The ale pours a crystal-clear amber and is topped by an inch-thick cap of cream-colored foam that dissolves rapidly. A thin film and soapy collar remain after the reduction.
The aroma is pleasant with a scent of fresh pine needles, citrus, and booze.
The palate begins with a blend of toasty malt and mild piney hops; mellowed in the middle with sweet caramel and brown sugar. A burst of piney hops, orange peel, and grapefruit strike the palate before bottoming out with more caramel, brown sugar, and booze. A hoppy bitterness continues to linger on the back of the tongue.
The feel is grainy with a nearly full body and a little over moderate carbonation. It’s dry in the middle and somewhat cloying on the backend. High alcohol lends warmth.
Brown Shugga’ is packed with flavor and nicely balances its sweet, hoppy, and boozy palate. And though it has a high ABV, the alcohol isn’t overpowering and instead dries out such that you’ll be taking sip after sip. And in the cold winter, this is a brew that will make those chilly nights just a little bit warmer.
A Happy Accident
Brown Shugga’ came about as a happy accident—a brewer’s mistake that turned into an amazing brew. The story goes that a brewer had botched a batch of Lagunitas’ Olde GnarlyWine Ale and asked what he should do with it. He was instructed to add brown sugar and the brewer went around town, buying all the brown sugar, and then dumped it into the batch. While that didn’t produce the anticipated result, what did come out of that batch became the immensely popular brew it is today.
Watch the video below to hear the story of the Brown Shugga’ as told by Lagunitas brewmaster Jeremy Marshall.
It was so popular that Lagunitas has brewed it annually since 1997. But there was one exception in 2011 when they simply didn’t have the brewing capacity for it. Aware of everyone’s disappointment, Lagunitas offered a substitute brew they named “Lagunitas Sucks”.