Side Project Brewing’s Derivation Blend #16 is a strong and successful beer. You have several barrel-aged stouts, coffee, vanilla beans, and bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. This combination can easily go off the rails, but Side Project expertly blends all the components into a potent yet delicate barrel-aged Imperial Stout.
Play hard to get
Historically, Derivation from Side Project Brewing is not a beer you would typically come across. A lot must have worked in your favor before you found yourself in front of one of these wax-dipped beauties.
Is this still the case in 2022? To some extent yes, but it gets a little easier.
This is due to a slight increase in capacity (but still extremely limited compared to most craft breweries) and the recent opening of a new outpost to the Side Project Brewing family – the Shared Brewing Patio. This brings their number of locations to three: The Side Project Cellar, The Side Project Brewery, and the aforementioned Shared Brewing Patio.
That being said, the Derivation series of massive stouts is still extremely elusive. You must score over 90% on a cicerone quiz, find all the flags in a Double-Dare style obstacle course, then queue in the rain for 3 hours.
Ok, that’s not so bad, but there’s quite a bit of mystery and uncertainty. Derivation isn’t released with regularity, you’ll never know what kind of flavor profile to expect, and it will require a trip to Maplewood, Missouri. Sometimes there is a warning, but sometimes a new Derivation mix will be announced on social media without notice. Hunting for this beer will definitely keep you on your toes.
Parallel project brewing
Side Project Brewing is a 100% barrel-aged brewery in Maplewood, Missouri – a close suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Since the early 2010s they have been producing wild beers, saisons, barrel aged barley wines, barrel aged stouts and much more.
A few other notable beers in the Side Project archives are Saison du Fermier, Pulling Nails, Fuzzy, Anabasis, and Beer: Barrel: Time.
Although small, Side Project is known for collaborating with some of the biggest names in craft beer like Half Acre Beer Company, Anchorage Brewing Company, Casey Brewing & Blending, Jester King Brewery and Perennial Artisan Ales. A few years ago they even started their own beer festival called Side Project Invitational which features some of the best beers around.
In many ways, Side Project approaches beer brewing more like a winemaker. Their beer is aged in wooden barrels and they do a lot of blending from different barrels to achieve the perfect balance. This winemaker mentality is definitely showcased with Derivation Blend #16.
The word Derivation means something that comes from something else. You could say that this definition could apply to just about anything related to beer or cooking. In this case, it highlights the fact that you start with simple ingredients and then watch the transformation while staying in the wood for a long time.
Side Project Brewing has a few non-barrel-aged stouts in its lineup, namely Beer: Barrel: Time, but Derivation offers a variety of barrel spirits and generally an impressive team of add-ons. Previous Derivation blends have featured coconut, cinnamon, vanilla bean, coffee, chocolate, almond, and more.
Sweet (mix) sixteen
This brings us to the main event and that is Derivation Blend #16. Blend #16 was discontinued in October 2022. The base of this beer is a blend of barrel-aged Imperial Stouts that have been aged between 27 and 42 months in Bourbon barrels.
Let this period of intense aging sink in for a moment.
After spending all this time in the dark, Side Project wanted to reward the beer so they took her to a fancy brunch. This “brunch” treat involves infusing the stout base with Sump coffee, Bourbon cask-aged maple syrup, and Ugandan vanilla beans.
It’s a lot of strong flavors that can either compete for dominance or blend seamlessly together. In the case of Derivation #16, the flavors unquestionably played well with each other in this 15% ABV stout.
From the first pour from the waxed gold bottle, you can smell coffee, maple and a little alcohol. As expected with Side Project stouts, Derivation #16 is very thick and pitch black. An early sip when the beer was just out of the chilled bottle tasted like bitter coffee with some sweet maple in the back. As it warmed up you could really taste anything you wanted to taste. The coffee has become a little creamier and goes well with the maple and vanilla flavors. The barrel was also very present in the way it warmed the body and in the richness of each new sampling.
Share with friends
Incorporating maple syrup into beer can be one of the trickiest challenges. Not to mention several other complements and the flavor of the big barrel. Side Project was up to the task in this case. If this were an easy-to-get beer, it would be high on the list of stouts to share with friends around the campfire.
Since the only way to enjoy it is at the Side Project Cellar, Side Project Brewery, or Shared Brewing Patio, the recommendation is to enjoy it with friends during the fall or winter months in beautiful Maplewood. , Missouri.