Beer number three from Mama Deltoid’s Christmas gift brew variety pack is none other than the ale for which “Sucks” was made as a substitute one year when Lagunitas didn’t quite have it all together in their efforts and resources. Beer drinkers: meet the one and only Lagunitas “Brown Shugga’’. This is a hoppy barleywine that has its weak points but overall belongs on your shelf. It is a seasonal brew which means it is not available all year round, but in the winter time I’d say it’s pretty damned accessible considering I saw a massive tower of it the other day at Target. I also bought coconut milk by mistake while I was there, and I fucking hate coconut milk with a furious passion. When I realized what I was drinking after making a berry smoothie with it (beer isn’t the only thing I drink, you know), I became so enraged I wanted to punch a premature baby in the face. But I digress.
Barleywine is so called from ancient Greek nomenclature, used to describe an alcoholic beverage made from barley. Hence, it is just plain old beer. But barleywines are more specifically strong ales, similar to old ales (like Founders Curmudgeon). They are all-encompassing ales with a wide range of colors and bitterness ratings, often identifiable by their alcohol content and strong, sweet flavors. According to the Lagunitas website, Brown Shugga’ is made with brown cane sugar, and was brewed by accident in 1997 as a failed attempt to produce their barleywine titled “Olde GnarleyWine”. An ugly duckling of sorts, on its birthday, according to Lagunitas, it introduced to the beer world “an all-new-beer-style we like to call… Irresponsible.”
So let me get this straight: their “irresponsible” actions resulted in this delicious beer? Whenever I am irresponsible I end up asleep on a sidewalk or in a strip club, getting slapped in the face so hard both of my eyes end up in the same socket, in the ER with a bone sticking out of my ankle, falling down the hardest wooden steps in the entire fucking universe, going south of the mouth on a broad who wipes back to front, or vomiting in my own ear (yes, I managed to do that once). Jesus Christ, I am a disgusting fuck-up. But I digress again. For a mistake, Brown Shugga’ is a quite an impressive achiever.
The liquid is the color of rust, and fairly clear. Most strong ales and barleywines that I have seen tend to lean toward the flat side. But the head of this beer is fluffy, fairly thick, creamy, and antique white in color. The aroma, like the flavor that follows it, is good but a tad strange. It is a well-balanced mixture of pinecones, grapes, and caramel. The goofy combination of profiles continues to dominate the playing field of the experience up until the aftertaste fades to black. Initially it tastes like oranges, caramel, brown sugar, and finishes with a cherry medicine flavor. The aftertaste is surprisingly bitter for an IBU of 51.1. I would have guessed it to be more in the mid 60’s. The bitterness is excellent at first, and is carried by a heavy flavor of fresh grass. And a sweet cherry medicine flavor is still there as well. It’s a good combination at first but then hangs around a tad longer than I like. Its lacing is mild; glassy goo is noticeable but slides quickly down into the liquid, leaving only a few foamy splotches around the walls of the glass. The texture here is excellent. Like the head, its texture is beefier than most strong ales as well, with more cream and more carbonation than its brothers and sisters.
Overall I strongly recommend this beer for purchase. A similar beer of theirs that I like even more is their Undercover Investigation Shutdown. Brown Shugga’ is best described as that beer, if it took a hit of psychedelic mushrooms and Ritalin. It’s interesting that Brown Shugga’ is the result of a failure in making another barleywine. And Sucks (an IPA that I prefer over this one) is the result of a failure to make Brown Shugga’. Maybe one year they’ll fuck up the production of Sucks, and another awesome beer will be the result.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga’