Thursday, March 26, 2009


(Kudos to the always-great My Beer Pix for this photo)

I guess if I was brewing up a tribute series to a set of LPs by a particular musical recording artist, Frank Zappa would be near the bottom of my personal list. Me, I could imagine a VELVET UNDERGROUND series; imagine a hoppy, banana-infused beer for the first album, an experimental, harsh, rubber room-aged ale for the second album; a simple English “mild” for the third, and a super-imperial, high-ABV stout called “Loaded” for the fourth. But hey, that’s just me. LAGUNITAS BREWING has now put out four seasonal beers for four different Frank Zappa records, and as I understand it, this RUBEN & THE JETS is the final one. I’m not even familiar with that record – are you? In any event, I missed whatever the last one was, but the first two in the series, both IPAs, were great, FREAK OUT! in particular.

I fully expected this to be an IPA when I popped the cap, and that’s what I was in the mood for. Nay, this is a dark brown strong ale, called an American double/imperial stout on Beer Advocate’s site. Whatever. It’s certainly not a “dubbel” – no yeast at all in the taste. It smells boozy, but thankfully doesn’t taste it, and clocks in officially at 8.6% ABV. It’s a little hoppy, maybe a little too syrupy, and redolent of cocoa, light chocolate mixed with some very dark and roasted malts. Syrupy like highly overrated “crazy weirdo outsider” Zappa himself, you might say. It held my interest to the very last drop, though “holding one’s interest” is not quite the ringing endorsement I’d imagine Lagunitas’d be looking for. This is pretty good, but I’m not gonna tell you to buy this one and not that other beer. 6.5/10.


Todd said...

Man, I both agree and disagree with most of your posts. It's weird. This one's no exception.

On the one hand, I think Zappa beers are a great idea; on the other hand, Velevet Underground beers sound awesome, too.

I definitely agree that I felt ambiguous about this year's Zappa beer. It's okay, but seems just a little too middle of the road - not quite an imperial stout, not quite a strong dark; roasty, but somewhat thin-bodied... it never seemed to settle down.

Ruben and the Jets, the album, is retro 50s style bublegum pop. Or something. Greaser music. I'm not all that familiar with genres from my mom's era. The kind of thing that was all the rage for the nostalgia-inclined of the 80s. Zappa was ahead of the curve, as usual. Or maybe not. I don't know when Happy Days was current, and how that compares to the release date for Ruben and the Jets.

Kyle said...

One other bit of trivia on the Ruben and the Jets LP is that the saxophone player is Mr. Bob Roberts, founder of Spotlight Tattoo and one of the major Godfathers of modern tattooing. Maybe not so interesting to the normal readers.

Bob also played saxophone with Johnny Thunders and the San Francisco 70's punk band The Offs apparently.

Thomas said...

Well, as we all know, we can never assume that any particular generation will pick up on the gems of another. Surely, if there ever was an icon deserving of such a tribute as Lagunitas Brewing began several years ago, the grand maestro Frank Zappa stands out as the only possible choice. Those who don't understand Ruben and the Jets will never get it at all. Which brings me to the beer. I never get it at all. Distribution difficulties I surmise. However, great friends mean great gifts and I did receive 3 of the first 4 brews. Lagunitas brews a fine beer or ale and my only disappointment is that Zappa's 65 plus albums in a mere 25 years will be too much for the brewer to handle. I was truly looking forward to a Yellow Shark Lager in a few decades, but alas saddened that there will be no more after Ruben. I wish Lagunitas as much success as the icon they chose to pay tribute. But then, "It can't happen here".

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