Breweries showing love to specific retailers in the form of exclusive releases is nothing new, but rarely are the beers literally named thank you.
Such is the case with Side Project Brewing’s Merci blend, which has been madethree times exclusively for Paul Hayden at The Wine and Cheese Place in St. Louis: the debut in January 2015, a second release in February 2016, and the beer we are reviewing today, Merci Blend 3. The 6 percent ABV blended American wild ale was produced by Side Project’s Cory King as a way for the brewery to thank Hayden for “all his support” of Side Project after it opened in 2014.
Each of the three Merci blends have been different and the newest blend is made up of the following components:
- 14 percent Saison du Fermier that was fermented in French Oak with Side Project’s Saison/local microflora mixed culture and then racked to and aged in a light toast American oak foedre for six months
- 31 percent Saison du Fermier that was fermented in and aged in a heavy toast American oak foedre for four months with Side Project’s Saison/local microflora mixed culture
- 46 percent Missouri Wild Blond Ale that was aged a French oak foedre that Side Project has been pulling solera-style pieces from for the past four years
- 9 percent Missouri Wild Ale that was aged in Missouri oak chardonnay barrels (59 gallon) for three years
As with the two previous versions, Merci Blend 3 was packaged in 750ml bottles and priced at $29.99 each with a six bottle per person limit when it was released at The Wine and Cheese Place on June 13. However, unlike previous versions, the beer was also sold online, meaning that fans across the country—like me—could purchase their entire allotment and have it shipped to them.
Side Project Merci Blend 3 pours a cloudy golden straw color with three fingers of fluffy, off white head that slowly dissipates, leaving behind a thick lacing that sticks around for quite a while. Visually, there seems to be plenty of carbonation, and aroma from the glass is a combination of strong sweet malt, lemongrass, granny smith apples, oak, blue cheese and grains.
If I was expecting a sweeter beer based on the strong sweet malt odor from the glass, I was destined to be wrong, as the first sip brings huge flavors of lemongrass, sour apples, straw, yeast and apricots. There is plenty of oak as well, and when combined with the creaminess of the beer on the palate, it is like drinking a fluffy, sour cloud. Carbonation is actually a bit more aggressive than I expected—albeit well within normal ranges—and the finish is dominated by a combination of lemon tartness and creamy oak that stays with you long after each sip.