For the next installment of our Brewery Series, we head to the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains where you’ll find Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, just South of Denver, Colorado. They’ve made a name for themselves by brewing beers that are fermented purely with microbes procured from the “local environment via coolship or foraged from nature.”
Black Project was founded in 2014 by owner, brewer, and blender James Howat, along with his wife Sarah. The brewery began it’s life as Former Future Brewing, with Black Project being a side project all it’s own.
Success was immediately realized with Former Future’s Black Project #1 Flyby awarded Bronze at the Great American Beer Festival in the Experimental Beer category. They’d go on to win bronze again in 2015 for Ramjet, a Dark Sour Ale with Cherries, though this time officially entered under the Black Project brand. With all this immediate attention paid to their distinctly unique approach to Wild Ales, despite the limited production and barrel aging space they were working with, bottles and draft of these early offerings sold out in record time as a result.
In the summer of 2016, the Howats’ made the difficult decision to invest all their energy into Black Project, leaving behind the Former Future brand. They added more space for barrel and large format wooden vessels, as well as a new ten barrel copper coolship, replacing two large stock pots used to that point.
James has made it very clear that they “use science and experimentation to find which processes and ingredients we want and often use that in parallel to traditional Lambic producers.” While they follow a “strict adherence to traditional Belgian processes, these beers are not and should not be called ‘Lambic’ and ‘Gueuze,’ as we are outside of the Pajottenland region of Belgium.” Their focus as a brewery is to create beer that’s a product of the local terroir, with “spontaneous fermentation [as] merely a starting point and core of many of our beers, from there our research and development extends much beyond the scope of the great Belgian brewers and blenders.”
While their beers have historically been packaged in 750ml bottles, recent years have seen an uptick of releases in the 500ml bottle format. Then last fall, Black Project became one of the first breweries in to release 100% Spontaneous Ales in 16 oz cans, which pleased us at Day One, as we were able to receive our first shipment of their cans in June!
We just received our second shipment of four different cans earlier this week, each distinctly different from each other. ARGUS is a Sour Ale with Passion Fruit and Vanilla, while GAUNTLET is a Dry Hopped Sour Ale with Blackberries (cans & kegs), and FREEHAND is a Fruit Punch Sour Ale featuring Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, and Apricot (cans & kegs). The fourth new release, TOP SECRET (“internal code name PIQUETTE”), is arguably the most interesting diversion to date for Black Project. This Wild Fermented Hard Seltzer utilizes Tempranillo and Cab Franc grapes, with primary fermentation initiated via the wild yeast from the grape skins. All these new arrivals hover around the 5% ABV mark, making each a great sessionable option during the dog days of summer.