Brown Shugga' | Lagunitas Brewing Company

1,583 Reviews
Brown Shugga'Brown Shugga'

Brewed by:
Lagunitas Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.80%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by kbub6f on 12-13-2001

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Reviews: 1,583 | Ratings: 5,644
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.65/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Dark orange-copper with a faint roseate glow. Brown Shugga' looks like a brighter, sunnier barleywine. The magnificent head is the color of golden brown sugar, is the consistency of whipped butter and leaves a wonderful lace display. There's nothing about the appearance that I don't love.

A sweet, malty sipper would have been fantastic. However, if the nose is any indication, the brewery has seen fit to chuck in a generous load of American hops as well. Brown Shugga' smells like a DIPA that flavors its brown sugary malt side a fraction more than its citric hop side. If it tastes like it smells, I'll be in beer heaven.

The American strong ale, American barleywine and DIPA styles overlap to some extent. This Lagunitas offering could fit comfortably into any of them; maybe not so much the third. For my money, it tastes like a barleywine that's sweeter than it is bitter; like it has been sitting in my cellar for two years and has been smoothed and mellowed to perfection. Actually, that's exactly where it has been and that's exactly what has happened.

The flavor profile consists of wall-to-wall caramel malt coated with brown sugar and toffee pudding, studded with sticky dates and drizzled with caramel syrup. The 'boozy cherries' nature of some barleywines is present as well and comparisons to holiday fruitcake would not be out of line. Even though hops take a backseat to the malt juggernaught, a spicy, Chinook-like pungency is undeniable.

The beer is significantly sweet without crossing the line into cloying. There's enough bitterness present to take what could have been a sticky mess and turn it into pure, liquid poetry. The mouthfeel is everything I'd hoped for and more. Words like viscous, velvety and luxurious come to mind.

I've contemplated cracking this bottle open on many occasions over the past year. I'm glad I waited though. I have no doubt that time has been more than kind and has turned the beer into the glorious exilir that I'm enjoying so much today. I would love to have a case or two sleeping in my cellar right this very moment. Brown Shugga', how come you taste so good?

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Photo of Ernie_The_Dude
4.65/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours nice into a tulip glass, nice color with a substantial head. I am sure there are more descript ratings of this beer then mine but, I can say that Lagunitas has contently put out great beer and never disappointed.

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Photo of Jeffreysan
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, dark, yet clear, mahogany color with two full fingers of off-white head that slowly dissolved into a thin lacing of foam that covered the entire top of the beer.

Aroma: Very aromatic with tons of floral hops, clover, caramel and some faint notes of malt.

Taste: Delicious! Nice, sweet malty flavors up front, quickly followed by some assertive, but not at all overpowering or out of balance hops, and finishes with some more brown sugar/caramel-like sweetness. I also get notes of dried stone fruit, like prunes and raisins, as well as some faint hits of chocolate and vanilla.

Mouthfeel: Slightly chewy with little to no carbonation. With an ABV of 9.9%, there is quite a bit of alcohol on the palate, instilling a pleasant warmth.

Overall: Damn, this is a great beer! I love the balance between hops and sweet! Lagunitas, you knocked it out of the park with this one!

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Photo of trentbent
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

L- Looks great! Cream lace, moderate foam, amber orange brown sexy.
S/T/F-Smells and tastes like burnt brown sugar but it blends with the carbonation is oh just the right way that it's great even to this non-lover of "sweet" beers.
O- Is there even alcohol in this?! Oh, 9.8%, you will notice in your head before your mouth. This beer is a delight. Well done.

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Photo of CaptainHate
4.63/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I had tried a sample of this at the local supermarket and thought it was deserving of a much more in depth exploration. So I had my growler filled (at a very reasonable price) and took it to a meeting of my fellow reprobates who like listening to music and drinking beer.

I was pretty sure that this would be regarded fairly highly by my fellow hop-kissers and was not surprised. The other alternatives were Hopping Frog Christmas Ale (not bad) and Great Lakes Conway Ale (it's ok but I've had it before and wasn't particularly interested in bottles of it). Anyway this was a big hit and we drained the growler with scant regard for the alc content.

Even though Lagunitas dumps enough sugar in this to stimulate a diabetic coma, it really doesn't negatively impact the taste, nor does the fairly high alc content. This is a strong tasting but very balanced tasty ale.

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Photo of Celt44
4.62/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Quite possibly, the best stong ale I've EVER had. B+ ????

Appearance is a dark amber/copper. Head didn't last exceptionally long. Good lookin' beer

Smell is absolutely beautiful - Hop, Malts, and sweetness...

Taste - utterly unique - Strong hops up front - malty in the middle - and a stong brown sugar ending, hence the name. How'd they do that? Alcohol hidden very well.

Mouthfeel - Smooth, carbonation average.

Overall - As of today - the most tasteful strong ale I'VE EVER HAD. PERIOD. Congrats Lagunitas, Brown Shugga's a work of art.

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Photo of Mooslerfitness
4.62/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

first off I love stouts but this might be my favorite beer thus my craft journey
L : dark copper amber hugh 4 finger Creamy off white head lots of lacing poured in wide mouth goblet at 45`
S: grapefruit (cutties) slight hop and little spice
T: kinda weird but smells of citrus grapefruit mainly with caramelized brown shugga:-) this is f n delicious does have slight alcohol finish but to expect with almost 10%
F lite carbonation that coats your mouth
O : I love this beer kinda taste little like stone ipa but 100 times better and it has brown sugar come on who dont love brown shugga

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Photo of kiddynamite920
4.62/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into ye' olde Duvel tulip.

A: Noticeable carbonation streaming upwards off the nucleation point to create a thin, but creamy off white head. The beer is a mahogany color with some reddish highlights around. Looks very inviting.

S: Full of brown sugar, caramelized sugar and sweet malts. Hops mask what would be a quite strong alcohol presence. Big, luscious and a nice bitter hop aroma as well.

T: Absolutely mind blowing taste. So creamy with a big caramel flavor. Glad I got around to reviewing this beer, because it is one of my favorites that I never really sat and studied. Hops experienced on the nose were bitter, yet the beer is a malt bomb. Very understandable how some classify this as an American Barleywine.

M: A bit wispy for the mat presence. Guess this is why some people don't classify this as an American BW. Still creamy and luscious, yet the beer also has some carbonation to it that keeps it crisp.

D: Way too drinkable and at near 10%, this ones dangerous. Alcohol is hidden very well so read your labels kids.

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Photo of MikeBrandman
4.62/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours from a bottle a delicious looking reddish brown. Translucent with slightly visible carbonation that supports one of the best looking heads I've ever seen. 3 fingers of creamy, offwhite head that stays around the entire time. Smooth, thick lacing that goes through the entire glass. Great looking brew.

S - Such a strong smell right after the cap has been removed. Rich brown sugar smell with a slight grape aroma as well. Slightly roasted smell too, almost chocolately. No alcohol smell, which is suprising for such a strong beer.

T - Again, brown sugar and grape tastes predominately. The chocolate and roast characters are more subdued than in the smell, but still definitely there. The sugary sweetness is effectively countered by the other tastes here; definitely a creative and well thought out beer. Complex taste that doesn't get cloyingly sweet or dull with time. Alcohol taste is there, but it doesn't get bothersome or offputting.

MF - Smooth and satisfying. Slightly heavy but buttery. Very good texture.

D - So, so drinkable. The awesomely complex flavor and the unique texture leave you wanting more and more.

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Photo of thewho
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Where to start with my favorite beer...Great sweetness with a hop finish, all on top of an outrageous 9.9% abv.

A: Gorgeous red copper color, with a white head that quickly settles down.

S: MMmmm...Sweet brown shugga! Nice malty smell to complement the sugary sweetness. Slight hop smell buried under the sweetness.

T: Definately sweet brown sugar flavor upon first hitting the mouth, but that gives way to a great slighty hopped finish. I've found this more noticeable on tap than out of the bottle.

M: Nice syrupy and warming feeling due to the high ABV. The last bit of hop flavor at the end is what keeps me coming back to how much I love this beer.

D: Well, don't have too many (3+) otherwise you will be on your way to drunkenness. More than 5 or 6 makes for a bad, bad night. Good idea to keep tabs on how much you've had, so be forewarned. Although its strong, its very very tasty.

Congratulations Brown Shugga, you are my favorite beer, and have inspired me to write my first BA review!

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Photo of wangbruins
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- Very thick looking dark caramel color with a very small head, but the color definately fits the name

S- Strong sugar smell as well as a flower scent and some earth tones laced in

T- Very earthy with a lot of caramel overtones and a sweet, sugary aftertaste

M- It's like my coffee, smooth and sweet, very easy with a slight after bite. It's a very, very pleasant feel on the palate

D- This beer is phenomenal for a sweet lover, which I am. It's very surprisingly drinkable and tasty

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Photo of Un-earthly
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Excellent malt with the perfect balance of hops for this strong ale, at 9.9% it knocks you on your behind faster than you'd imagine especially with how smooth, and tasty this beer is. If you haven't tried it you should get your hands on some.

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Photo of EdwardAbbey
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A truly unique beer, in my experience. Malty but hoppy; hoppy but malty; strong but smooth...and affordable. A paradox in every way, but what's not to like? I guess that's 'why you taste so good.'

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Photo of CVC
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Came in a 22 oz. "Sweet Release" bomber; served in a pint glass.

Pours a brownish copper color with a two-finger, off-white head. Leaves a lotta lace. Smells sweet--malts and brown shugga'. Tastes of plums, brown sugar, and rum. Has a very thick and full-bodied mouthfeel, and ist so drinkable for a barley wine.

"This ale is accidental and we have no idea what kind of style it conforms to. We were making Gnarlywine in 1998, messed up the recipe, an [sic] this is what we got." What a great mistake!

I've been drinking a lot of this lately. Awesome in many ways: taste, ABV, and price ($2.79 per bomber). Like everything Lagunitas does, this beer is extremely drinkable. The appearance, smell, and mouthfeel are all superb, too. I think I'm gonna keep buying this stuff regularly before it goes off the shelves.

Oh, Brown Shugga', how come you taste so good?

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Photo of RootedFool
4.6/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured a tad too aggressively into my Celebration Ale pint glass ('tis the season), and the head fires up toward the rim of the glass, lush and dense, and bright tan in color. Some nice, husky streaks of lace cling to the glass. The body is reddish brown, almost crimson, without a shade of haziness -- just solid, and bright.


Huge waft of sweetness kicks out immediately, with a tight center of snappin' cracklin' hops. Shimmy shimmy ya! Everything about the smell is bold, sweet and deep.


Opens with an almost puckering blast of tart sweetness (apple tart) on the front. The middle has a heavier, brown sugary sweetness, that spreads out over the base of my palate as a symphony of delicious hop bitterness blazes above, like Santa's sleigh, except instead of reindeers its pulled along by a posse of hops. The finish is so sweet, but just right -- balanced perfectly against the fading hop bitterness -- and not overpowering at all. Alcohol is also evident, slighty, in the finish; I feel it warming my throat and jolly old gut.

I'm glad I gave this beer some time to come down from fridge to cellar temp. The flavors are big and need the breathing room.

The mouthfeel is delightfully heavy, rests on my tongue like a chubby child would on Santa's lap. Lovely.


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Photo of Walligator
4.59/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

I'm a huge fan of Laganitus and this beer is no disappointment! I'm definately going to age some of this. By some, try some, and write yer own review.

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.59/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, light red brown amber colored with a huge light tan head that lingers leaving excellent lacing, clear

S: amazing aroma of citrus hops, orange, grapefruit, lemon, caramelized sugar

T: grapefruit, lemon zest, pine, toffee, strawberry, brown sugar,

M: higher carbonation, alcohol amazingly well hidden, slightly viscous

O: The most amazing part of this beer is that the alcohol is so well hidden under a depth of hop and malt flavor.

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Photo of runningjoke
4.59/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I poured this into a pint glass.

A. Orange amber the color of orange tea with a thin head that turned into a spidery cover.
S. Smelled of malt, burnt sugar, orange, and roses(?).
T. Malt, caramelized sugar, hops, chicory, all seem to come together as sweetened grapefruit.
M. Really smooth and mouthwatering.
D. Goes down real easy and begs for the next one.

Great beer!

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Photo of OldManMetal
4.58/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a beautiful beer: deep amber in color, crystal-clear and sparkling, with a lasting giant pebbly off-white head; lacing consists of goodly, IPA-like rafts and ladders. The nose is a big, enticing blend of cotton candy, juicy pineapple and sweet/spicy florals over a more subdued grassy pine backdrop; significant boozy overtones round it out nicely. Up front, the palate is bitter pineapple and citrus with piney highlights; mid-palate the sweet/spicy characteristics emerge and bring the flavor into alignment with the aroma, and assertive boozy undertones fulfill the aroma's promise. A very nice sweetish, light-caramel malt backbone is on prominent display; this is ultimately a hop-forward beer, but the malt presence is considerable. The finish is caramel malt and pine, followed by the onset of a moderately bitter grassy pine flavor that lingers for a few minutes. Retrogustative olfaction is decidedly grassy. Mouthfeel is on point for the medium body, and the texture is creamy with a perfect slight pepperiness from the modestly-expressed fizzy carbonation. This is a very smooth drinker for the ABV, and damned tasty to boot. (12 oz bottle, no code date)

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Photo of WestCoastLibations
4.58/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Celebrating my two year anniversary at the high school I currently teach at in Korea, I wanted a way to bring it all back home so to speak, enjoying this California beer, even though I have been across the Pacific for some time now. I have had this little gem sitting in my 'fridge for a while, and thought it the perfect opportunity to open it up, and enjoy its bountiful offerings.

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into an appropriate cup, it came out smooth, a darkened-Amber color flowing seamlessly from vessel to vessel. Settling nicely with minimal foam, apart from its appearance, the first thing that jumped out at me from the wide rim of the glass, was the aroma; a strong scent which transported my mind immediately back to California, regardless of my actual physical location. I could almost taste this beer through its smell; that strong, and that alluring.

Upon tasting though, my realities were again questioned, as this 9.9% ale packs a punch even as it sat in my mouth, visiting it seemed, all 5,000 taste buds before making its rounds to the neurons within my brain. This beer I was enjoying, was at a time, part of a larger six-pack, but while drinking just this one for my celebration, it was beyond me how long it would take to finish all six. Woulda been silly!

Overall, as the statistics prove, this is an absolutely incredible beer, taking no prisoners, while at the same time, allowing transcendence beyond space and time. My space is here in Korea, my time is for the past two years, but while I sipped on this Brown Shugga', I was back along the West Coast, in mind, body, and soul...

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Photo of Magpie14
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: orange and red hues, just a touch on the cloudy side. Capped off with a thin and fizzy head. The color is rather pleasant and maintains a certain radiance and warmth to it. The walls of the glass were almost bare as lacing was token

S: sweet profile that makes me think of butterscotch and belgian candies. Roasted malts, and an essential companionship of lemon and pine hops

T: malts give a good bottom end and allow the sweeter stuff to mingle in the mouth. Sweetness of brown sugar, caramel, and soft medicinal honey syrupy appeal (not a bad thing). I think the medicinal characteristics are a direct result of the hops (lemons, pine, grapefruits) that do the trick of cutting through the sweetness from time to time. Also hits with a bit of bite and spiced cherries and fruits.
All in all this guy is pretty balanced for what flavors their are, and their is a bunch and nothing is over the top! Great sipper

M: mild and creamy body, super agreeable and gratifying. Body has the strong ale style right, all while maintaining a good hop profile. Alcohol notes pop through after sitting, in any event I hardly realized

D: what the devil! why have I not had this before? I have found new favorite to add to the list, sheer wonder in a bottle. Without a doubt one of my favorite strong ales to this date

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Photo of jdhilt
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a two-fingered light tan head that fades slowly leaving some lace. Clear amber color. Brown sugar nose. Medium carbonation and heavy bodied. Starts sweet but complex flavor, hops are here balancing the brown sugar and malts, the high ABV is not noticeable. Good beer to savor. $5.45 for a 22oz bottle from Colonial Spirits Acton, Ma.

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Photo of daringer
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Wasn't sure what to expect, really. I've had the Lagunitas Sucks, which was a decent enough IPA. Now this is the "Sweet" version of the Brown Shugga...How many different incarnations of the same beer do you really need? Well, I haven't tried to the original Brown Shugga', sadly, but after this beer, I'm more than willing to give it a go.
A: Rather nice ruby/amber color. Surprising. For some reason I was expecting something more golden. Deeper and livelier than I had anticipated.
S: Hops front, which is misleading later on. However, I'm getting nice grapefruit and citrus right off the bat.
M: Full, to medium...which is a weird way to put it, I guess. It's more filling than I would have presumed. This beer is full of surprises!
T: Jeez. Blown away. There are dark fruit immediately. Plum, even a bit of dried apple. Sweet. Finish with a nice dry hoppiness alluded to in the aroma.
O: A sweeter beer than I was expecting, but with all the IPA running rampant in today's market, something a little sweeter doesn't go amiss. I thoroughly enjoyed this beer and would recommend it to anyone who likes something a little more complex--something a little sweeter than the average flight set.

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Photo of jucifer1818
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Lives up to its name. Looks like melted brown sugar. light, rich, brown color

S: refreshing flowery hoppy smell, with some very mild citricy hops in the background, with the malty smells playing second fiddle to the hops
However, these hops smell excellent

T: sweet sticky goodness, with a light hoppy bite coming in at the end. lots of brown suggar and hops, and it works out a lot better then it should.

M:Slick, lightly sticky, light for a 10% ABV brew
Dangerously drinkable

overall: this is a epic beer, and I give it a 4.5/5

its a VERY good limited release form Lagunitas. Strong brewing skills where at work to making something like this work that had this much brown sugar (as a home brewer myself, I can appreciate the work they put in to making this one work.

Highly recommended. If you see if, get it!

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Photo of mzwolinski
4.56/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Crytsal-clear and a rich copper in color, with a mountainous off-white head and decent lacing. The aroma is quite appealing as the brown sugar sweetness blends almost imperceptibly with a blend of citric and lightly floral hops. Mild fusel alcohol aromas develop as the beer warms. The flavor begins malty with some light, fruity notes, followed by an almost granular sugary flavor and some mild alcohol warming. The finish is dominating by a biting hop presence, but one which stings only for a second and merges gracefully in to a very well-balanced sugary sweet and somewhat spicy aftertaste. Medium-full body and rather like a mild barley wine in character. A very well-crafted (even if accidentally!) and drinkable beer.

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Brown Shugga' from Lagunitas Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 5,644 ratings.
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