I find it incredibly appropriate that Lagunitas Brewing has a beer loosely named after a Rolling Stones song as both entities are no strangers to controversy. Let’s take a look at lyrical – and “beerical,” I guess – facets of Brown Shugga.’
When The Stones released Brown Sugar as the opening track of, what this writer deems their best album of all-time, Sticky Fingers, the subject of interracial relationships was still a rather taboo thought; never mind the song’s lyrics about slavery. The peace and love generation embraced the notion of racial equality but middle America wanted nothing to do with their messages. 1971 was at the twilight of the “hippie era” and disco was about to rear its ugly head. The always-provocative Stones found themselves in Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording a bluesy, bombastic slice of Americana with song subjects ranging from drug addiction to unrequited love to the afore-mentioned white boys with “jungle fever.”
Well, their antics and hijinks are well-documented so we’ll move along to the exploits of someone who, I’d wager, is a bigger Stones fan than Beatles; Tony Magee. He appears unassuming; rimless glasses, short hair and polo shirts. He looks more 7th grade math teacher than provocateur. Appearances can be deceiving. The man is a master of verbal lashings via his twitter account. He’s called out the macro beer companies informing all that “U’re a demographic to them” (sic), trounced the seemingly-green aluminum can presence in craft brewing (he’s not a fan of toxic bauxite mining and the Sodium Hydroxide needed to extract the Earth’s most abundant metal) and gone toe-to-toe with fellow craft brewers over trademarks and intellectual property.
He’s seen Lagunitas harassed by the government over the name of one of his beers. Kronik was deemed too pot-referencing and a court ordered a name change. It’s now called Censored with the original lettering peeking out from underneath. Speaking of marijuana and Lagunitas, the ATF came a-calling when a couple of guests were spotted toking up on the brewery tour by undercover agents. To commemorate the incident Lagunitas christened a new beer Undercover Investigation Shut Down Ale.
Originally intended to be a barleywine, Brown Shugga’ is technically a Strong Ale but Lagunitas prefers to call this a new style; Irresponsible Ale. This bold brew is amber in color with coppery tints around the edges. A moderate cap of foam leaves behind sheets of sticky lacing. Pine and citrus hop scents leap out the glass alongside its namesake and caramel malt with a hint of tropical fruits. Flavor-wise, the tangy hop do-si-do of citrus, resin and herb dance around the sweetness of malt and brown sugar. The incredibly drinkable nature of this beer is dangerous; at 9.99% ABV it’ll knock you on your duff.
Brown Shugga’ how can you taste so good? Follow Mr. Magee on twitter and find out.