A few weeks back two Lagunitas specials found their way to the shop and, while usually sceptical about big bombers of American craft beer, my good experience with Hop Stoopid encouraged me to give the one of those, Hairy Eyeball, a go.
There's not much stylistic information given on the label of the Hairy Eyeball; it seems to fall vaguely into the nondescript American strong ale category, being high of ABV and... well, that's about the only statement of intent I can see. Thankfully, in getting to the 9.1% they've whipped up some sweet-tooth-pleasing chewy toffee and red apple opening that matches the beautiful clear dark red appearance of the beer. More dark malt stage hogging comes in the form of raisiny chocolate and apple syrup, completely quashing any chance of meaningful hop expression. Part doppelbock, part quadrupel, part barleywine; this is an undeniably enjoyable glass of beer that, despite its strength, is mercifully lacking in alcohol but sadly lacking in body and complexity. Still, halfway through you're bound to stop caring and just curl up in the sugary warm bed and go to sleep... right?
A jab of insulin and a scrape of the tongue later and you're ready for Brown Shugga, another vague, strong, clear copper release, this time hitting 9.9%. There's a bit more to this one, even if it does whack you first with that toffee apple malt stick that Lagunitas brandishes with reckless abandon in it's stronger beers. Yes, once that's over you can turn your attention to the aromatic grapefruit skin bitterness and sharp, pulpy mandarin and pineapple juice that lifts things off the malt floor. The palate gets another dose of chewy toffee caramel but this too opens the door for some pleasant, pithy orange and milk chocolate. And yes, there is a considerable element of brown sugar to be found.
Whatever the billings, the Shugga seems to be the slightly more nuanced of these two enjoyable but admittedly simple, almost dumb beers. It basically appears as a American barleywine, minus the intensive, aggressive hopping and complexity of, say, Bigfoot (fanboy squeal).
If you've had enough of bitterness, sourness, or just contemplative drinking for while, give these a go.