Sunday, March 9, 2008

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter review

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial PorterI don't know what it is about Flying Dog Brewery's ales that keep me coming back to it. They have a knack of making just about any beer they brew an aromatic explosion. The last several ales I've tried from this brewer made me feel like my nose and mouth had been injected with intense hops and malts. This time around, I decided to bend to the hype of their Gonzo Imperial Porter.

Even before I poured the beer into my favorite glass, the aroma of this beer was bursting to get out. The moment the cap flew off the bottle the hops and malts began filling the room. I didn't need a label on that bottle to tell me this was a Flying Dog ale, because this had nearly the same aroma as many of their other brews that I had sampled a month or two before in their sampler pack. I knew upfront that I was going to be hit hard with this beer before I drank it so at least I was prepared for it.

This beer pours nearly black. The head started building immediately and wouldn't go away. This was my first clue that this beer was going to be a bit more intense than other beers. Forget for a moment that this beer has a 9.2% ABV and is loaded with a "sh*t load" of cascade hops (among others). This beer has an alternate agenda. Even the foam appeared to be carrying a bit of extra material in it. The beer has a potent IBU rating of 80 and probably could be more than the label indicates.

It seems that the beer world wants to go more extreme by the day. I think extreme is fine when done in moderation. Flying Dog spared no expense in this $8 4-pack to remind you that they want you to be hit with as much as they can pack into a 12-oz bottle all at once. Instead of first smelling the usual chocolate and coffee aromas that most imperial porters have, I was struck with a slight alcohol bite and an intense hop smell. Their web site says that this beer is more malty than hoppy. Excuse me but I beg to differ. Their scale should have been maxxed out on the hoppiness as well as maltiness. The aroma was the very same that I remember when drinking their Snake Dog IPA. Powerful to be sure. The taste was pretty much what I expected an imperial porter to taste like, but I was having quite the experience with that powerful aroma.

The thick head of foam stuck around for quite a while and clung securely to the sides of the glass. You were going to get some creamy foam throughout the entire experience with this beer. This is a dark beer indeed. I was easily able to finish this beer but had to wrinkle my nose almost every time I inhaled. The mix of Warrior, Northern Brewer and an overload of dry hopped Cascade seemed a bit out of balance in this porter. The beer review sites caved into the hype of this beer and simply adored it. Ratebeer scored this in the 98th percentile and an 3.88/5 ranking. BeerAdvocate also smiled upon this brew with a hefty grade of "A-".

Perhaps I've been overloaded with too many porters lately. Lord knows I've reviewed plenty of them lately. While I'll still end up finishing the 4-pack over the course of the next week, I'll do so knowing that I'll want to explore this further. This beer is definitely worthy and gets an initial thumbs up rating.

Update: 5/13/08 - I opened up another bottle of this after a short couple of month aging process. I chilled it down a bit more and tried this again. This time I felt like I was drinking a whole other beer. The aroma had mellowed and had made this beer much more drinkable. Giving this a bigger thumbs up rating now. I enjoyed this brew again at the Rocky Mountain Beer Fest in Estes and wow, what a difference on tap. This is one damn good beer. You just have to train your palate to enjoy these rich and powerful brews. Aging further would probably make this beer even better.

Update Sept. '09: Congrats to Flying Dog for winning GOLD at the 2009 GABF in the Imperial Stout category for Gonzo Imperial Porter. Not sure why this was put in the imperial stout category but it proves it's one darn good strong dark brew.

Also, since this release, Flying Dog Ales moved their brewery to Maryland.

Related articles:
- Beer cellaring - a short experiment with Gonzo Imperial Porter.
- Who let the dogs out? Flying Dog sampler.
- Revisiting beers and changing tastes.

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