I heard about this beer. It's called Cruising with Ruben & the Jets.
And I have to tell you, I really don't want to hear about the Jets. I mean,
all they had to do was beat the Dolphins, and my beloved New England
Patriots could very well be playing in Superbowl XLIII. What's that you say?
These aren't the same Jets? This beer is named for an album by Frank Zappa
and the Mothers of Invention? Ah, I see. Nevermind.
All kidding aside, Lagunitas Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is indeed the
fifth brew in their series of tributes to the works of Frank Zappa and the
Mothers of Invention. The beer was released to coincide with the 40th
anniversary of the album, which debuted in December of 1968.
The first thing that surprises me about Lagunitas Cruising with Ruben and
the Jets is the bottle itself: curiously, after I pop the cap, I notice
it's a twist-off. Undaunted, I pour the beer into my glass-and notice that
it's not quite as dark as I suspected. I had heard this described as an
imperial stout, perhaps because of its formidable alcohol content of about
8.6% by volume.
But the beer pours more like a dark brown ale, or brown porter in
appearance. Imperial stouts are generally thick, viscous, and rather opaque.
Of course, Lagunitas puts out an imperial Stout on a regular basis, and
that's never been a beer I've thought of as exemplary to the style.
Here, though, they can get away with that, first of all because they're
fairly mum on the style, and second of all because this is a spiced beer
that can really be whatever they want it to be. What is it spiced with, you
ask? Real cocoa and white peppercorns. That may sound like an odd
combination, but it's really not, as we'll soon see.
Anyway, I pour my beer into a Guinness stout glass and watch a thick, creamy
tan head form atop the liquid. A sniff reveals an intense cocoa aroma that
really whets the appetite to, well, wet the appetite. Taking a sip, I'm
reaffirmed in the notion that this is a bit thinner than I want in an
Imperial. But I don't care, because there's still a decided richness in the
mouthfeel that's a tad luxurious.
And then there's the chocolate. Roasted barley and roasted malt can impart
chocolate flavors all their own, but here it's the genuine article: rich,
dark, decadent cocoa on top of the beery kind. Dark fruit is apparent, too,
rich raisin to my taste, and a little licorice, too.
I know, you're getting impatient about the pepper. I saved it for last
because, well, it doesn't really hit you until the finish. It's spicy,
peppery (duh), and unmistakable, and really accents the chocolate flavors
wonderfully. Indeed, as the chocolate begins to reassert itself in the
finish, the pepper brings it out more fully. The alcohol provides a bit of
warmth there, too.
Just a wonderful beer. Very drinkable, very delicious, and very unique. I've
heard this may be the last in the Zappa tribute series. I certainly hope
not, but if so Lagunitas is really going out with a bang here. At $3.99 for
a 22 ounce bottle it's the most expensive in the line, but still a fantastic
bargain at the price. So, I think I can deal with the name Jets after all.
But hey, if Lagunitas names a beer after Brett Favre, I'm out of here.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For
reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.