Black Project Hosts Live Q&A

On March 17, 2017, Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales hosted a live Q&A with James Howat, owner, brewer, and blender, on Facebook and Instagram to discuss the taproom only release of COMPASS OWL and TOMCAT, two new beers that were released the same day. COMPASS OWL is a New England IPA made with wild yeast, Belma hops, and Motueka hops; TOMCAT a bold, roasty, and dry 12% ABV stout made with the same wild yeast that was foraged from a crab apple tree.

Participants joined the conversation to discuss the unique fermentation and production of “wild ales”, something that Black Project has become known for. Unlike most traditional breweries, Black Project only uses yeast that is collected from the environment. These organisms are naturally found in the air, plants, and foliage around us. James Howat, a former high school teacher and microbiologists, used his experience and knowledge in microbiology which he applied to brewing to cultivate select organisms. 

Wild yeast (brettanomyces), like brewer’s yeast (saccharomyces), creates alcohol by consuming sugars. By doing this, wild yeast helps break down complex starches into more simple sugars that other organisms can consume. In beer, this process creates esters and phenols which are expressed as tropical fruity flavors and aromas. Wild yeast can also act like a brewer’s yeast, where more traditional flavors and aromas are created. Both COMPASS OWL and TOMCAT will be on tap until they are gone.

In addition to wild beers, Black Project also creates one of a kind spontaneous ales. These beers ferment by collecting wild yeast, souring microbes, and other cultures directly from the air without any additional yeast added. This process starts in the “coolship”, a custom-made copper container that is fabricated based on specific volume requirements. Once it is filled with hot wort (the name for beer before it ferments) it is left to cool overnight. In the morning, the beer is moved to oak barrels where it ferments for 8-10 months or longer. This creates incredibly complex sour beer that cannot be replicated and is truly one-of-a-kind.

Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales will also be tapping Magic Lantern : Apricot | Blood Orange on March 29 at 4pm. This beer was made using the same methods discussed in the Q&A. A different strain of wild yeast was grown to produce the base for Magic Lantern, a salted gose {g-oh-suh}, which is then refermented with apricot and blood oranges. If people still have questions for James Howat, Black Project will continue to take questions on the original Facebook video in the comments section - Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales Live Q&A.