final quote, printed on the label:

“Good people drink good beer.”
- Hunter S. Thompson

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Categories : Beer a Day



For those who thought I was simply being irreverent by describing his death as “cannon fodder”, if you aren’t familiar with the story read:


The cannon can be seen on the beer label.


[...] good pick for tonight, and a unique treat of a beer. I enjoyed the Gonzo Imperial Porter earlier this month, and I’m looking forward to trying the other two Canis Major [...]


Enjoyed this last night. Helluva nice porter. An exceptionally flavorful mouthful of beer with excellent distinction. This is a good porter built with proper intentions. Too many porters are muddied by people trying to take them to some sort of middle ground in a vain attempt to increase marketability. Gonzo concedes nothing and stands on its own virtue. Loved it.

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