Hunter S Thompson – Gonzo Renegade
“Good people drink good beer.”
The above quote, taken from the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by maverick writer Hunter S Thompson, is a very good strap-line for any brewer. I suddenly remembered it on the back of a couple of other quotes from the same book that, fuelled by attempts to remedy an insane dose of man-flu with over the counter drugs, popped into my mind somewhat unbidden.
“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”
“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt
shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.
Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”
Maybe the Lemsip was stronger than I thought? Anyway, (Renegade Brewery do not condone drug taking in any way, even if you do share) it led me to the more appropriate beer quote, and consequently into thinking about the man and his work and pondering a trip to the local bookshop this weekend (yes we still buy books here at Renegade. And vinyl records. We like old tech as much as new tech) to reacquaint myself with it. Then it occurred, he was a great example of someone wholly imbued with a true renegade spirit, so I thought I should let you all know about him if he has passed you by before.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 18, 1937, Hunter S. Thompson (the S stands for Stockton) is credited with creating “Gonzo journalism,” a highly personal style of reporting where writers becomes so involved in their stories that they wind up becoming central figures in them. Thompson’s father was an insurance agent who died while Thompson was in high school, and his mother was an alcoholic who was left penniless as a result, an upbringing that may have influenced his hard-driving lifestyle, which included the steady use of illicit drugs and an ongoing love affair with firearms that made him a perpetual counterculture icon with college students. A natural prankster and troublemaker, Thompson was arrested as a teenager, along with two friends, for stealing a man’s wallet. Given the choice of prison or the military, in 1956 Thompson joined the United States Air Force.
Thompson got his first exposure to journalism as a sports editor for an Air Force newspaper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. After being honorably discharged in 1957, he pursued journalism as a career and landed a series of jobs at a variety of small-town newspapers, as well as a short stint as a copy boy at Time magazine.
Thompson later said that “Gonzo journalism” was born while he was trying to piece together a story about the Kentucky Derby on deadline. The resulting rambling first-person story, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which was more about the experience of watching the race rather than the actual race, was published in Scanlan’s Monthly in June 1970. At the time, the piece was hailed as a breakthrough in journalism. Thompson was inundated with fan mail and phone calls, which he said was like “falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids.”
Fueled by alcohol and drugs, Thompson was always on the lookout for a story and was especially interested in anything that would skewer what he saw as America’s hypocrisy. He chronicled the cultural shift occurring in America during the late 1960s and 1970s and was not only a cultural observer, but also a participant and a central part of his stories. Thompson unsuccessfully ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, on the “Freak Power” ticket in 1970. His story about the campaign, “The Battle of Aspen,” was his first of many contributions to Rolling Stone where he was national affairs editor of the magazine until 1999.
In 1959, Thompson began writing his first novel, based on his experience working as a freelance journalist in Puerto Rico. Titled The Rum Diary, it would not be published until 1998. In his first book, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, published in 1967, Thompson, in typical Gonzo journalism style, chronicled his time infiltrating the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. “I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hell’s Angels or being slowly absorbed by them,” he wrote of the experience.
What began as an assignment for Sports Illustrated in 1971 turned into his most enduring work – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, a bestselling book based on Thompson’s drug-fueled journey through Las Vegas whilst he was meant to be reporting on The Mint 400, a desert motorbike race . Both a critical and commercial success, in 1998 the book was adapted into a film directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Benicio del Toro and Johnny Depp, a big Thompson fan. (Depp later starred in the 2011 film version of The Rum Diary.) Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, a collection of Thompson’s writings for Rolling Stone about the 1972 presidential campaign, was published in early 1973.
Thompson was notorious for his beautifully outrageous antics, anti-authoritarian attitude and unconventional reporting style. Sent to Zaire in 1974 to cover the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, Thompson skipped the boxing match and instead spent his time floating in the hotel pool, into which he had tossed a pound and a half of marijuana.
Barrel Aging Beer
Most breweries seem to have had a crack at aging beers in some type of whiskey barrel, it has become one of the go-to techniques when building a portfolio of craft beer. The idea was initially popularised by those canny chaps at Goose Island after it released its Bourbon County Brand stout over 20 years ago and has been creeping into many other brewery offerings with greater frequency ever since, and consumers demand increased flavor experimentation.
However, while the payoff is (literally) very sweet, the process is not without it’s challenges. American whiskey barrels are tough to track down and are often in pretty bad shape upon receipt, so they can be quite expensive and tedious to use. They’re built to only be used once, so they’re not as nicely built as wine barrels, with a lot more inconsistency in volume, rougher staves and the oak or char you pick up from one to the next varies a lot.
[Beer geek warning!!] However, the final product is well worth the effort. Beers aged in the process gain a new, smoother texture and a slightly oilier mouthfeel, as well as delicate vanilla, subtle oak wood and coconut, and burnt marshmallow notes — depending on what types of whiskey barrels are used. Then there’s impressions you get from the barrel that you can’t taste, a texture like a silkiness. You’re changing esters and alcohols into new components so things are combining and mingling and changing over the eight or nine weeks, or months, or years in the barrel. You’re getting a lot of micro-oxygenation over time in a process of slow aging you can’t get in a fermenter or a keg.
Renegades, Rebels, Rogues and Revolutionaries Pt 1- Geronimo
Straight away you know the Apache leader Geronimo is going to be an upstanding Renegade – his name translates as “the one who yawns” – yep, this guy is so cool he can sleep walk his way through leading the Apache nation in decades long wars against Mexico and Arizona.
As in so many great western movies Geronimo fought for a just cause, defending tribal lands against the relentless march of foreign settlers and in vengeance for the slaying of his family by Mexicans (Hmm, wonder where the plot for The Outlaw Josey Wales came from Clint?), and earned particular notoriety later in life for leading a small band of 38 men, women, and children who evaded thousands of Mexican and American troops for over a year, even leading the governor of Sonora to claim in 1886 that in the last five months of Geronimo’s wild career, his band of 16 warriors slaughtered some 500 to 600 Mexicans. I think even Chuck Norris would appreciate those sort of skills.
If you fancy further enriching your knowledge of American indiginous history in a spot of rather cushy timing, you can have a gander at the BBC iPlayer where they have a cool programme with the irrepressible Rich Hall going in search of the “real American Indian” or follow this here link – Rich Hall’s Inventing The Indian
Australian band Sheppard even wrote and recorded a song called Geronimo, in part inspired by the man. Their version is a bit naff, but the one done by a bunch of random buskers in London, made by the irrepressible but tramp like Shaun Buswell,(a man who is perhaps the greatest renegade I know personally) is top drawer. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available on Youtube, but if you click here you can check it out via a Guardian report on it.
Rust & The Wolf
Some of the coolest furniture we have seen recently comes from our buddies at Rust & The Wolf who make one off and limited run custom designed furniture and lighting, all of which is made from iconic period pieces that already have history and their own story to tell. They also have some rocking original vintage signs and decorative items and bespoke hand painted signage and custom artwork.
Have a gander at some of these cool spots to rest your beer then go check the full range out by clicking here!