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Collaborating for a Cause | Lua Brewing

Feature Imagery, Lua Brewing
Eric Griffin

The outpouring of support for Alex Kidd and his family has been incredible over the last eight months. In particular, when backtracking to those first 30 days after he announced his Stage IV cancer diagnosis, it’s mind-blowing just how quickly so many breweries and individuals banded together to raise funds. Lua Brewing was no exception. Just four days after the unexpected announcement on Don’t Drink Beer’s social accounts, Lua organized a vintage sale offering full sets of their sought-after Destroyer Barleywine, with 100% earned going straight to the Kidd family.

The Lua Cause

Lua Brewing is made up of a formidable group who introduced their vision to the world in November of 2019. Owners Scott and Whitney Selix decided to open the brewery after meeting a decade prior at a craft beer bar, having spent the 10 years since traveling and fully immersing themselves in the processes behind brewing and serving both food and beer. They joined forces with friend and brewer Zack Dunbar—who at the time was Lead Brewer at Forager—and Chef James Arbaugh, who left Michelin-starred Plumed Horse in the Bay Area to move to Des Moines.

This small Iowa operation was built on the philosophy of “quality over all”, and they pride themselves on not cutting corners. From utilizing raw ingredients to appropriate glassware to side-pour faucets to their taproom environment, none of their processes are overlooked. There’s a reason that they earned both a spot as one of the top 50 breweries in the world, and awards for best restaurant and one of the best restaurants in Des Moines (by Catch Des Moines) in their first 18 months open.

Above all, they have a deep-rooted passion for everything they do, and proudly recognize those who helped build up and be a prominent voice in the Community. When friend, husband, and father Alex Kidd announced he had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, the team at Lua acted immediately to help raise money for him and his family.

Destroyer

The Release

On May 17, 2023, the brewery announced on social media that they would be selling cellared bottles of each version of their Destroyer Barleywine the following day, dedicating the re-release and all proceeds to a truly integral member of the beer community in Alex Kidd.

The sale was extremely limited, with only 36 full sets available (180 bottles total), each priced at $30. The release was a dual in-person/online sale, allowing those who arrived early to the brewery that morning to purchase bottles. Limits were to be determined by the number of people in line, but due to the nature of the release there wasn’t a plan to limit in-person sales. Any bottles that were left over went for sale through Lua’s online portal. In the end, $5,130 was donated to the Kidd family GoFundMe through this amazing fundraising effort.

The Beer

The Destroyer lineup was a collaborative design with Lua’s friends at Thesis Beer Project. The goal with these limited Barleywines was to exhibit a true expression of raw ingredients. The challenge was to push the simplest brewing inputs to their breaking point.

The recipe was composed solely—and in extreme amounts—of Maris Otter barley, Citra hops and two unique yeast strains. It was then boiled for a total of 36 hours and rested in five different barrels for 16 months. The barrels selected for each iteration were Cognac, Madeira, Sherry, Maple Bourbon and Bourbon. After this initial slumber, four of the five beers were then transferred into Heaven Hill for an additional year to further layer the barrel integration. The remaining Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel continued resting in the same vessel and was released as a Single Barrel version within the set. Additionally, Lua had one single keg of base Destroyer set aside to age in stainless without barrel treatment.

In the end, the final product was four unadulterated, double-barrel-aged Barleywine ales with one single-barrel, as well as a limited run of about 50 bottles of the stainless expression allocated to the first in line at the original October 2022 release. The set was introduced as part of their third anniversary celebration.

“Barleywine ale, a largely undefined, amorphous style, is a blank page of sorts, and one must not come lightly to the blank page. Destroyer, a raconteur ale, does not.”

Lua was immensely generous in sending us a Destroyer set to not only share with you all, but in dedication to the most prolific beer reviewer in Craft Beer, Alex Kidd, AKA Don’t Drink Beer. We owe a huge thank you to them for allowing this opportunity.

The Reviews

Review images, full Destroyer Barleywine Lineup
Photos by Eric Griffin

Single Barrel

Destroyer Single Barrel Label
Label Courtesy of Lua Brewing

There’s a deep, brooding pour to this Barleywine. The liquid opens up an abyss not necessarily characteristic of the style, but a promising welcome of what is to come. Hardly any agitated carbonation lingers.

Dark chocolate-enrobed blueberries mingle with the sweetness of dates, underscored by a delicate whisper of torched oak. Over time, a graceful evolution unfolds, transitioning from the initial interplay of chocolate and bourbon towards a more pronounced expression of fruitiness, a metamorphosis subtly influenced by temperature.

The palate mirrors the aromatic symphony, echoing the notes of dark, fruity chocolate, dates and the faintest hint of charred oak, harmonized by a nuanced touch of mildly bitter caramel.

There’s a beautiful weight to this beer. Velvety smooth, but not overly syrupy. The carbonation, though present, lends a gentle effervescence, contributing to its overall refinement. Notably, an estery dryness intermingles with a comforting warmth derived from the ethanol to help round everything out perfectly. It’s amazing the balance this retains not only after over 2 years in oak, but also another year and a half in the bottle since its October 2022 release.

Sherry

Destroyer Sherry Label
Label Courtesy of Lua Brewing

This variant boasts a deep brown coloration, with an immediately noticeable head buildup that is absent in almost all the other variants in the set.

The nose takes a minute to pick up, but once it begins to open up a dry, almond-driven nuttiness emerges. It is quickly accompanied by the invigorating zest of tangy citrus, interwoven with nuances of caramel candy and the subtle embrace of vanilla.

This Sherry expression is dry and sharp right away, with the oak character really paving the way for notes of red currant, dried fruits, and burnt sugar. The fruit notes impart a delicate acidity, while the juxtaposition of caramel offers a lingering bitterness, enriching the tasting experience.

This is notably more carbonated than any other variant of Destroyer. Not off-putting, but it adds a sharpness to the front-end of the palate. Though its pronounced carbonation imparts a sharpness upon initial contact with the palate, it serves as a fitting complement to the inherently dry and bitter characteristics bestowed by the sherry barrel aging process.

Maple

Destroyer Maple Label
Label Courtesy of Lua Brewing

Like with the other Destroyers, the hue is a deep, dark, rusty brown. Very little noticeable carbonation, and a relatively low viscosity appearance.

The nose is rich and sweet, characterized by caramel truffles intermingled with the comforting embrace of stewed fruits. Following closely, the essence of maple-infused bourbon permeates the senses and does well to open an invitation into the complex palate profile.

Much of the tasting experience mirrors the opulence of what we find on the nose. A delicate interplay unfolds, with a nuanced bitterness imparted by the complexities of burnt sugar and charred oak, juxtaposed against the velvety richness of maple. Contrasting nicely is more of a prominence of maple richness accompanied by milk chocolate and fruit cake.

The liquid adequately coats the palate even with a fairly thin gravity. That said, after a gentle rise in temperature, it evolves, thickening into a more substantial presence. The lingering aftertaste of this Maple bourbon variant is a testament to its enduring charm, leaving behind a mere whisper of bitterness to accompany the familiar warmth of the barrel and the reminder of its time spent in oak.

Madeira

Destroyer Madeira Label
Label Courtesy of Lua Brewing

In comparison to other bottles in this set, we notice a slightly lighter coloration to the pour. That said, it shares the same understated effervescence, settling swiftly into a tranquil, stagnant liquid in the glass.

The nose exudes complexity immediately. With patience, a symphony of aromas emerges, each note vying for attention. Caramelized peaches intermingle with the allure of chocolate cherries; the essence of raisin and toasted walnuts adds depth. With a strong underlying backbone of stewed dark fruits, there’s a subtle brightness to the aromatics. That said, notes of dark chocolate and torched oak help to balance everything out.

Upon the palate, a rich sweetness takes the lead, swiftly followed by a tantalizing touch of tartness. The flavor profile unfurls with the decadence of over-baked peach cobbler, punctuated by the nuanced bitterness of burnt sugar. As the journey progresses, echoes of red vermouth dance upon the mid-palate, softened by the subtle undertones of chocolate-coated raisins.  On the finish is a whisper of nuttiness, imparting a delicate dryness while amplifying the oaky barrel character.

The mouthfeel, like others in this set, is very well-balanced, a testament to finessed execution. Viscous yet refraining from syrupy excess, it carries a gentle carbonation that elevates without overwhelming. The finish has some warmth, but drinks alarmingly smooth for 15%. The exploration of these lesser-utilized barrels is a journey worth savoring, with each sip unveiling layers of exciting complexity.

Cognac

Destroyer Cognac Label
Label Courtesy of Lua Brewing

On the pour, there is very little noticeable carbonation buildup. The dark, rusty brown coloration settles very quickly, with medium weight to the appearance.

The nose blooms into a bouquet of candied orange and apricot jam, accompanied by the tantalizing allure of Raisinet candy. Riding steadily in the background are clear bolstering aromas of caramel and Luxardo cherries.

On the palate, the influence of the cognac makes an unapologetically bold entrance, its presence commanding attention with authority. The initial sip reveals a symphony of spiced, earthy tones, punctuated by blistered oak, which imparts a gentle dryness. Yet, amidst this complexity, a luscious richness emerges. Notes of candied fruits and velvety fig jam provide a beautiful contrast. The mid-palate come forward with medium bitterness, accompanied by nuances of dark fruit, smoke, and hints of vanilla. The finish is accompanied by a touch of drying tannin, with burnt caramel and lingering heat.

The mouthfeel doesn’t at all reflect what we initially expected based on the pour. Like with the others in this series, Cognac Destroyer carries itself well, balancing carbonation and gravity. Undoubtedly, this iteration stands as the driest and most potent of the series in our experience. That said, it’s a clear and exquisite testament to the transformative secondary aging that this version underwent.

Supporting the Kidds

2024 is a new year with new opportunity. That said, it will almost certainly come with a new set of challenges for Alex and his family as well. Regardless, the support is not unnoticed and continues to flow in. A link to the Kidd family GoFundMe can be found here for those interested in committing financial support as well.

In the meantime, we will continue to do our part through the highlighting of breweries and their dedicated releases in support of Don’t Drink Beer. On deck you can expect to see the likes of Tavour exclusive Alex’s Life conducted by The Veil & friends, a full vertical feature of Hair of the Dog‘s Don Barleywine, as well brewery showcases from Cerebral, Wren House, Phase Three, Wax Wings, and Jailbreak… with more in the works!

The whole community is behind you, Stay Strong Alex!


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