Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lagunitas Brown Shugga' Ale

There’s a lot of beers that blur the line between imperial IPA and flat-out barleywine and Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ Ale is a perfect example of one. Plenty of hop bitterness and flavor throughout the palate with a strong malty backbone that’s sweet, but not in your face. Whatever it is, it’s an excellent beer.

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (774) - Albany, New York, USA - DEC 23, 2012
I received a 12oz bottle as a gift from Alex & Marissa (thanks, y’all!). I poured it into a tulip glass.

Appearance: A pretty copper color with slight burgundy highlights. Forms a large, white, frothy head which retains and laces wonderfully.

Smell: Sweet citrus, like orange juice concentrate combined with a bit of pine sap. No alcohol presence.

Taste: Due to the name, I was expecting Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ Ale to be some sort of strong brown ale, but once I poured it, smelled it and tasted it I knew that was definitely not the case. There’s way too much hops and citrus flavor for this to be a brown ale. Some of the prominent beer websites classify it as a barleywine, but I don’t get the usual rich, confectionary and fruity sweetness a beer of the style usually brings. It’s strongly bitter from start to finish making the hops the star of the show.

I really enjoy the use of the sweetness because it pairs with the hop profile so well. It’s a taste akin to citrusy juice concentrate, but doesn’t have the stickiness or cloying factor. Orange or grapefruit juice with a touch of other tropical fruits throughout the palate. For such a big beer, the alcohol is extremely well masked and adds a subtle warmth and hint of spice. The finish ends with a strong hop bite and a residual bitter, but moist, aftertaste.

Drinkability: You could easily describe Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ Ale as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If I hadn’t known it was 9.9% ABV, I don’t think I ever would peg it as such given how balanced, and restrained the palate is and the fact there’s so little discernible alcohol. The mouthfeel is full-bodied for sure, but comfortable, with a pleasing, tolerable aftertaste. Usually, barleywines are not this lively and smooth which is why I’d classify it as a double IPA instead.
 Grade: 9/10

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