Sometimes, a bottle of beer has a story that adds to its mystique. More often than not, these stories are just tall tales or well-crafted marketing ploys, but you can bet Lagunitas’ story about its Brown Shugga beer is actually true. Not many breweries would take credit for messing up a batch of beer and still attempting to sell it, but that is exactly what happened in the fall of ’97 when the brewers in Petaluma, Calif., incorrectly weighed their ingredients and thought they had ruined a perfectly good batch of their legendary Gnarleywine. The beer would have been discarded altogether if someone hadn’t stood up and suggested they try the “ruined” product. The sampling session was a hit, and the brewers knew they were onto something.
Brown Shugga is brewed with—you guessed it—brown sugar. The brew’s profuse amount of brown sugar is completely consumed by the yeast, but some complex sugars remain, leaving the beer with a sweet taste. The red body displays the rich grain presence, and the nose showcases the hops. The well-balanced flavor has just enough sweetness to play well off both the malt and hops. All of this leads up to a taste unlike any other, and is a great reminder of the diversity you can find in beer.
Since that fateful day almost 10 years ago, the crew at Lagunitas has continued to brew this individual ale and release it as a seasonal. We can all be glad this beer was given a chance to shine after an inauspicious start, and at 9.9% ABV, it is sure to age beautifully.