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.
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.