Gonzo Imperial Porter (Wild Dog Series)

Wild Dog Gonzo Imperial PorterJust before we left for San Diego a couple of weeks ago, I got a PR shipment from the good folks at Flying Dog Brewery containing two beers to sample and review: the Wild Dog series of their Gonzo Imperial Porter, and their Heller Hound spring seasonal.

Strangely enough, I haven’t had any of Flying Dog’s beers prior to these, though I see them all over the place and by nearly all accounts are good. Oh well, time to rectify that now and start seeking out their other offerings.

Tonight I drank the Gonzo Imperial Porter. Being of their Wild Dog series, it would ordinarily come in a 750ml corked champagne style bottle; however, for the PR sampler it was a specially-labeled 12-ounce bottle. What makes this batch of Gonzo stand out as a Wild Dog beer is the fact that it was aged in whiskey barrels. According to the PR sheet that came with it:

[This beer] was brewed and transferred into charred White American Oak whiskey barrels that the neighboring Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey had aged their whiskey in for a minimum of two years. After aging in the wood barrels for three months, the Imperial Porter was hand bottled, corked and labeled and conditioned for another six weeks before being shipped.

Apparently there are only 5000 bottles being produced, so I’m pretty lucky to have received one for free. Thanks guys!

So, let’s check out my tasting notes…

Appearance: Foamy! Very dark brown—almost black—dirty motor oil color. Head is big and thick and creamy and chocolate espresso foam brown. (The head really lasted a long time… I have to wonder a bit if the excessive foam is the result of an infection…)

Smell: Roasted grains, dark coffee, a hint of sourness—lactic, sour mash? There may be a hint of wood (from the barrel) but that could be my imagination. There’s some bittersweet chocolate and an undercurrent of bitter hop.

Taste: Strong and dark—I feel the heat of it going down. Burnt coffee bean, cocoa, some whiskey/brandy character (that’s the heat). There’s a bit of that lactic sourness I detected in the nose. Woody, oaky. Dry. You don’t taste the alcohol so much as feel it.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and dry—smoother than I’d expect, actually. Medium-thick but not chewy. The high alcohol is noticeable in the afterbite.

Overall: Despite my initial concern about an infected bottle, I think it’s rather good. I haven’t had the original Gonzo to compare to, but I think there’s definitely a charred barrel component at play here. Would pair extremely well with any semi-sweet chocolate dessert.

This limited series version hasn’t hit BeerAdvocate yet, so I’ll point to the regular version instead. It scores 89 out of 100 with 97% approval there. On RateBeer, it is there, albeit with only five reviews thus far; it scores 3.84 out of 5 on those reviews, but there’s not enough to calculate a percentile for it yet.