Lagunitas – Brown Shugga

Lagunitas’ Brown Shugga is the first of their traditional winter releases, which a hitch in the expansion of the brewery forced off the schedule a couple of years back, a 9.9% ABV American strong ale, brewed with brown cane sugar. It pours a reddish caramel color which shifts significantly with the light, and has a lacy head that dies away pretty rapidly. The nose is mostly alcohol and yeast. Lagunitas seems to brew a lot of these not terribly well-defined strong ales, and you have to sort of feel your way with each of them, as there are not many criteria for American strong ales, except that they be strong. This one apparently originated a a failed batch of their barleywine, which gives an idea of the general character. It leads with hop bitterness and solid malts, which just begin to suggest caramel when the brown sugar cuts in. At almost 10%, it’s a sipper, and the various elements of the taste build up, sip by sip, but, at least for me, there is sort of a disappointing interval between sips, where there isn’t that much sustained flavor to enjoy, and what lingers on the tongue is primary the bitterness and the booze.
There is a lot that works here. It is pleasantly sweet, but not cloying, and the range of flavors present is broad. The alcohol is pretty well masked. In the end, it doesn’t quite come together for me, but that probable shouldn’t stop you from trying at least one.
For another review, which I suspect contains a reference to yours truly, check out this one at Ambrosial Brews.