Over the last four years, we have made it our mission at Black Project to innovate in the research and development of spontaneous fermentation.

Today we announce our next bottle release, TAGBOARD, which is a perfect example of how we often aspire to mesh innovation with tradition. This beer is a 3-year blend of Lambic-inspired, coolship spontaneous beer that has been finished on fresh-picked Neomexicanus wet hops from Voss Farms, in Arvada, Colorado.

We have made other dry hopped sour beers, and have always said they should be enjoyed fresh to get the best hop flavor possible. However, we have noticed over the years that certain hop flavors in our beers can actually change in extremely interest ways as a bottle ages. A year old IPA almost always tastes a bit skunky or flat with regards to hop character. However, the diverse population of coolship-caught microbes in our spontaneous beers are able to both help prevent oxidation and also chemically alter some hop compounds over time.

TAGBOARD is the culmination of years of experimenting, research, and development into the latter process, called biotransformation, and exploring how it works with our unique microbial ecosystem in regards to hop compounds. Specifically, we began to recognize evidence that some component in our cultures seems to have long term β-glucosidase activity, causing the release of terpenoids through metabolism of terpenyl glycosides. This is a fancy way of saying that some microbes can release new and unique aromas and flavors from hops that would otherwise not be present in the beer.

After tasting the development of our dry hopped beers across several years, James decided that he wanted to make a beer designed to showcase this biotransformation of hop compounds, and the development of flavor and aroma over time in the bottle.
This year we were able to get our hands on a decent amount of fresh/wet hops of a variety called Neo1. This is a very unique hop, locally grown in Colorado at Voss Farms, and it was decided that these were what we would use for the TAGBOARD concept.

An interesting fact is that Neo1 are of the Neomexicanus variety, technically a different subspecies of hops than the ones normally used in brewing. Most brewing hops are Humulus lupulus var. lupulus which are originally native to Europe. These are Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus which are native to the western United States, with this specific strain originally cultivated from wild hops in Northern New Mexico. Neo1 is known for pleasant lemon, citrus, and berry characteristics. We thought their flavor and oil profile, combined with the local/native aspect which so closely aligns with our beer would be perfect for our biotransformation project.

Instead of treating this like a traditional dry-hopped beer, we added the hops into several neutral oak barrels, as if we were adding fresh fruit. Each barrel received over 20lbs of wet hops, which were then filled with the blend of lambic-inspired beer. For two weeks, we let the wet hops soak in the barrels, infusing rich lemon, berry, mango, and sweet pine flavors into the beer. The slightly tart, funky, and traditional-tasting base beer meshes together beautifully with the fruity characteristics from the hops.

There was no question that for this special beer, the base would be a version of our pride-and-joy, a 3 year blend of lambic-inspired traditional spontaneous beer with an average age of over 20 months. This base beer, called OXCART when not dry-hopped, is made in a traditional fashion with 60% light barley malt, 40% unmalted wheat, aged hops added at the beginning of a 3+ hour boil, inoculated via coolship, and then fermented and aged in steam-cleaned, neutral French oak barrels. The production process for this beer means that this is the first qualifying release from Black Project since the introduction of the Méthode Traditionnelle (“M.T.”) certification mark for traditionally-made spontaneous ales. While we have made other beers (CYGNUS, OXCART, ROSWELL, LUNEX) which met the requirements prior to the launch of the certification, we are proud to have TAGBOARD be our first beer to carry the M.T. crest. TAGBOARD is a great example of a beer made to the M.T. standards that still showcases creativity and innovation.

The slightly tart, funky, and traditional-tasting base beer meshes together beautifully with the fruity characteristics from the hops. Blackberry, lemon zest, passion fruit, and ripe mango. It is hard to know where the hops end and the beer begins. Over the conditioning period we believe we have already seen evidence of our cultures working to change and transform some of the hop compounds in this beer. Some of you may have been lucky to have a sample from a single keg of this beer we put on tap when it was very fresh, the idea is that now you may be able to compare to the bottle as the beer starts to slowly transform. We think the bottles are amazingly enjoyable fresh, and still quite similar to when the beer was first tapped, but we also think you will be very impressed when you pull this bottle out of your cellar in a year or more.


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