Lagunitas Brown Shugga’
STYLE: American Barleywine
4.3 / 5.0
Look: 4.0 | Smell: 4.5 | Taste: 4.25 | Feel: 4.5 | Overall: 4.3
Brewery at a glance: This weekend, Aly and I will be going to Chicago to see Julien Baker (who owns the top spot in my favorite albums from last year), do some shopping, and visit a few breweries. On the very top of our list of things to do is a long overdue trip to Lagunitas Brewing Company.
In order to get into the spirit of the trip, I decided to crack one of the leftover beers from our most recent New Years party and review it for the blog before we go. If all works out as planned, I’ll be doing a write up of my experience at the brewery (check out my review of most of the beers that Founders has to offer for a preview) and will definitely have more to offer about the brewery after the trip. However, I must say that Lagunitas happens to be one of my favorite breweries out there these days.
On a long list of beers I’ve had by them, I can’t think of a single one that didn’t impress me. Whether it is their IPA, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, their unbelievable summer seasonal released this year, CitruSinensis, Hairy Eyeball, Undercover Investigation Shutdown, or Cappuccino Stout, Lagunitas always delivers. In fact, they are one of the more consistent breweries going right now and one that I can always rely upon to make a solid product.
Look: Pours a deep, orange amber color with lots of creamy tan foam. In the IPA glass, the beer’s representation is truly captured in all its glory. It gives the brew a beautiful representation and lends itself to producing beautiful white lacing on the glass after every sip. While not an IPA, Brown Shugg’ bitter taste is perfectly suited for a glass like this one until a proper barleywine glass is released by the fine folks at Spiegelau. I’ve always loved Lagunitas use of simplistic labels for their brews and this one is my favorite due to its bold intensity. The only label that I like more from Lagunitas is this brew’s cousin, Lagunitas Sucks.
Smell: Grapefruit, earthy hops, boozy sweetness, minor hints of woody oak, and subtle brown sugar hints near the end of give this brew an amazing nose character. Very aromatic and certainly indicative of the complex flavor that the beer delivers.
Taste: There’s immediate brown sugar sweetness that progresses into heavy hop character. The taste is sweet, then woody, and finishes bitterly. It is unusual in that its sweetness is more akin to Barleywine but its bitterness rivals the most hopped up IPA. The 9.8% ABV gives it a final character of almost a sweet, bitter bourbon. Long after its first sip, the taste sticks around and settles back into a sugary, grapefruit profile. I’ve had a lot of beer but this one is one of the most interesting winter seasonals out there.
Feel: Mouthfeel is very rich and heavy and is most representative of the best barleywines out on the market. It is a heavier beer that feels very viscous. Its carbonation is rather intense at first, dies down as the beer cools, and does a great job at clearing the pallet for each intense sip. Long after the beer has left the mouth, the sweetness sticks around as a sticky sensation that coats the entire mouth. There is a slight boozy burn that comes towards the end of the brew that adds nicely to the bitter profile and softens the blow of it’s bitterness.
Overall: Their winter seasonal actually produces two version of the same recipe. Brown Shugga’ is the perfected recipe while the accidental mistake, known as Sucks, are both great contributions to their already amazing lineup. In a blind taste test, I’m not sure if I could recommend Sucks over Brown Shugga’ or vice versa. They are both excellent examples of American Barleywines and give the drinker the best example of the boozy, bitter taste that is so indicative of the style. For those just getting into Barleywine, I probably wouldn’t recommend starting here.
This is an intense brew designed for those looking for a rather extreme example of the style. But for those looking for the next great thing and haven’t spent any time with Brown Shugga’, you probably owe it to yourself to plunk down the money and buy a sixer of this amazing brew. If you’ve got the patience, you may even want to consider storing a bottle until next year’s release to see how well it ages. I aged a bottle for 7 months last year before I finally decided to crack it and was fairly pleased with the results. Some camps claim that the beer is best enjoyed fresh while other claim it needs a year to settle into the best taste the beer has to offer. Overall, Brown Shugga’ is a fantastic beer by a fantastic brewery and one everyone needs to try.
Have you had this brew? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.