I used to have a 1979 VW Rabbit named “Zapper,” mostly because when I bought that hunka-junk, it had Montana plates. Why that name? ’cause I imagined that the little red bunny had at one time been in the possession of a dental-floss tycoon: yes, that “Zapper.” Someone at Lagunitas brewing (the pride of Petaluma, California, unless you’re a chicken coop lover) is also a fan of the late, great Frank: the four beers the company’s already brewed in their Zappa series is proof of that. Now comes the last of the litter, number five, brewed in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the release of The Mothers of Invention’s “Ruben and the Jets” – right down to the album cover reproduction on the label (and precious little other information, for what it’s worth). Like the other Lagunitas Zappa series beers, it’s a limited edition. Darnit.
It’s a stout, maybe an Imperial Stout (and maybe an American Double Stout). Whatever it is, and Lagunitas is peculiarly un-forthcoming about the precise style of this brew, it’s a formidable taste treat. Here’s what I mean:
• The pour: I split a bomber with the spousal unit, eleven ounces each in a couple of big ol’ snifters. Ruben and the Jets pours up an inky ultra-deep brown, as close to opaque as a triple espresso. One finger-width of fine, medium-brown foam crowns the liquid, slowly subsiding to a thin skim that leaves behind a delicate lace. It differs from a traditional Imperial Stout in having less of a syrupy appearance.
• The nose: chocolate dominates; with faint floral hop notes and a deep malt background note. Those are accompanied by mild aromas of spice and fruit, with the slightest touch of pepper.
• On the tongue: oh, My Lord! it’s the alcoholic equivalent of death by chocolate! The power and the glory of chocolate and malt; sweet with a hint of bitter, all backed a beautifully understated mild hop note. Ruben and the Jets may not look syrupy, but it certainly feels syrupy in the mouth, nicely disguising the 8.6% ABV in the process. A full-bodied, veritable symphony of stout!
• The finish: there you go, Ruben: there’s the pepper! A marvelous, complex brew graced with a long, smooth finish. Ooh, yeahhh…
It’s not around for long; and available only in bombers (at least in this neck of the woods). With any luck, I’ll be able to score a few bombers and cellar them – I may have to toss a couple of bottle of Dom to fit ‘em in the rack, but hey: it’d be worth it!