It's my favorite time of the beer year. The breweries are bringing out their Winter releases, the Christmas Beers, Winter Warmers, Holiday Ales. Call them what you want, but Winter is bonanza time for this beer lover. I was happy to discover a new-to-me seasonal recently. Actually, the credit goes to my wife. We were shopping at a local candy store when she spied Lagunitas Brown Shugga' on the shelf. Colleen remarked that it sounded interesting and suggested we try it out. I already had a case of Clipper City Winter Storm in the cart, along with a few other items, but I'm always up for trying something new so we added the Brown Shugga' to the haul.
Well, Colleen picked a winner. Brown Shugga' is a Winter seasonal from Lagunitas Brewing Company in California. This strong ale pours a translucent copper-red color with a thin, short-lived beige head. One thing we remarked on while enjoying it was just how attractive the beer is. The aroma is a very pleasant blend of citrus hops and sweet malt. My first impression of the flavor was the sweet brown sugar tone to the malt. The sweetness is present, but not cloying. The sweet malt provides a nice foil to the big, bitter hop flavors. The beer is nicely balanced and it's easy to drink without burning out one's palate. As the beer warmed, I began to pick up subtle fruit notes. Colleen pegged it as cherries. The flavor is complex and I spent too much time trying to pick out the subtleties. Next time, I'll just drink and enjoy. The ale has a thick, sticky mouthfeel with a lingering hop bitterness.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga' is a big beer. It's big not only in flavor, but in potency, weighing in at 9.5% alcohol. The alcohol is warming but well-masked. This is definitely a sipper for cold, Winter evenings. Bring out some pungent cheese and dried dark fruits and I think there's a feast in the making.
I'm fortunate to have a wife who appreciates good beer and who keeps her eye out for new and interesting beers for us to try. We didn't know what to expect from Brown Shugga'. It turned out to be a very enjoyable late evening treat.