2017 | NJ.com - The 99 Best Bottles of Beer (and Mead) on our Wall

8. DIVISION: Echo (Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales, Colorado)

The backstory: Former Wayne resident James Howat and his wife Sarah opened their brewery, then called Former Future, in Denver in 2014. James, who studied microbiology at Colorado State University, wanted to experiment with beers fermented using only the wild yeasts that float through the air in Colorado -- a process called spontaneous fermentation perfected by the lambic producers of Belgium.

Thus was born Black Project.

Now, just three years later, James and Sarah find themselves as the owners of one of the hottest and most sought after breweries in the world.

Most of my #beerfamily came together at The Dog & Cask in Rochelle Park, where bartender and award-winning beardsman Joshua Safer manned the taps most nights. But Joshua left us for Denver this past winter and of course he landed a job at one of the hottest breweries in America.

Unfortunately, being his friend didn't help me win a lottery spot in Black Project's coveted Agent bottle society. Maybe next year!

Oh, right, the beer. Black Project created an ambitious set this year called ROSWELL, which consisted of five fruited sours. The brewery also made four different blends using two of the ROSWELL beers, with a third fruit added to each, and called it DIVISION.

I acquired a set of ROSWELL for myself, and Joshua brought a set with him from Denver, including the DIVISION bottles, when we went to Maine for the Beer Meets Wood festival in September. 

Every bottle was stunning in its own regard, as Black Project is at the forefront of a movement in beer called super-fruiting, where as much as five or six pounds of fruit is added per gallon to the spontaneously fermented beer.

Or, as Raf from Bokkereyder said to me each time he tried one of my fruited sours, "more fruit. More fruit."

The best of the ROSWELL/DIVISION bunch, for me, was Echo, a blend of raspberry, blueberry and mango, undoubtedly one of the best beers produced anywhere on the planet in 2017. -NJ.com

2017 | Great American Beer Festival - Silver Medal


Silver Medal - Experimental Beer: Wild Beer (19C)

ROSWELL is our Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented ale that is barrel fermented, barrel aged, and then refermented with high levels of one of six different fruits.

This beer follows our mission and is at the core of what we do: “To innovate in the research and development of spontaneous fermentation”. Our aim is explore the outer limits of coolship spontaneous fermentation. This beer was created to showcase a concept we call super-fruiting, where we use as much fruit as possible, while still calling it a beer.

Intense amounts of fruit was added to a blend of our spontaneous base at a very specific time in development. ROSWELL is made once per year during the late spring from a lambic-inspired wort that was brewed last fall. This gives us a beer that has all of the depth of flavor but with a lower acidity than it would have after spending a summer in the barrel - ideal considering the amount of acidity naturally present in the fruit. ROSWELL has a rich and beautiful spontaneous flavor, with a distinct funk, and complexity that stands up to and melds into the heavy amount of vibrant fruit flavor and aroma. Our true wild-caught microbes means that the beer is deliciously dry while still packing an incredible amount of fruit flavor.

ROSWELL is drastically different from traditional fruited spontaneous ales. The amounts of fruit used, combined with 100% spontaneous fermentation, yield something decidedly ‘otherworldly’. It is unlike anything that has been done before and cannot be replicated.

2017 | Fortune - 5 Brewers You Might Not Know Now, But Will Very Soon

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales – In February 2014, Black Project began as a side project of a brewery called Former Future. Within 1.5 years, it was the main focus.

Focusing entirely on sour beers, Black Project is a master of its craft and attracted a line at the Great American Beer Festival that was 30 people deep before the doors even opened. (Volunteers abandoned their positions so they could get a taster before the brewery ran out.)

The brewery’s offerings are available, on occasion, out of state. But the real challenge these days is ensuring they have enough to meet demand from local customers. That makes the decision to attend the GABF more difficult each year, since every beer poured at the festival means there’s one less available at the brewery. And, with beers that take this long to perfect, that’s noteworthy.

“Ultimately, from a business perspective, we’re worried if we’re going to have enough for the taproom,” says co-founder James Howat. -FORTUNE

2017 | 303 Magazine - Black Project Brews Up Spontaneous and Wild Ales

Former Future recently rebranded as Black Project, Colorado’s first brewery to specialize in spontaneous and wild ales. “With 70 breweries in Denver alone, we wanted to do something unique and different,” said owner Sarah Howat when asked about the isolated brewing focus. Howat and her husband, James, dove into the world of spontaneous ales back in 2014 as a personal project — one that continued to manifest itself until a few weeks ago, when they unveiled a new menu entirely dedicated to their passionate creation process.

The Howats gained recognition for their signature sours long before they reopened under the title of Black Project, with their brewery ranking in the top 20 on the popular beer app Untappd. Sour beers certainly have aroused the wine and cider crowd lately, offering an audaciously distinct side of the hop and barley experience. Yet, Sarah and James elevate their sours to the next level with extreme DIY techniques. Rather than ordering yeast from a lab, Black Project capitalizes on mother nature’s bounty by collecting their own cultures. Sarah Howat paints a picture of the process.“With lab yeast it’s like cloning you a million times, but with wild yeast, we can clone the whole room, it becomes an entire ecosystem.” Up on the rooftop of the brewery, there is an open-air vessel called a koelship, or coolship, that collects yeast and microorganisms. This spontaneous fermentation inoculates the beer and sugars from the coolship in an entropic, natural process. Recently, the sour brewmaster couple even trekked into Buena Vista and Leadville, foraging berries for yeast designated to future batches.

When you arrive at the test site of these sours, order a flight at the bar which is made out of airplane wings, a nod to their insignia of a paper jet. Emblazoned on the door and menu, this watermark seems to certify the Howat’s ingenious beer engineering, launching their taplist sky-high while leaving the norm back on the plains. Try all of the beers — sours and wilds alike are multidimensional masterpieces. The Voodoo stands out as the most remarkable in its unique character and unapologetic behavior. It’s a dry-hopped version of their Elsewhere sour red ale which uses the spontaneous microflora yeast culture collected in the coolship. The Elsewhere fermented, changed and evolved in a barrel for 8 months. While the Elsewhere and Voodoo would appear similar, the Voodoo is fiercely sour, corroborated by the Chinook, Mosaic and Citra hops. Traveling along your palate’s roller coaster, you’ll pucker as if sucking a warhead at the white wine notes complemented by an earthy and rustic profile.

Quenched by Voodoo, you may want to settle into more familiar territory, but even their classics are brave and new. The Stiletto is a saison accessing yeast from a wild or spontaneous beer  and rinsing the culture of its souring bacteria. While your standard saison is quite sweet and simple, the Stiletto elevates with brave complexity, being organic on the nose and deliciously colorful to drink. They offered their Dreamland, a sour golden ale, in a small batch with sage. Black Project rotates micro specialties like the Dreamland Sage every few weeks. This brew was highlighted with woodsy and heady aromas reminiscent of a ceremonial house cleansing, yet the taste was very mellow for a sour. The sage seemed to cut into the acidity of the sour, making it more down to earth. Every beer was intriguing and courageous; Black Project’s merit is truly endless. Whether you’re a cider and wine savant or a beer fanatic, this little tap room on Broadway is quintessential to recognize on Denver’s flooded beer map. -303 Magazine

2017 | Paste Magazine - 143 of the Best Sour & Wild Ales, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

On some level, what you’re about to read is the most schizophrenic of all Paste blind tastings. Approaching “sour beers” or “wild ales” for this style of tasting is like venturing into a quagmire of conflicting styles and substyles—you’re just hoping to find your way out again, when all is said and done. Every beer just raises further questions about which other beers should be included. Fruited vs. neutral? Kettle sours vs. barrel-aged sours? Different strains of bacteria and wild yeast? How do you compare all of them to each other? And what of other “sour beer” styles that are now better defined in the American market, such as Berliner weisse or gose?

In the end, the only way is to make a decision and stick with it. This is a large tasting, and a wide-ranging one that includes beers from some of the country’s most sought-after sour beer producers. It includes many styles of beer, brewed with a dizzying array of fruits, spices, barrels and strains of funk-forward yeast and bacteria. Some of these beers bear a passing resemblance to each other. Others are so uniquely bizarre that we barely knew what to do with them.

It’s perhaps easiest to simply state which types of beer were NOT included: Saison/farmhouse ale, Berliner weisse and gose. There are plenty of tart saisons, but as you probably recall, we just blind-tasted 116 of them last month. Berliner weisse and gose, on the other hand, are so well established now on their own that each of them really deserves its own tasting—something that we will address in the August tasting, which will tackle gose specifically.

Everything else that is tart in the world of beer can be found in this tasting. Flanders red ales and oud bruins are alongside dry-hopped American kettle sours, which are alongside oak-aged fruited sours and other beers freshly dumped from whiskey or tequila barrels. You might say that the only other requirement is that the beer must be sour—or at least claim to be. So let’s get started, and let the best tart beer win.

A Note on Beer Acquisition

As in most of our blind tastings at Paste, the vast majority of these sours were sent directly to the office by the breweries that choose to participate, with additional beers acquired by us via locally available purchases and the occasional trade. We always do our best to reach out to breweries we’re aware of that make exemplary versions of particular styles, but things always do slip through the cracks. We apologize for a few significant omissions that we couldn’t acquire, either due to seasonality or market shortages. There will never be a “perfect” tasting lineup, much as we continue to try.

Rules and Procedure

- As explained above, this is exclusively a tasting of sour/wild ales, largely determined by how the breweries chose to label their products. Nothing labeled as “saison/farmhouse ale, berliner weisse or gose” was admitted. There was no ABV limit. When in doubt, we simply allow a brewery’s marketing to define a beer’s style, and expect them to stick to the designation they’ve chosen.

- There was a limit of two entries per brewery. The beers were separated into daily blind tastings that approximated a sample size of the entire field.

- Tasters included professional beer writers, brewery owners, brewmasters and beer reps. Awesome, Paste-branded glassware is from Spiegelau.

- Beers were judged completely blind by how enjoyable they were as individual experiences and given scores of 1-100, which were then averaged. Entries were judged by how much we enjoyed them for whatever reason, not by how well they fit any kind of preconceived style guidelines. As such, this is not a BJCP-style tasting. -Paste Magazine

2017 | Food & Wine Magazine - 25 Essential Colorado Breweries

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (Denver)

Former Future Brewing Company co-founders James and Sarah Howat started Black Project as an outlet for their more outlandish ideas, like brewing sour beer with the gnarly microbes that naturally occur in Denver's air. When the Great American Beer Festival slapped a bronze medal on a fruity golden ale called Black Project #1, the couple decided to devote more time to their diffusion line and eventually reboot the brand from the ground up. Former Future officially became Black Project last summer, making it the Mikkeller of Mile High City. (Much like that cult Danish brewery, Black Project routinely draws hour-long lines for limited batches of Lambics that evoke fine wine, cider and beer in every sip.) -Food & Wine Magazine