The Best Beers of 2016: Ryan’s Most Arbitrary Countdown

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (Denver, CO)

LUNEX | American-style gueuze with coffee

Lunex is the GABF highlight Oxcart but with coffee added, and the bright fruity flavors of the coffee transformed this into an even more complex beer, with light roast notes sneaking past the array of stone fruits.” It’s a gueuze with coffee, and I certainly have never had that before. By the end of 2017, I firmly believe that Black Project will be seen in the same league as fellow sour-producing Coloradans Casey and Crooked Stave – James and Sarah Howat are going to be churning out world-class spontaneous wilds for a long time and they deserve all of the accolades that will certainly be coming their way.

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Lots of Beers Are Good: The GABF 2016 Story

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales | 1290 S Broadway, Denver, CO

I somewhat pretentiously appreciate the contrast between Black Project’s beers being so colorful and literally wild, yet their aesthetic is stark and two-toned. They are located a 10-minute Uber ride from TRVE straight south down Broadway – a perfect one-two punch if you are low on time. The exterior is painted black and white with their stealth paper airplane logo. Inside, the bar tops are airplane wings, crates hang asymmetrically on the walls, and there’s a display of clocks set to a variety of time zones. Otherwise, the rest of the place is a little laboratory-esque, which is appropriate knowing how James Howat works. But the beer is the spicy raspberry compote drizzled over the plain cheesecake of the place itself, and you appreciate the interplay of both even more. Only a few things have changed since the switch from Former Future Brewing Co., including the clock wall and a few decorative pieces here and there. But when we arrived, the beer list had been decimated by a busy weekend, with only four of ten taps still running. It ended up working out, as every beer was great, and it left us with no doubts on our choices as we each drank all four. The Lunex is the GABF highlight Oxcart but with coffee added, and the bright fruity flavors of the coffee transformed this into an even more complex beer, with light roast notes sneaking past the array of stone fruits. The Elsewhere is a red sour bursting with tart cherry and cranberry flavors, with an almost lactic acidity in the middle, before it finishes remarkably dry. Dreamland pushed the acidity a bit past my brink that day, but I still appreciated the lemon zest, grains of paradise, and green grape notes it gave off. The final beer was one of the last remnants of the Former Future brews, the Salted Caramel Prim & Porter, a beer that is as advertised, tasting like a chocolate-dipped and salt-encrusted caramel, but with enough bitterness in the brew to keep the sweetness at bay. It’d be a shame if this was never made again. Even if there were only two beers on tap, this would be a worthwhile stop for any sour beer lover.

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The Greatest Beers I Had at the Great American Beer Festival 2015

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales (CO)
Dreamland (Blueberry)  – Sour Ale, 5.7% ABV

James Howat of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales told us this great story on our podcast about how he made a mini-coolship in the middle of a blizzard in Iceland and brought back a dangerously active fermenting bottle on the flight home. He’s one of these brewing wunderkinds making sours the painstaking traditional way, and each beer he brought had the complexity of its Belgian ancestors with some room to grow still. He speaks like a professor of sour – but one of those cool professors you’d want to party with. Each day at GABF, the line for Black Project wrapped around and through the neighboring aisle, and each session the kegs kicked a little bit earlier. There will be amazing things to come from this brewery.

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