Friday, January 1, 2010

TBG Drinks: Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale

Brewed By: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Brewed In: Petaluma, California
Type: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.84%

What They Say: "How come you taste so good?? Boatloads of pure brown sugar in each batch, that’s how! The rich, roasty and mysteriously drinkable ale might best be described as... irresponsible. It leaves a lot of stories in it's [sic] wake."

Website: Sweet merciful Geocities! There exists a website that makes MY tired 1997 black and white format look progressive by comparison. Let's's been awhile since I've done one of these, but every beer site needs the obligatory list of beers (check), an events schedule that's six weeks out of date (check), poorly made merchandise (check) and a brewery menu ($4.50 for chips and salsa? Panini sandwiches?! This is why America hates California.)

Why I Picked It: Last weekend, I drove up to my old hometown of Long Beach for a reunion of sorts with my high school crew. After lunch, we caravanned over to the closest
BevMo. I was actually in search of a bourbon-based brew that I'd previously reviewed, but I got sucked in by the concept of "boatloads of pure brown sugar". In my morbidly obese pre-adolescence, I'd steal spoonfuls of brown sugar behind my mother's back whenever she was baking. And, now it's mixed with beer? Sounds dee-LISH!


Presentation (5): I like it. The simple, uncluttered label deflects the focus from "sugar" by using a significantly bigger font for the word "brown" and employing the phonetic "Shugga". The squat 12 ounce bottles peppered with quasi-inspirational clich├ęs ("Life is Uncertain. Don't sip.") positively scream "indie beer". 4

Originality (5): I'm two bottles in and I still can't quite conceive the concept of a brown sugar ale. appears to be real. My half-assed attempts at research pulled up several hits involving the use of ale and brown sugar as separate barbecue ingredients in the same recipe, but nothing as it relates to their union served up in a six-pack. 5

Body (10): Pours dark with decent lacing and a minimalist head. It looks spectacular in a pint glass, but upon closer inspection it's a thin brew that overcompensates with the carbonation. Hey, it's an ale. Grading on that curve, this is a solid little effort even if -- at first glance -- it appears to be a sheep in stout's clothing. 7

Taste (10): Let's address the elephant in the room upfront: if there's a "boatload" of brown sugar in each batch, it must be the size of those driftwood rafts that bring Cuban refugees to Miami. There are sporadic hints of brown sugar here, but -- thankfully -- it's not overwhelming. This is a strong ale that's aggressive on the palette with a bit of an abrasive, yet occasionally sweet finish. A little more hoppy than you might think. 7

Efficiency (10) This one won't sneak up on you. It goes down the gullet quite easily, but every sip comes with an overt kick of its ABV. I've only had one bottle in two separate sittings. There might be room on the bar stool for a couple of these, but beyond that it's the definition of diminishing returns. 5

Versatility (10) There might be some possibilities in the kitchen with this beer. Cooked down, I'm certain Brown Shugga's trace sweetness would flourish. Beyond that, my guess is the casual drinker will be turned off by the name on the label, while even the most eclectic tongue might need a few bottles to warm up to the taste. The concept's inherent curiosity factor is worth a few extra points here. 5

Grade: 33 (out of 50) -- Good Beer

The above format has been lifted with permission from That Beer Snob Guy.

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