Flying Dog Brewery: Gonzo Imperial Porter

I have known about Flying Dog for quite some time now, but never had the chance to try their Imperial Porter: Gonzo. I have heard a lot about the beer, some folks even claiming it to be the best imperial porter on the market. After finding the beer this weekend, let's see if the rave about the Gonzo Imperial Porter holds.

The beer is dark, 100% opaque, as you may expect. It pours fluidly giving me the impression that this beer will not feel heavy. I think that this is a good sign for an imperial porter. I always feel that an imperial porter or imperial stout should pour "thinner" than the porter or stout versions. The head is thick and brown/tan in hue, a fantastic contrast to the deep, rich color of the beer.

The aroma of the Gonzo is reminiscent of a blend of a fine IPA and a rich porter. The overwhelming amount of dry-hopping (according the the folks at Flying Dog, it is dry-hopped with a "shit load of Cascade hops") provides a full floral scent that is slightly weakened by the abundance of chocolate and black malt. With that, the flavor directly follows. At first, the Gonzo appears malty on the tongue, slightly sweet in a way. Quickly the hops overpower the malt. The combination of Warrior, Northern Brewer, and Cascade hops battle to dominate the malty characteristics. I am pretty sure it is the Warrior hop that prevails and gives that stick-to-the-roof-of-the-mouth feel. I love it. The Gonzo is very well balanced and not too high on the alcohol scale, especially for an imperial porter, coming in at 7.8%. The IBUs however, are more in-line with a IIPA (85).

The Gonzo is part of the Canis Major series from Flying Dog. The other beers in the series include Horn Dog Barley Wine (in the fridge so check back soon for a review), Double Dog Double Pale Ale, and Kerberos Triple. I am currently looking for the latter two in local beer outlets. Also, I am hoping to get my hands on the seasonal releases from Flying Dog in the near future. I really like this brewery.

I also like the artwork on the bottles. All of the artwork is created by Ralph Steadman, who started with Flying Dog in 1995.

The bottom line: I don't normally drink Imperial Porters, but the Gonzo is at least the best that I have ever tasted.

Mad River Brewing Co.: Jamaica Brand Red Ale

I have seen the Jamaica Brand Red Ale at Bevmo in the past but though that the name seemed kind of odd . . . so I never bought it. I saw it again at the Beverage Warehouse in Los Angeles for sale as a single bottle. After thinking about it for a short while, I decided to just buy it and give it a shot . . .

I will have to add this to my short list ASAP. I cannot believe that I have been passing this up for almost two years now. Why?

Well, first, the color is anything but red. Alright, its close to red, but nothing like any red I have seen in a long while. It looks more like a mahogany-stained dinner table than a red ale. Its dark and opaque with a rich head. The aroma reminds me of some of the finer IPAs on the market . . . the hops provide an array of floral notes that are nicely balanced by the rich malt scent. The taste of the Jamaica Brand Red Ale is crisp and clean. It starts off with a bite on the tongue followed by the mellowness of the caramel malt while finishing with a lingering tingle in your mouth. It is not the kind of lingering that makes you feel as if someone just gorilla-glued hops to the roof of your mouth. It is far more subtle than that . . . enjoyable in fact.

According to Mad River, the Jamaica Brand Red Ale has 42 IBUs and 6.7% ABV. Personally, I think this is within the range of very drinkable beers, not too hoppy, yet not bland and just the right amount of alcohol so that you can enjoy more than one in an evening.

The bottom line: Darn, Bevmo is closed already . . . I will have to wait until tomorrow to stock up on the Jamaica Brand Red Ale

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Menu

Below is the beer list from Day 6 of the Belgian Beer Festival at Lucky Baldwins' in Pasadena, CA. Note that the beers on the list change quite frequently, especially on the weekend when they are busier! Also, I have neglected beers that are not part of the beer fest, i.e., Boddingtons, etc.) and the numbers correspond to the list below only and are NOT the numbers used for ordering!

  1. La Rulles Triple - 8.4%
  2. Kwak - 8%
  3. Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor - 9%
  4. St. Feuillien Easter Beer - 7.5%
  5. St. Feuillien La Blanch - 5.5%
  6. Piraat - 10.5%
  7. Delirium Tremens - 9%
  8. Witkap Pater - 6%
  9. Blanche de Bruxelles - 4.5%
  10. Scaldis - 12%
  11. Saison Dupont - 6.5%
  12. Moinette Blonde - 8.5%
  13. Chimay Triple - 8%
  14. St. Bernardus ABT 12 - 10%
  15. St. Feuillien Triple - 8.5%
  16. Tripel Karmeliet 0 8.4%
  17. Dupont Avril - 3.5%
  18. Moinette Brune - 8.5%
  19. Witkap Pater Dubble - 7%
  20. Witkap Triple - 7.5%
  21. Biere de Miele - 8%
  22. Maredsous 10
  23. Gouden Carolus Ambrio - 8%
  24. Affligem Noel - 9%
  25. Leffe Brown - 6.5%
  26. Affligem Blond - 7%
  27. Hoegaarden - 4.9%
  28. Grottenbier - 6.5%
  29. St. Louis Gueuze Fond Traditional
  30. Petrus Oud Bruin - 5.5%
  31. De Koninck Winter - 6.5%
  32. Gulden Draak - 10.5%
  33. Koningshoeven Wit - 5.5%
  34. Boon Mariage Parfait (Hand Pump) - 8.6%
  35. Ename Tripel - 8.5%
  36. Maredsous 8
  37. Monks Flemish Sour Red - 5.5%
  38. La Divine - 9.5%
  39. Klokke Roeland - 11%
  40. Urthel Hop-It - 9.5%
  41. Koningshoeven Quad - 10%
  42. Brigand - 9%

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Part II - Day 5


After taking days 2-4 off from the festival, I made a visit to Luckys last night (Wednesday) for a few beers. For the most part the list was the same as what I recall from the first night of the festival with a few minor changes. I made two selections from the list, two beers that I knew nothing about and never heard of:

1) Klokke Roelland - I would call this a Belgian Amber if I had to categorize it. It is brewed at Van Steenberge and is one of many offerings that the brewery has. The Klokke Roelland has a deep, dark, and rich hue . . . a sugary aroma fills the glass. Its not a very complex beer but it is bursting with flavor; the malt nicely balances the bite on the tongue that comes from the yeast used in the brewing process. i would definitely have another (especially given it is 11.5%!)

2) La Divine - Although the server classified La Divine as a Triple, I think it is fits more into the double category. It is brewed by Les Brasseurs de Gayant. The aroma is that of your standard citrus fruits with a dash of melon while being balanced by a wide array of spice tones. The color of the La Divine is typical for that of a Belgian Double . . . straw-like. On the tongue, it is smooth and full of fruity notes with a hint earthy flavors on the back-end. It is very drinkable and made a nice compliment to the malty Klokke Roelland that I started the night out with. The La Divine is a bit lower on the alcohol scale (~8.5%) but that is expected for a double. Again, I would definitely have another . . . after I try all the other beers on the list!

I will be heading to Luckys again this evening. So, check back tomorrow for some more updates from the festival (and hopefully a posting of the full menu!!).

Lucky Baldwins' Belgian Beer Festival Part II

It is that time of year when beer drinkers from all over the Southland venture to that tiny watering hole in Pasadena (and now in Sierra Madre as well) called Lucky Baldwins for the finest in Belgian Beers (for the second time this year). This time around is sure not to disappoint. In fact, the folks at Lucky's have extended the second part two two full weeks . . . well 16 days in total (from August 15th to August 30th)! And, don't forget to bring your glass from the previous festivals in order to take advantage of the steep discounts! For example, the average Belgian goes for $8-$9, as is expected for beers of this caliber. But, if you bring that glass with you, you only pay $6 (or $4 for a taster, but who would do that?).

Don't have a glass? Buy one! It pays for itself in two drinks . . . the glass is $10 this year.

So what should you expect? Well, I cannot speak for every night since the beers get rotated out quite frequently given the volume of beer that they sell. But, I can give the following notes based on my visit last Saturday:

1: St. Louis Gueuze - Went with this to start off mostly because I have never seen a gueuze on tap. It is a fantastic beer, but for those of you familiar with gueuzes know that it is more of an acquired taste. And this is true for the St. Louis as well. It is very tart, almost like sour lollipop, yet malty enough to mellow the beer out. Its color is straw-like. If you are new to gueuzes, I think this is a good starting place, especially for only $6.

2: Urthel Hop-it - I have to admit that I have had this beer many times in the past. But, I was in the mood for hops and, well, Belgian beers are just not know for their hop characteristics, except for the Hop-it. Its a bizarre beer if you will in that its aroma is almost that of dial soap at times (you know, the stuff you wash your dishes with), but the taste is very fruity in nature and the color is rich if not leaning toward the red side. If you want hops at a Belgian beer festival, this may be the way to go.

3: St Feuillien Saison - Having never seen St Feuillien's Saison before, I had to give it a try. Lets face it, Dupont's Saison and Ommegang's Hennepin (also a saison) are two of the tastiest beers. The St Feuillien Saison did not let me down. I highly recommend it. In fact, as I was leaving the pub a friend of mine showed up. I forgot to give him my recommendations and so I made sure to send him a text saying "#5" . . . since the St Feuillien Saison was the fifth beer on the list of more than 50. It is complex in nature due to the spices used in the brewing process. These additions also give the beer the aroma of a kitchen full of orange and spice. Wow. I wish I could find this beer in bottles as I would definitely be willing to purchase multiple bottles. It was that good. The maltiness is just enough to mellow out the spices such that you don't get the feeling you are dry-huffing a jar off coriander or something along those lines. It is simply a fantastic beer.

So, hopefully you will make the time to head out to Pasadena (if you are in the area) for the Belgian Beer Festival Part II at Lucky Baldwins before it ends on August 3oth. But, if not, stay tuned for more beer updates from the world of Belgian beers.

Stone Brewing Co.: 13th Anniversary Ale


I finally got around to opening my bottle of Stone's 13th Anniversary Ale this past weekend. First, it is not what I was expecting at all. Second, it was far more than I ever imagined.

Why was it not what I was expecting? Well, I imagined stone coming out with a special IIPA for the anniversary ale. The first 'I' was correct in that the beer is an imperial, however, the second through fourth letters were wrong. In fact the 13th Anniversary Ale is a Double Red, or as I would prefer to call it, an Imperial Red. What a surprise. Never would I have expected this from Stone.

Why what is far more than I ever imagined? Let us start with the poor. The 13th Anniversary is a deep rich mahogany color with a thick head that came be compared to some of the best IIPAs on the market. Wow! And, it is filled with your typical IIPA notes, like citrus and flowers while still maintaining a malty richness.

According to stone, Chinook hops were used for bittering and then this bad boy was dry-hopped with a 50/50 blend of Simcoe and Centennial hops. Well, this explains the fullness of the aroma. To top that off, the folks at Stone dry-hopped the 13th Anniversary AGAIN before bottling. Brilliant, I tell you, pure brilliance. This is why Stone made it to its 13th Anniversary, and will be around for many more years to come. It is going out on a limb like this that makes a beer sensational.

Oh, and the taste. The 13th Anniversary is not for pansies, that is for sure. It is for a true beer connoisseurs to enjoy. The average beer drinker likely will not be able to appreciate the pure complexity of this beer. It is one of the most well balanced ales that I have every seen, rich yet bitter. But, the bitterness is not overdone and in fact just perfect for a red ale of this caliber. The 13th Anniversary is the kind of beer that you enjoy with friends (drinking the full 22 ounces alone might not be the best idea since it comes in at 9.5%) on a weekend afternoon (or after a tough day at work) over a nice conversation. This is not the beer to drink quickly. In fact, that slower the better . . . that way you can enjoy the complexity to its fullest as well as experience the beer in its entirety as it slowly warms. The maltiness prevails with time as you may expect.

The bottom line: The 13th Anniversary is a step in the right direction for Stone!