Glassware: The sweet brown sugar aroma and hefty malt backbone require glassware that emphasizes both of these wonderful qualities. A snifter is the first choice for glassware as it will showcase the aroma and allow the beer to warm slowly, however a tulip or oversized wine glass will work just as well.
Description: Brown Shugga’ pours a deep ruby amber hue with off white head that leaves behind a thick, sticky lacing the glass. The aroma is filled with sweet notes of brown sugar with subtle hints of floral hops and fruity esters in the background. The taste is a full-on malt explosion with caramel sweetness hitting up front followed by brown sugar. The coating stays behind when the hops wash over the palate imparting a wonderful sugar covered hop experience. While the beer is sweet, it still maintains balance and does not tread into the cloying area and is unbelievably drinkable despite the high ABV. The full body and moderate carbonation aid in the smooth, creamy, easy drinking character of the beer. Keep in mind it does have a high ABV. You will not be able to tell simply by drinking and that can come back to get you in the end.
Food Pairing: The sweet character of Brown Shugga’ naturally lends itself to desserts, but it truly is a showcase beer for the holidays. This will absolutely be right at home for any holiday dinner featuring game meats, roasted chicken or turkey and sausage. The hearty malt bill will enhance the natural sweetness of the meat and will withstand even the most gamey of flavors. Holiday desserts such as pies or cookies are a perfect match with this beer. A real treat is to pair Brown Shugga’ with a decadent spice cake. The spices will add another layer of flavor to this complex beer while the caramel and brown sugar flavoring will melt into the cake and allow the icing to create an even creamier mouthfeel for a beer and food experience that is the perfect way to end any evening.
The Final Word: Lagunitas has long been at the forefront in the craft beer market and with beers this good it is easy to see why they have stayed there. While Brown Shugga’ was actually a mistake in creation, owner Tony Magee was brewing up a batch of their equally delicious Olde GnarlyWine Ale when he ran into a problem and was faced with the decision to either dump the batch of beer or attempt to save it. Thankfully he attempted to save it by dumping boatloads of brown sugar into it. And since its creation in 1997 the craft beer community has rejoiced. This is a beer whose release is eagerly awaited by many and after one sip you may find yourself counting down the days til its release. Yes, it truly is that good!
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.
Brewer: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Beer: Brown Shugga’
Style: American Strong Ale