The Badass Beer Advent Calendar: December 7th—Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

Today's advent beer was a happy accident in the making.

Back to the US for today's beer, and it's a beer that, sadly, you won't be able to get this year - Lagunitas Brown Shugga'.

Brown Shugga' is one of those happy accidents that sometimes happen when someone forgets to add an ingredient, or adds way too much, when making a recipe. Well, kinda. The story goes that Lagunitas were brewing a batch of their Olde Gnarlywine ale (a barley wine) and something went wrong with the batch, so someone had the idea of throwing in huge quantities of brown sugar.

Now, I'm not a homebrewer but I do know a little about brewing basics, and I can think of at least two different things that are going to happen if you do that. Firstly, the sugar is going to be gobbled up by the yeast because it's far more fermentable than the sugars found in yeast's usual source of sustenance in a beer brew - malt. That means higher attenuation and a beer with a lighter body, a bit like the candi sugar that's added to Belgian beers like the one we were talking about yesterday. Secondly, there's going to be more caramelisation during the boil because, well, that's what sugar does when you cook it, especially sugar with a relatively high molasses content, so you're going to get a lot of delicious toffee and caramel flavours.

Brown Shugga' falls into the category of American strong ale - the same kind of thing as, for instance, Arrogant Bastard. It's a rather vague and nebulous category at first sight. Beer Advocate describes it as a "Catch all style category for beers from 7.0 percent alcohol by volume and above. Some may even be as high as 25% abv. Characteristics will greatly vary; some have similarities to Barley-wines and Old Ales. Barrel aging is certainly not out of the question." What we're talking about here is anything that's highly malted, highly hopped and highly alcoholic that doesn't fit the criteria for any other beer style, and can include anything from Brown Shugga' to Samuel Adams Utopias which, at around 27% ABV, has more in common with sherry and port than it does with most beers.

So why no Brown Shugga' this year? Owner Tony Magee says they just don't have the capacity to brew it this year, not until they get their new 250 barrel brewhouse up and running early in 2012.


Oh, did I forget to mention they've brewed a replacement?