Lagunitas Brown Shugga’: This winter seasonal beer from Petaluma, CA is brewed to a strength of 9.9% abv with 51.1 IBUs. Brown Shugga was apparently derived out of a failed batch of their Old Gnarleywine that they tried to revive by adding brown cane sugar somewhere in the process (I’m assuming the fermentation/aging part of the process). It now makes a regular appearance in 6 packs every Christmas season, labelled as an American Strong Ale, but categorized online as a Barleywine on most rating sites.
Aroma and Appearance: It pours a clear copper red colour with one big finger of foam and an average level of carbonation. The aroma is plentiful, featuring leather, toffee, brown bread, gooseberry, tangerine, passion fruit, strawberry and of course brown sugar.
Flavour: Up front it is quite boozy, with notes of toffee and tangerine to help round it out. In the middle it delivers sweet tree sap, dark rye bread and resinous pine notes while it finishes with cane sugar, prunes, earth and fruit leather.
Overall Impression: Nice seasonal beer that has had a bit of time to balance out, perfect for a cold winters night or after a long hot summer day (the way I prefer it). Given the alcohol level, you’ll want to watch your intake of this stuff.
Rating: I give it an excellent rating of 8/10, pretty close to a typical Barleywine with more of a hop presence than most and I love a good barleywine. Fresh it might be a little harsher, but aged about 9 months it has likely mellowed slightly.
Food Pairing: Go for something savory like cheese cake, quality charcuterie or even a quality cut of steak to get the most out of this beer, they recommend trying it with a Turkey dinner but I think it may overpower some of the other foods.
One of their brewmasters gives a little bit more information on the effect of the sugar on the beer in this short, older video below.