Holy City Brewing
Barrel-Aged LDA (Lowcountry Dark Ale)
While Coast and Westbrook garner most of the beer-centric headlines in the Lowcountry, Holy City has grown in visibility and prominence within the past year. Unlike their aforementioned coastal beer brethren, Holy City’s still getting the ball rolling on distributing outside of the Charleston area, although kegs are a regular find in the Midlands and Upstate and bottles are on the way.
But with a Great American Beer Festival gold medal hanging around their necks thanks to their stellar Pluff Mud Porter, the HC guys are showing they’ve got plenty of good stuff rolling out their doors, including their take on a black IPA, the Lowcountry Dark Ale.
LDA is one of Holy City’s summer seasonal, brewed with Summit and Northern Brewer hops and a variety of roasted and unroasted malts. Every year, they take a bit of the beer and toss it in Seagram’s bourbon barrels for six months, thus creating BA LDA. The result is the smooth booziness you’d expected from a BA beer with the biting and roasted characteristics of a black IPA.
To start, the vanilla on the nose is massive, backed perfectly by the sweetness of the bourbon. It’s sweet, sticky and rich. Along with that are the classic bourbon barrel characteristics: caramel, toffee, a little honey and some dark fruit notes. Behind that is the roasted notes from the black IPA. Slight, but there. It’s more akin to a stout than a black IPA, in my opinion.
The taste starts off with just a slight roasted bitterness. There’s not a lot of carbonation and it kind of melts across the palate. The sweeter bourbon notes are really prevalent toward the middle. I got lots of caramel, vanilla and brown sugar, as well as a slight booziness. On the end, it’s all black IPA. Strong, bitter black coffee take over everything, but it’s cut by the sweetness of the bourbon. There is a slight booze bite on the back, making it more of a sipper than other black IPAs.
I’m not sure if the barrel aging ups the ABV at all, but the base LDA comes in at just below 7% ABV, and even there it’s incredibly drinkable. The barrel aging mellows whatever pungent hoppiness or roasted characteristics are usually associated with a black IPA, but doesn’t erase them. I think this may be the first barrel-aged black IPA I’ve had, which means I’m safe in saying this is easily the best barrel-aged black IPA I’ve had.