, a seasonal brew from Lagunitas, was created in 1997 as the result of an attempt to rescue a failed batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale by adding "boatloads of brown sugar"—or so the story goes, anyway. It was a hit and they've made it every year since, until last year. Lagunitas, then in the process of building a new brew house, realized that they didn't have the facilities to brew both their regular beers and Brown Shugga (which requires more time to make than the others). In its place they released an excellent IPA that they named Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, with an apology for not brewing Brown Shugga printed on every bottle: "There is no joy in our hearts and the best we can hope for is a quick and merciful end. F*@& us. This totally blows. Whatever. We freaking munch moldy donkey butt and we just want it all to be over."
Lagunitas Sucks was so popular that the brewery now plans to brew it year-round—and more importantly, Brown Shugga is back this year. It's less sweet than you'd expect, smooth and biscuity-tasting with a subtle brown sugar flavor and piney hops that kick in with a bitterness that intensifies for two or three seconds before starting to fade. When the beer is cold the hop bitterness is the dominant flavor, but it mellows out as it warms up, letting the malts come through more.
According to the bottle: "We believe this Special Ale is Something Unique. Feeding Brown Cane Sugar to otherwise Cultured Brewery Yeast is a'kin to feeding Raw Shark to your Gerbil. It is unlikely to ever occur in nature without Human Intervention. And it looks weird besides. But it has happened and now it's too Late."
Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.