10 of the Country’s Most Interesting Breweries
Side Project Brewing
The beer world has been in danger of hitting “peak barrel” for some time, as many breweries that get their hands on a little cooperage have been pouring anything and everything into wood with near-reckless abandon. But when it all shakes out, the ones left standing are the ones like Side Project Brewing, dedicated to the proposition that not all barrels are created equal. Husband-and-wife team Karen and Cory King, who co-founded the St. Louis-based wild, sour, Brettanomyces-centric brewery, believe there’s a greater kinship between wine and beer than most might think. “My barrel-aging [technique] and barrel-aging program more closely resemble that of a winery than most breweries,” says Cory King, who initially considered a career in wine making before gravitating toward brewing. “Levels of toast, origins of oak, size of the barrel, age of the vessel are some things that Side Project addresses with their program that most breweries do not.”
Wine is quite often the liquid that previously inhabited the oak containers—very frequently local wine, at that—and Side Project is quite specific about varietals and the nuances each of those imparts. For instance, in 2014 the brewery launched Blanc de Blancs, aged in Missouri oak Chardonnay barrels with Missouri Chardonel grapes, particularly because of the native microflora present on the local grape skins. Its Blueberry Flanders is a Flemish-style red ale fermented and aged in Missouri Chambourcin barrels with Missouri yeast and bacteria and Michigan blueberries (fruit plays a key role in many Side Project brews).
“The wild, funky and sour beers are often more closely resembling of a wine to the palate than a beer,” Cory King continues. “I’m not a huge fan of bitterness, but I love acidity, hence my passion for creating these beers.” –Jeff Cioletti