Glassware: The sweet brown sugar aroma and hefty malt backbone require glassware that emphasizes these wonderful qualities. This is a beer that releases more of its phenomenal qualities as it reaches room temperature. Glassware that allows for a slow warming process is key. 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 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 phenomenal balance and does not tread into the cloying area. The high ABV is well hidden without even the slightest bit of alcohol heat making itself known. Keep in mind though is does have a higher ABV. That can come back to get you in the end if you overindulge. The full body and moderate carbonation aid in the smooth, creamy, easy drinking character of the beer. Brown Shugga’ is proof just how great craft beer can be when you ignore the rules and embrace mistakes.
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 be at home at any holiday dinner featuring game meats, roasted chicken or turkey and sausages. 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 great match with this beer. A real treat is to pair Brown Shugga’ with a decadent spice cake. Spices will add another layer of flavor to this already 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. Whatever you decide to pair with Brown Shugga’ the results will be fantastic. The complexity within the beer has something for any dish and it has enough heft within that can easily sit alongside the heartiest or sweetest of meals.
The Final Word: Lagunitas has been at the forefront in the craft beer market. With beers this good it is easy to see why they have stayed. Brown Shugga’ was actually a mistake in creation. Owner Tony Magee was brewing up a batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale and into a problem. He had to decide to dump or attempt to save the batch. He saved 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 until its release.
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