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

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