The Yeast Genome Project

With the recent boom in wild ales and sour beers, yeast is having a serious moment in the spotlight. But more experimentation with the precarious microorganisms means breweries risk greater exposure to cross-contamination and infection, and the standard tests aren’t always fast enough to prevent a single-celled disaster.

That’s why the folks at Avery Brewing Co. teamed up with the University of Colorado on a cutting-edge project: the genetic sequencing of yeast strains.

Thanks to a friend’s introduction, Dan Driscoll, Avery’s staff microbiologist, worked with Jim Huntley, the director of the Next Gen Sequencing Facility at the University of Colorado BioFrontier Institute, to create a more efficient way of identifying a yeast strain that’s been compromised. The faster a problem is found, the less likely a brewer will face the worst-case scenario—having to throw out an entire batch of infected beer. Right now, the standard test produces results in approximately 48 hours, while genetic sequencing takes just a few hours.

Huntley uses the same type of computers that sequenced DNA in the Human Genome Project to sequence the six brewer’s yeast strains Avery regularly uses. Huntley compared the process to ripping up a book into a million little pieces and then reassembling it using a complete book as a reference. “When we compare the DNA sequences of different strains, we look for differences in those sequences that we can use to distinguish strains,” he says. “It’s analogous to finding corrections, additions or deletions in subsequent versions of the same book.”

Once the yeast strains are sequenced, it will be easier (and cheaper) to develop methods to spot the differences in yeast strains. Because the cost of genetic sequencing has dropped dramatically, Huntley says he can see more breweries adapting to such a test for cross-contamination. Much like doctors in the near future may use genetic sequencing to diagnose patients, breweries may use genetic sequencing to identify cross-contamination in the tank—and salvage the beer before it’s too late.

Cross-contamination is just one of the challenges brewers face when dealing with yeast. A reused yeast culture’s genes can start to mutate over generations, which can change how the yeast behaves, says Driscoll. Improper handling of yeast, which results in off-flavors like chlorophenols (Band-Aid, medicinal), excessive acetaldehyde (green apple) or a metallic character, has opened up a conversation about the larger issues of quality control and proper sanitization.

“Some of these startup breweries are [operating on a] shoestring,” says Paul Gazta, director of the Brewers Association. “Many of these companies are not investing in methods to ensure quality and consistent beer from day one, and that is manifesting in some flawed beers entering the marketplace. This issue isn’t about whether someone prefers certain flavors and aromas like diacetyl or not. This issue is about beers with significant brewing, fermentation or packaging errors.”

Genetic sequencing may be the future of quality control, but right now, the go-to prevention—besides sanitizing—is a simple exercise in microbiology. Inside petri dishes filled with gelatinous media (agar media, or agar) are nutrients that cultivate certain bacteria or yeast strains. To test for microorganisms, such as wild yeast, brewers place a liquid sample (beer or wort) in the specific agar media; if a microorganism is present (like an unwanted yeast strain or harmful bacteria), it will grow into colonies of cells in the agar, showing whether or not a beer is contaminated.

Driscoll points out that these tests are quite subjective, only suggesting the possibility of contamination, whereas genetic sequencing will be “much more accurate.”

But agar-plate tests are still better than nothing. James Howat, head brewer and co-owner of four-month-old Former Future Brewing in Denver, says he and his co-owner (and wife) Sarah Howat, test each batch of beer and each new generation of yeast for wild yeast and bacterial contamination in their brewery lab. “It’s extremely low cost to do these kinds of tests,” says Howat, who has a background in microbiology. “Setting up a basic lab to do these tests should only cost around $1,000–$2,000.”

There’s also another, old-fashioned way breweries can catch yeast problems before they manifest, says Howat: Learn to recognize off flavors. “Everyone in the brewery should be able to taste a beer, whether just off the tank or off the bottling line, and know whether something is wrong.”

When the brewers at Boulder, Colo.’s Avery Brewing Co. finish with a batch of beer, they’ll empty out the tank, sanitize it and refill it with a new batch. But brewer’s yeast, or saccharomyces cerevisiae, knows how to linger at the party long after everyone else has left. If leftover yeast from the previous batch continues to make itself at home in the fermentor, it can start to compete with the original yeast that was pitched. That residual yeast strain can change how a beer tastes—for example, creating an IPA that tastes more like a Witbier—or worse, add some very unpleasant flavors. “It doesn’t happen often, but we want to make sure we can catch it if it does,” says Driscoll. ■

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales Announce Release of Two New Beers

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales will release two new beers on April 22, 2017 at 12pm.

ROCKET SLED and REHEAT will join the expanding list of bottles that Black Project has released over the past three years. Customers looking to buy a bottle should expect to wait in line at least an hour before the release. Most customers arrive at 11am, but some show up much earlier, often several hours before the release to setup chairs or blankets.

This year, Black Project has been able to increase production, with one or two new beers available for sale each month. In 2014, when the brewery first started selling bottles in secret under the former, Former Future Brewing Company, each release would be limited to a single bottle every three months. This limitation on production was caused by a small 4BBL (barrel) system and the size restriction of the taproom. This limited availability is also exacerbated by the fact that each beer takes 8-10 months to ferment in oak barrels and then may spend several more months refermenting in stainless steel fermenters with fruit or to be dry hopped. In October, the brewery expanded into the space next door by leasing an area that they dedicated to 100 new oak barrels and a custom-made copper coolship.

While each bottle release is still extremely limited, sometimes only producing 100 bottles for sale, customers should expect to get a bottle if they are in line before 12pm.

ROCKET SLED is the first beer fermented with 100% coolship-caught microbes and then dry hopped with Mosaic and Simcoe Cryo Hops. Cryo Hops™ is a concentrate luplin powder that doubles the resin content, creating a super “juicy” hop character. The base beer is 100% wheat, made using only coolship-caught microbes. This beer is low alcohol and lightly tart, which is refreshing and full of complexity. ROCKET SLED showcases Mosaic and Simcoe, with an exquisite hop-forward aroma. The use of Cryo Hops allows Black Project to create a super dry hoped sours, without any leafy hop flavor, creating a unique combination.

“Cryo Hops™ represents the most innovative technology in hop processing. It uses a proprietary cryogenic separation process which preserves all components of each hop fraction, producing two simultaneous co-products, LupuLN2™ and Debittered Leaf.

LupuLN2 is the concentrated lupulin of whole-leaf hops containing resins and aromatic oils. It is designed to provide intense hop flavor and aroma, enabling brewers to dose large quantities of hops without introducing astringent flavors or vegetative cone material. During early R&D trials, brewers specifically cited ‘juicy’ and ‘resinous’ characteristics. LupuLN2 offers twice the resin content of traditional whole-leaf and hop pellet products, and should be dosed at approximately half the amount by weight.” -YCHHOPS

REHEAT is a variant on the brewer’s popular wine-hybrid beer series. SUPERCRUISE and MACH-LIMIT start with wine grapes from locally-sourced, family-owned vineyards in Palisade, CO. Once the grapes have been destemmed and crushed, Black Project allows the juice to rest for a few days – developing rich color and depth of flavor – before finally transferring the juice to neutral oak barrels along with our base Golden Sour.

After emptying a SUPERCRUISE barrel, REHEAT is added back into the barrel to referment and age on the remnants of the SUPERCRUISE series. Instead of rinsing and steaming the barrels, Black Project adds fresh coolship wort on top of the 2-5 gal of SUPERCRUISE “dregs” (yeast and souring microbes). Subtle, mild grape flavor comes through with an interesting fermentation profile owing to the active wild yeast that is still present and hungry from the SUPERCRUISE refermentation.

Both beers will be bottle conditioned in 750mL cork and cage brown bottles. ROCKET SLED will cost $22 per bottle and REHEAT will cost $26 per bottle.

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About Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales

Black Project is the passion project of James Howat, owner, brewer, and blender; and Sarah Howat, owner and operation managers; of what was formerly Former Future Brewing Company. The brewery began production in January 2014 and won two bronze medals for their coolship ales (Category: Experimental, Subcategory: Wild Ales) at The Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Black Project expanded production with a small addition to the property which allowed for the expansion of their barrel program. This allowed the brewery to evolve from Former Future Brewing Company to only serving Black Project beers. In 2017, Black Project hopes to produce 250 BBL of beer and increase distribution.

Every Black Project beer is fermented with microbes captured from the local environment via a coolship or foraged from nature. We believe this creates a beer that is unrivaled in complexity. Our beers are intended to have a sense of place, or terroir. No matter how hard one tried to, our beer cannot be replicated outside of our brewery. In fact, our microbe cultures are purposefully allowed to evolve from batch to batch, creating variations and interesting twists from different releases of the same beer.

We are meticulous about designing recipes and processes that will allow nature to take over and create beers unrivaled in their beauty and complexity. Through experimentation and research, we are continuously developing new and different techniques for use with wild and spontaneous fermentation.

We are not and do not have any intention of being a Lambic brewery. We use science and experimentation to find which processes and ingredients we want and often use that in parallel to traditional Lambic producers, however, other than the use of a coolship, we maintain no strict adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake. Spontaneous fermentation is merely a starting point and core of our process, from there our research and development extends much beyond the scope of the great Belgian brewers and blenders.

Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap Tomcat, a Laws Whiskey-barrel-aged, 12-percent ABV imperial stout at 4 p.m. The beer was brewed with "a strain of yeast foraged from our neighbor's apple tree," Black Project says. "Bold, roasty, dry with a smooth vanilla, bourbon and oak finish. This is an experimental stout using wild yeast to create a complex and robust beer that is not sour."

Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap a new beer, Magic Lantern, today at 4 p.m. The beer is a traditional salted gose brewed with apricots and blood oranges. "Dominant flavors include apricot sweetness and aroma, blood-orange tartness, and a strong saltiness. Apricot and blood orange are complementary, creating a perfect blend of ripe fruit and a tart finish," the brewery says.

PorchDrinking’s Weekly Denver Beer Beat

MAGIC LANTERN : Apricot | Blood Orange

1. (C) TECHNIQUE: Native Yeast Blend
A propriety technique that helps remove much of the acid-producing microbes from a spontaneous culture, allowing for non-sour ales produced by the native wild yeast ecosystem

2. (U) STYLE: Traditional Salted German Gose {g-oh-suh}
Top fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% wheat. No hop bitterness, flavors, or aroma. Moderate sessionable alcohol.

3. (S) INGREDIENTS: Malted Wheat, Coarse Salt, Apricots, and Blood Oranges.

4. (S) DESCRIPTION: Medium bodied wheat beer with coarse salt and heavy fruit.
Dominant flavors include apricot sweetness and aroma, Blood Orange tartness, and a strong saltiness. Apricot and Blood Orange are complimentary, creating a perfect blend of ripe fruit and a tart finish.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keystroke logging program.

Rotating fruit and salt selection to highlight aroma, flavor, and microflora profile. 

A Toast To: Sarah Howat

What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I’m the owner/operations manager/party-thrower/all the things at Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales in Denver. James and I started Former Future Brewing Company back in early 2014. He was a homebrewer at the time and I had always dreamed of owning my own business (my parents instilled that in me); I just didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to start. When James and I married and he suggested a brewery, I jumped at the opportunity (OK, there was some hesitation…).

What’s new at Black Project?

In August 2016, Former Future transitioned to Black Project 100 percent. Black Project had always been a side project for James, allowing him to experiment with spontaneous fermentation and wild microbes. While it’s been a part of our story from the beginning, the transition is a fairly recent change. We also finally installed a new cellar space and a 10 bbl copper coolship!

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

It truly is the best collective of people. Everyone, everywhere that we’ve met has been passionate, talented, and just all around great people. We really feel proud and blessed to be a part of this worldwide community.

Name a favorite food and beer pairing.

All the beer. With all the cheese. Perfection.

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?

Before I met James, I started grad school for couples and family counseling. While I didn’t finish (we opened the brewery with about a year’s worth of coursework left), the work I completed was priceless. It was tough, but I learned so much.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

I absolutely love anything from Fonta Flora. Todd creates beers that are exceptional and unique. Every sip is unlike anything else.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

Scandinavia was awesome. I’ve never been a huge fan of mead due to its sweetness, but Swedish mead is more like beer than anything else.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

Over the last year, I’ve really dedicated myself to practicing yoga. It keeps me sane and provides a sense of balance and focus. We are trying to train our dogs. We like to spend time at home when we can, and I love to cook and bake. We love trying new restaurants and cocktail bars, and taking trips to Grand Junction, Colo. to do some wine tasting.

South Broadway Whiskey & Beer Crawl

Whiskey and beer lovers of the world, unite! My South Broadway Whiskey & Beer Crawl is the only way to get the best whiskey and beer within a handful of blocks on South Broadway. If you love all things Colorado, you are going to love this local guide to whiskey and beer!

Whiskey and beer go together like peanut butter and chocolate for me. It’s just a natural combination that perfectly compliments each other, without overwhelming the other. Whether I’m starting with beer or I’m starting with whiskey, either way the combination is one of the best in my flavor book.

That’s why a certain stretch of South Broadway holds a special place in my heart. You take one of my favorite whiskey spots, plus two of my favorite beer spots, and that’s an afternoon (or evening) of insanely good fun.

I generally love to do beer crawls, but throwing an amazing whiskey spot into the mix really changes the whole adventure. Instead of burning out on only beer, you indulge in a little whiskey and some extremely different beers that keep your taste buds guessing all along the way. 

Are you ready to hit up my favorite whiskey and beer crawl yet?

Heck, even if you aren’t, I’m jumping in already because I’M excited, damnit.

As the old saying goes “Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.”

I know, I know, this is something that you learned in college but it’s 100% stuck with me ever since. I’ve done both sides of this saying and I have to say, the hangover tends to not completely wipe me out when I end the night with beer versus starting the night with it.

It might be childish, but this is one of the main reasons I like to start this crawl with whiskey.

Laws Whiskey House is a little hidden off of South Broadway, but the little jaunt into an industrial area will lead you straight to my favorite Denver spot for whiskey. This is largely in part due to Laws’ dedication to craft over simply mass producing liquor. It’s all about the art of whiskey here.

From their staple whiskeys to their vibrant and unique selections, if you are a true whiskey lover you are going to find yourself in heaven here. While they have plans to expand, their current space is intimate and quaint, with a tasting room and tour that gives you an up-close and personal look at their distillery process.

They even let the farmers that grow their grain pick their favorite batch for a special Farmers Select Single Barrel Bourbon. I love that the farmers pick this selection because it shows just how much Laws Whiskey House cares about where their grain is coming from. It’s so much more than just getting the supplies. It’s all about keeping the product 100% local to Colorado.

If you are more of a rye lover, I say go for the Secale Straight Rye. It’s distilled twice and aged no less than three years, making it my favorite rye whiskey from Denver. Really, you should just do a flight of whiskeys while you are there to get the full experience after your tour.

Once you’ve made your way down the whiskey lane, it’s time to head onwards to the beer finish…

Next stop? Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales.

Now, I happen to be majorly in love with all the sour and brett-focused beers that exist in this world. That’s why Black Project holds a place near and dear to my heart.

Just take a moment to soak in those colors… Aren’t they GORGEOUS?

It’s tough for me to mention which of the Black Project beers are my favorite because their tap list is so strong every time I visit. Recently my favorite has been the Shadow Factory Aronia Berries (aka chokeberries) which have a unique flavor that I can’t get enough of. It’s basically the combination of a berry and a cranberry – slightly astringent but still tart and sweet.

The big part I love about Black Project its that they take exciting risks with their beers. They experiment, they tamper, they make new beers that totally twist everything you think you know about beers upside-down.

Heck, they even age their beers in Laws Whiskey House barrels…

For example, their Mach-Limit beer is really a beer-wine that is a completely new experience for me. It’s a series of three beers and has the highest level of fruit while still staying a beer (49% fruit max in case you were wondering). The one I tasted was made with Palisade grapes (specifically Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) and it was heavenly. A beer/wine combination that I honestly couldn’t explain and do it justice.

You will have a beer experience there like no other, let’s just leave it at that.

Now, I imagine you are getting a little hungry at this point in the tour, so your final stop on this crawl is Declaration Brewing Company. Now, Declaration doesn’t cook in house, but they always have a food truck that’ll blow your mind on their patio. With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time to be hitting up Declaration for an extended period of time, every dang weekend.

I first fell for Declaration when I was living over by DU and wanted to find a killer patio to hang out on. Now that I’ve participated in their killer cornhole league and have hit them up multiple times just for their terrific patio, it’s become one of those oh-so Colorado spots that I can’t live without.

Declaration Brewing Company has an American and military history that is everywhere in the brewery. Their mission statement is simple – make delicious and diverse beer that people LOVE.

I have to say, they definitely do not fail in that respect. With a wide variety of beers to appeal to every palate, their beers are a standard for me. From their Mile Highlander, a Scottish ale that I honestly find myself craving, to their Slippery When Wheat aged in Laws Whiskey barrels AND Bear Creek barrels (I challenge you to try the two to determine your favorite… I bet you can’t guess mine!). There is intention behind all of their choices, right down to label design, names, beer styles and overall vibe.

This is the kind of place you kick back. You stay awhile, you drink, you eat and you play games. If you want a true Colorado cap to the night, this is it.

Plus, it’s just too much fun.

So…. who’s ready to adventure with me already??

Weekend Beer Buzz


JUMPSEAT | Citra, Mosaic, Equinox
 750mL bottle, cork and cage – $24/bottle
Limit 2 bottles per person

EJECTOR | Citra, Mosaic, Equinox, and Lemon Drop
 750mL bottle, cork and cage – $26/bottle
Limit 2 bottles per person


 Begins with our base Golden Sour aged for 8-12 months in stainless. Once the base beer is finished, we pull a small amount out of our ever-changing solera and transport the beer to another tank along with a variety of hops. The beer sits on the hops for 3-4 days, extracting only the bright and citrusy character from the hops. …While the combination of hops shifts from batch to batch, we typically select hops that will play well with our wild-yeast derived peach and apricot character, creating a beer that is just the right balance of hoppy and sour – perfectly crushable. Hop character will change or diminish over time, therefore we don’t recommend cellaring and instead suggest you drink this one fresh.

Begins as JUMPSEAT, our single dry-hopped sour. Once the base beer is finished, we pull a small amount out of our ever-changing solera and transport the beer to another tank along with a variety of hops. The beer sits on the hops for 3-4 days, extracting only the bright and citrusy character from the hops. After roughly half of the beer is bottled to make JUMPSEAT, there is a second dry-hop addition and the remaining beer rests for an additional 3-4 days, creating more grassy, earthy flavors.We like to think of EJECTOR as JUMPSEAT’S Big Brother: intense hop character matched with puckering acidity. Hop character will change or diminish over time, therefore we don’t recommend cellaring and instead suggest you drink this one fresh.

Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will release bottles of two beers today at noon. The first is Jumpseat, a golden sour ale aged for eight to twelve months and then hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Equinox. Each 750mL bottle is $24 (limit of two per person). The other is Ejector, which is similar to Jumpseat except that it has been hopped again with Citra, Mosaic, Equinox and Lemon Drop. Bottles are $26 (limit of two per person). For more details on the beer and the release, go to Black Project's Facebook page.

17 Beers to Try During Colorado Craft Beer Week 2017


What: Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
Where: 1290 S. Broadway, Denver
Style: Sour Red Ale

The Lowdown: There are a lot of sours around town and a lot of reds but rarely do you catch the two styles together. This beer is sour but the malt takes off the edge. There are also hints of rye among other things, each sip has another subtle flavor that pops. The beer builds off of the atmosphere creating a unique drinking experience.

PorchDrinking’s Weekly Denver Beer Beat

JUMPSEAT | EJECTOR (Bottle Only Release)

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
JUMPSEAT | Citra, Mosaic, Equinox
750mL bottle, cork and cage – $24/bottle

EJECTOR | Citra, Mosaic, Equinox, and Lemon Drop
750mL bottle, cork and cage – $26/bottle

Bottle limits will be announced closer to the release date

Begins with their base Golden Sour aged for 8-12 months in stainless. Once the base beer is finished, they pull a small amount out of their ever-changing solera and transport the beer to another tank along with a variety of hops. The beer sits on the hops for 3-4 days, extracting only the bright and citrusy character from the hops.

While the combination of hops shifts from batch to batch, they typically select hops that will play well with their wild-yeast derived peach and apricot character, creating a beer that is just the right balance of hoppy and sour – perfectly crushable. Hop character will change or diminish over time, therefore they don’t recommend cellaring and instead suggest you drink this one fresh.

Begins as JUMPSEAT, our single dry-hopped sour. Once the base beer is finished, they pull a small amount out of their ever-changing solera and transport the beer to another tank along with a variety of hops. The beer sits on the hops for 3-4 days, extracting only the bright and citrusy character from the hops. After roughly half of the beer is bottled to make JUMPSEAT, there is a second dry-hop addition and the remaining beer rests for an additional 3-4 days, creating more grassy, earthy flavors.

They like to think of EJECTOR as JUMPSEAT’S Big Brother: intense hop character matched with puckering acidity. Hop character will change or diminish over time, therefore we don’t recommend cellaring and instead suggest you drink this one fresh.

At Green Bench's Foeder event, learning about wild and sour ale, and drinking it, too

Everyone loves a good beer festival, and locally we have more than a few great ones, especially during Tampa Bay Beer Week, which wrapped up on Sunday.

You've got the Florida Brewer's Guild Festival, the Brewer's Ball, Cycle's Barrel-Aged Day and, of course, the mega-festival to cap a full week of festivities: Hunahpu's Day at Cigar City. All outstanding events, and with the consistently-growing attendance to prove it.

But for my money, Green Bench Brewing's celebration of wild and sour ale — Foeder for Thought — is the one that tops my can't-miss list. The fourth annual Foeder was Friday night.

A foeder is basically a giant wooden barrel in which beer is fermented. Producers of wild ales love these things because a porous nature allows them to harbor wild yeast and bacteria that adds depth and complexity to beer, often with some funk and a little sourness.

Green Bench is one of a short but growing group of breweries in the United States that ferments beer in foeders, evolving into a real-deal community, with brewers trading tips on experimental and ambitious brewing techniques, and working together on collaborations that push the envelope of complexity in beer.

Green Bench head brewer Khris Johnson travels in these circles, which is the key to what makes Foeder for Thought so compelling. Not only does Foeder bring out a who's who of international wild and sour breweries' wares, it also brings some of the brewers themselves, to talk about their beers and answer questions from fans interested in the whys and hows of the strange world of wild ale production.

"Foeder for Thought is an education-forward festival," Johnson explained as he kicked off the first round of this year's first discussion, with Andrew Hood of Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis. Other guests included Roy Milner of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn.; James Howat of Denver's Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales and Jeffrey Stuffings of Austin's Jester King Brewery.

Each brewer sat down in a cozy lounge situated in Green Bench's outdoor beer garden for an hourlong panel, led by Marco Leyte-Vidal of The brewers discussed their history, their brewing philosophy — Milner's take on farmhouse ales struck me as especially compelling —and the stories behind their featured beers, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.

The best way to boost one's enjoyment of beer is to learn about it. Understanding why a beer tastes the way it does has a tremendous effect on how I consume beer, and I honestly don't think I'd be nearly as invested in good beer as I am without a healthy interest in the nuts and bolts of the stuff.

Many people can appreciate a beer like Jester King's Fēn Táo, for example, without knowing anything about it. It's dry, tart and dripping with the flavor of ripe peaches.

But hearing its origin story (it's Jester King's nod to marriage equality, referencing a Chinese story about same-sex partners sharing a peach) and learning about the process by which it was made (fermented for months in oak barrels with local wild yeast and bacteria, then transferred to a foeder and fermented again to dryness with "several hundred pounds of peaches" from nearby Fredericksburg, Texas) makes for a much more memorable experience.

Of course, it wouldn't be a beer festival without lots and lots of beers to drink, and there was no shortage in that regard. There were more than 70 beers available, by my count, some of which would be near-impossible to obtain without attending. I'm looking at you, Cantillon Rhubarb Lambic.

Major standouts, coincidentally or not, included Black Project's Cygnus: Blackberry and Jester King's SPON — Méthode Gueuze. These beers would have topped my list at any festival — having the brewers on hand to discuss them in detail was a very nice bonus indeed.

There's quite a lot to be said about the caliber and popularity of bay area beer festivals. No matter what you're into, you'll find it in abundance during Beer Week. If, like me, you enjoy taking a peek under the hood of some truly exotic brews, then Foeder for Thought should be on your calendar for next year.

TBBW 2017: Foeder for Thought drops top-notch beers, knowledge in St. Pete

The red flier is your friend.

That's what I kept telling myself during Green Bench Brewing Co.'s favorite event of the year, Foeder (food-er, get it?) for Thought. Now in its fourth year, the Tampa Bay Beer Week beer festival and beer-ducation series — limited to 400 people — occupied the St. Petersburg brewery's tasting room and beer garden on Friday, spilling into the middle of Baum Avenue, block party-style, with its top-notch selection from 30-plus breweries near and far.

As someone who's never been, I figured out the format while sampling away. The event's handy red flier lists the featured beers for attendees, but also alerts them of what's tapping when. Names and times of these scheduled releases are advertised on signs hanging above the two outdoor beer stations, too, where they're poured throughout the evening.

Sometime after 6 p.m., I start off inside at Station #1 with Prelude, a tasty 4 Hands Brewing Co. mixed culture sour ale aged in bourbon barrels, then make my way out to #2 where Cantillon Fou Foune, a lovely apricot lambic I went back for more than once, is set to tap next door to #3's Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze. (You can tell when a timed tapping is coming up, as the crowd hangs around the stations, lurking, as one guy put it, and huddling in packs.) A blend of three lambics aged in oak, Oude Geuze is this craft beer admirer's first gueuze and the most interesting beer I've tasted — tart, crisp, dry, refreshing, you name it.

Modern Times Aztec Mummy, a gose aged in tequila barrels with mango and guava. An Odd Breed Baltic porter aged for 16 months in cabernet barrels with house culture. Wiseacre Symphonic with blackberry and raspberry, an oak-fermented wild ale. Cascade's blend of sour blond and quad aged in wine and bourbon barrels for 18 months with Oregon blueberries called Shrieking Violet, which I really dig. Sun King Marguerite, a sour sale fermented in mezcal barrels with lime and salt that's margarita-esque like Aztec Mummy. Transient Foeder #2: Electric Boogaloo with De Chaunac grapes. Green Bench Florida Poster Girls, a foeder-fermented and chardonnay barrel-aged Brett farmhouse. Black Project's spontaneously inoculated Cygnus refermented with blackberries. And on and on.

The beer-ducation portion of Foeder comes in the form of intimate 45-minute Q&A sessions with brewers and brewery owners, whose wares were represented at the celebration. Green Bench curated a living room-style setting on its stage, shag rug and all, where the minds behind Jester King Brewery, Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales, Blackberry Farm Brewery and Sun King Brewery shared their beer and stories on the lawn.

"Foeder for Thought is specifically an education-forward festival," Green Bench head brewer Khris Johnson told the crowd. "I know you guys are sick and tired of hearing me talk about beer every year throughout the year, so this is really about bringing people in, friends of mine, around the industry and world who make phenomenal beers, and just [trying] to supply them for you guys."

First came Andrew Hood of Sun King, then CFO (that's Chief Fermentation Officer) Roy Milner of Blackberry Farm, located on 9,200 acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Milner touched on topics like the brewery's philosophy when pairing beer with food (which the farm is primarily known for alongside wine) and how the serendipity behind King of Falling Fruit (a farmhouse ale aged in red wine barrels with Brettanomyces, peaches and plums) is an ode to late Blackberry Farm founder Sam Beall.

After Black Project founder James Howat and around 10 p.m., Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings took the stage to discuss everything from SPON Méthode Gueuze (the farmhouse brewery's spontaneous beer brewed in the method of authentic Belgian gueuze) to how Jester King, in the Texas Hill Country just outside Austin, is growing its own ingredients and breathing more life into the question, "What is a farmhouse ale?"

Jester King and Green Bench released bottles of their collaboration beer, Sleeping Dragon, an American fruited sour, earlier in the night as well.

"This is such a spectacular event. I hope everyone appreciates really the caliber of beer from brewers that are here tonight. I mean, it's super special," Stuffings said. "I think Green Bench does a phenomenal job of fostering that community of artisan beer and beers that are often very much driven by place and time, which is really kind of the philosophy behind what we do at Jester King. Ultimately, we're trying to make beer that's very unique to our natural surroundings."

By 11 p.m., Foeder was calling it a night. But attendees set on not wasting open bottles of beer brought them inside the tasting room — where Ja Rule was bumping — to share. After all, it's like Green Bench's Johnson said: "The best thing for all of us is for all of us to drink 'em together."

50+ Woman Owned and Operated Food & Beverage Businesses in Colorado

On March 8, women and men across the world have joined to celebrate International Women’s Day. On a day meant to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, we’re participating by sharing a list of woman-owned or led food businesses in Denver and beyond.

Former Snooze Executive Chef Readies New Breakfast Eatery on South Broadway

Joseph Strelnik was the baron of breakfast for nearly six years as the executive chef at Snooze, Colorado's favorite stop for a morning meal. But now he has teamed up with John "JD" Daniel to start his own breakfast revolution and is nearly ready to open Morning Collective at 2160 South Broadway, in the Rosedale neighborhood.

Strelnik and Daniel took over a space, located between Taste of Thailand to the north and the Post Chicken & Beer to the south, that had been slated to become a Philly cheesesteak and barbecue joint before that deal fell through. Instead, April will see the two unveil a breakfast eatery that will be open daily from 6:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. The specialty of the house will be stuffed French toast and pancakes with molten centers that Strelnik calls "Daily Breads," with combinations like stuffed s'mores, pistachio tres leches, banana hazelnut and strawberry cheesecake, as well as rotating seasonal specials. "Breakfast is the only meal where it's acceptable to have something dessert-like as a meal," the chef notes, but he also adds that he uses the natural acidity of fruits to lighten dishes so guests don't feel bogged down for the rest of the day.

There will be far more than just the sweet stuff, though, as Strelnik's menu will cater to many different tastes and needs, from the traditional bacon-and-eggs crowd to those who want smaller, more frequent meals. And many of the big dishes will be available in half orders or single servings, including the pancakes, French toast and Benedicts. "It's your breakfast, so you should get what you want," says Daniel, a front-of-house specialist with years of experience at Snooze (most recently opening new Snooze locations in Arizona and California) and Govnr's Park Restaurant & Bar before that.

As far as those Benedicts go, there will be classics as well as unusual elements like a green-pea fritter subbing in for bread on the base of one version and another stacked high with tater tots and bacon. But there will also be breakfast bowls for those looking for something healthy and easy to grab on the run. Those folks will also be attracted to the "Crave and Behave" and "Second Breakfast" sections of the menu; the first comprises lighter dishes that weigh in at about 300 calories each, while the second is perfect for those who want to stop in for a bite and then take something to go for a little later in the day. Morning Collective will also serve several lunchtime sandwiches and salads.

A breakfast joint in Colorado wouldn't be complete without a bar to serve weekend brunchers (even if your weekend is on a Tuesday or Wednesday). Guests will be able to start their day with "Sunrise Elixirs" made with local spirits (booze-free elixirs are also part of the program) or choose from Denver beers and wines like Black Project and Infinite Monkey Theorem. To keep drinks from getting watery, a variety of flavored ice cubes, including horchata, wildflower, beet, strawberry, coffee and even bacon will be available. "Drinks are like fifteen bucks nowadays," Strelnik explains, "so it's nice if your drink can evolve a little instead of devolve."

Morning Collective encompasses 2,500 square feet decked out by Xan Creative, with mid-century wallpaper (that was actually printed in the 1950s), avocado-green booths and other retro and rustic touches. "This used to be a 7-11, and it's kind of cool to keep some of those elements," Strelnik points out.

Outside, a patio in the front will serve as a waiting area during pleasant weather where guests can sip cocktails or coffee, while a second patio on the side will provide additional seating.

Investors Rod Hurlbut and Zach Stock are providing financial backing to make sure Morning Collective gets off to a good start. Hurlbut says they're planning to open a total of three of the breakfast restaurants in the metro area in the next 24 months. "What really convinced me is that Joe is such a creative cook, but he also understands the financial side of running restaurants," he adds.

Strelnik's creative side comes from years of working in fine dining in Europe and New York City when he was younger, often working for nothing more than meals and drinks to master a specific station or learn a new skill. That creativity is evident on a menu overflowing with flavored froths whipped up in Isi canisters to give cold drinks the same texture and aroma as a latte; those flavor-packed ice cubes; and flourishes on the plate like a strawberry-graham-cracker dust atop French toast. But he also wants to respect his humble roots, when his parents cooked meals for the family every day and going out to dinner was a rare treat. He explains that he wants his restaurant to be a place where his parents would feel comfortable.

The name Morning Collective comes from the team's concept that guests, employees and neighbors are all part of the same group with the same goals. "We're all together — we're here and can enjoy food together, enjoy working together, enjoy being neighbors," Strelnik notes. "And we put a lot of effort into training and education and mentoring, because when you sit down for breakfast, you want someone who's genuinely happy to help you."

Morning Collective is awaiting final liquor-license approval but expects to open the first week of April, bringing a creative new eatery to South Broadway and the nearby Rosedale and Overland neighborhoods.

Home of the Beer: Denver’s Craft Breweries

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
1290 S Broadway
Est. 2014

This craft brewery specializes in creating exciting ales through spontaneous fermentation. Their owner and brew master James Howat allows their microbe cultures to evolve between batches which creates varying flavors within the same beer flavor. With exposed brick and lighting, this Denver hotspot is a cool and classy exploration of craft brewing flavors.

Beer to try: Oxcart — A blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old beers.


A funny thing happened after Denver’s Former Future Brewing opened in 2014. The initial business plan of making “clean” beers like a porter or pale ale quickly began to change. The future of the brewery quite literally became a former idea, left in the past.

While hard to verify, it may be the first case of a brewery name serendipitously predetermining the business’ own fate.

When Sarah and James Howat opened Former Future, James, with a degree in microbiology, went to work creating wild ales on the side under the name Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales. After two Great American Beer Festival medals for those beers in 2014 and 2015 and a growing fan base, “Former Future” was officially dropped in 2016 so the husband and wife could rebrand solely as Black Project.

“The first time you win a medal, maybe people think it’s a fluke, but when it happens again, everyone sees you’re for real,” says Sarah Howat. “Two years in a row is legitimizing for ourselves and the people who follow us.”

Black Project has added more space to accommodate 100 wine barrels and a 10-barrel coolship. Foeders are a possibility for a later date. Additional space and more equipment will help turn around batches of fruit-flavored table sours and blended beers inspired by Belgian lambics.

With a refocused purpose, the brewery’s name once again reflects reality for the Howats, who took the spontaneous reaction from beer drinkers and never looked back.

“I don’t think James or I ever expected this reaction,” Sarah says. “Without that second medal in 2015, I also don’t think we would’ve had a serious conversation about making this shift.” 

–Bryan Roth

Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will tap a fresh version of Hypersonic, which has been "the most popular and juicy version of our wild-yeast NE IPA series," the brewery says. "That is why we decided to make a year-round beer... Hypersonic is not sour. It is made with wild yeast foraged from our neighbor's apple tree in the Baker neighborhood." The tapping will begin at 2 p.m.

PorchDrinking’s Weekly Denver Beer Beat

Hypersonic has been the most popular and juicy version of Black Projects wild yeast NE IPA series

That is why they decided to make a year-round beer.

They have also changed their method of hopping slightly, but still 8x dry-hopped. Hypersonic is not sour. It is made with wild yeast foraged from their neighbor’s apple tree in the Baker neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.

Tapping will begin when they open at 2pm

Brewing a Craft Marriage

Like a good ale, a good marriage is hard work. Both take commitment. Both take the right ingredients working together over time. Both provide a one-of-a-kind experience.

I have been married a long time and know that there are some days my spouse does not like me. She still loves me, of course, but we have to work things out. When you are in business together, that can often stretch a relationship.

Ale Treks took the time to interview a few of the many couples in our area who are in the craft beer business together. I believe their shared experiences may be helpful to other couples, as well as those working together in any business.

Jeremy Gobien and Kristen Kozik

Meet Jeremy Gobien and Kristen Kozik of Copper Kettle Brewing. They met through a dating service in 2007. After their first date, Kristen really wanted to know more about this shy, quiet man she met. He was interested in why she would be interested in him. Jeremy was working on his degree in material science engineering and she was a pediatric nurse. The two continued dating and on a trip to Germany, he proposed. Jeremy says that Kristen is like a Czech Pilsner with a hoppy bite at times and Kristen describes Jeremy as a Milk Stout: smooth and mellow.

Daryl and Jules Hoekstra

Daryl and Jules Hoekstra met while Jules was on a camping vacation with her family. Although she was still in high school, Daryl was captivated by this beautiful girl in a white bikini. They began a long distance relationship that flourished — not that easy in the pre-cell phone era! Daryl worked his way to becoming a chef while Jules graduated and studied occupational therapy. The two eventually made it official and have been married for 23 years. According to Jules, Daryl is like a good Pilsner, smooth and balanced, while Daryl describes Jules as a spicy IPA.

James and Sarah Howat

James and Sarah Howat are the owners of Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales. James was a science teacher for Adams County School District and Sarah worked as a behavioral specialist. They met at a nightclub after Sarah won a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ contest with a friend to determine who was going to talk to James. They found they had many things in common, especially their thirst for adventure. James said he knew early on that Sarah was the one and they married after dating for two years. Currently, they have been married for five years. James describes Sarah as a Complex Saison, fruity, herby and spicy. Sarah says that James is a Gueuze, a Belgian Lambic style that is complex with many layers.

These couples shared some of their secrets to a long-lasting relationship:

This was a big one with all three couples, each suggesting that partners learn to keep their communication lines open and genuine. Daryl and Jules advised not letting anger simmer or hold. Holding a grudge over something is just silly and destructive, Daryl said. Some challenges need to be dealt with right away and then let go, not letting it carry over to the next day. Sarah and James said sometimes you need to give a little time and space, but it’s best to take care of conflict as soon as you can. According to Kristen, communication is difficult in a professional relationship, especially when all there is to talk about is work. Being open and valuing each other’s contribution becomes key.

Find and make time for each other. Ask yourselves: Are you married to the business or to each other? Whether going to a festival, going on a date night, or just seeing a movie together, it is important to carve out that time in your schedules. Sarah says that they have learned to sometimes just go, even leaving for two weeks after the brewery was open for one year and James was the head and only brewer. Taking the time to get away helps knit a stronger relationship.

Clearly defined and respected roles in relationships and businesses help bring order to life. A friend once told me, “You won’t be king of your castle unless you treat your spouse like a queen.” I noticed that within each couple, there were clear functions of each individual that brought value to the relationship. Marriage is a union where each member is equally important to one other.

Love is a verb. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the feeling and passion of love but the real test of time is to act on the love that you have for each other. Sometimes it is little things like James making coffee for Sarah as he heads out early on the day and Sarah keeping James well fed. Simple sacrificial acts of service toward one another help say ‘I love you.’ Jeremy and Kristen verbally encourage and listen as a way to show love to each other. Kristen sometimes will bring Jeremy a gift of a warm cookie to surprise him. Gift giving is a great way to show you care. Each of us receive and communicate love in different ways, and it’s important to find what way says ‘I love you’ the most to our significant other.

‘Enjoying the experience’
Sarah and James both said enjoying the business was important. Through the craft industry they get to meet many different people. “Our customers are like family” Jules said. Sarah said she loves the idea of a place where people can go and feel safe, share and be known. That is a large part of the whole craft industry experience. When the work that is done alongside a spouse is enjoyed, it helps brew love in marriage.