What's in a Name?

What's in a Name? is a weekly series where the Brewtography Project explores the origin story of brewery names. This week's brewery is Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales. This is their story.

Black Project first got its name around this time of the year (early-mid July) in 2014. We were about to enter our first GABF competition, having opened Former Future Brewing Company at the beginning of 2014. Being a young brewery, funds were tight - we decided to only pay the fee to enter one beer into the competition. We were producing a wildly popular robust porter with sea salt at the time and my wife and business partner Sarah, along with our employees, assumed that would be the beer we would enter. Instead I went back to the half-dozen barrels of so that I had begun filling with spontaneous wort from my earliest experiments with our rooftop coolship.

There was one barrel, barrel #3, that had developed particularly well and was already essentially ready to serve. I told the staff that we would enter this beer in the Wild Ale category, and explained how the beer was fermented only with microbes that had been captured from the air while the wort cooled. Most of our staff were taken by surprise that these barrels of spontaneously fermented beer even existed. Although they weren't necessarily meant to be a secret from anyone, I intentionally refrained from telling anyone the details as I wasn't sure how they would turn out and I wanted to make sure the beers were given as much time as necessary (we still have some of the beers aging in barrels that were brewed around the same as this beer).

From this lack of information, promotion, and pseudo-secrecy of the spontaneous program I had started came the idea of the name Black Project. The name is a reference to government black budget items / black projects like various spy and stealth aircraft. In the case of government, these are usually military projects that congress votes to approve spending on, but where all or most of the details of the project are classified. These programs typically involve new, cutting edge technology - which was the second reason for the use of the name for our beers.

Our tagline is "Research and Development in Spontaneous Fermentation" - and this related perfectly to the cutting edge nature of many US military black projects. I've always wanted to make beers inspired by the traditional Belgian Lambic process - it is a no-brainer place to start - Belgian Lambic is the only historical example of spontaneous fermentation that survived to the modern era. However, I also wanted to take spontaneous fermentation and begin using it to make beers of all types, with lots of experimental techniques and ingredients. In essence, I wanted Black Project to be rooted in the tradition of Belgian coolship beers - but also on the cutting edge of spontaneous fermentation.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
Innovation in the research and development of spontaneous fermentation

Response to ABInBEV

Earlier this week, Sam Calagione issued a request to RateBeer asking that they remove all Dogfish Head beer reviews and mentions on the RateBeer website. 

Yesterday, we followed Sam's lead and sent a letter to RateBeer, asking that any mentions, logos, or labels of "Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales" and "Former Future Brewing Company" also be removed from the RateBeer database and website. The following is their response:


Hi James,
We've received your inquiry about content removal from RateBeer.

The beauty and value of RateBeer comes in our users' ability to add publicly available content to our database. If there is a particular piece of content that you are concerned with, please refer to the processes defined in the Digital Copyright Millennium Copyright Act section of our Terms of Service here:


Thank you,
Joe Tucker

Joseph Tucker
Executive Director

Since writing the letter and posting it on our website, we've received a lot of questions and comments. The majority have been positive and supportive, while others have questioned our motives. The main argument we've heard, is that RateBeer will never take down the content we requested because it's user created, so why even write it? RateBeer's response confirms this, but that's not WHY we did it. People have also said that they will continue using the site, unless they find evidence of tampering with ratings, so our response is pointless. To them we say:

It is not the success of the resistance that matters, it is the resistance itself. 

We do not buy ABInBEV products, we do not attend festivals sponsored by ABInBEV, and we do not support businesses that benefit ABInBEV. We will also make every effort possible to make sure our brand and products do not contribute to their businesses in any way.


Now, we can debate the role other large companies have in craft beer, what breweries should be considered craft and which ones are not, or what constitutes "independent" ownership, but for us, none of these issues are as important as the ethics a company follows when conducting business. In this, ABInBEV stands alone.

ABInBEV wants to see your local brewery wiped off the map. They are not interested in buying craft beer breweries to "improve efficiencies" or "provide resources", instead, they are systematically acquiring strategic businesses to limit and disrupt the resources and avenues we depend on. They have a history of limiting distribution, they have been fined on multiple occasions across the country for pay-to-play agreements, they have spent millions of dollars on advertisement insulting and belittling craft breweries, and they have acquired breweries we all loved, just to undercut us all with pricing, selection, and availability, in an attempt to flood the market with their mass produced beer, while watching everyone else drown.

The simple fact is this, ABInBEV invested in RateBeer for a reason, and they would not invest if they didn't see either a profit financially or in other forms. There are some already saying that they are interested in the user information, brewery information, and the potential for monitoring trends using RateBeer's data. Which as so many have pointed out, is user created.

It is YOUR data.

That potential alone should be deeply troubling, knowing that content you created may be used one day against the breweries you love. So, our response is simple:

We don't want anything to do with any organization that ABInBEV profits from. Period.

James Howat

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
Innovation in the research and development of spontaneous fermentation