As Great American Beer Festival turns 36, do we still need it?

For Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, a Denver brewery whose sour and funky creations are some of the most sought-after in the state of Colorado if not nationwide, there is an economic benefit first and foremost to pouring at the festival.

Co-owner Sarah Howat said that even in recent months, first-time customers have walked into the brewery and said they first tried Black Project at the 2016 GABF — a refrain that is repeated by other breweries who have reported big boosts from the festival.

But beyond that, there is a chance to participate in an event that continues to drive excitement among the most influential beer drinkers in America because of the innovation on display in the hall — innovation that Black Project can be seen as being at the forefront of with its offerings.

“There’s definitely an energy around GABF as a brewer that’s not felt at any other festival,” Howat said.

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Opening Night of Great American Beer Festival 2017

The Great American Beer Festival kicked off last night for the 36th time. Thousands of people flooded into the Colorado Convention Center to imbibe on more than 3,900 beers from 800 breweries from across the US. Hailed as the largest festival of its kind, GABF sold out quickly — proving the event continues to maintain its popularity (even if ticket sales were slower). Last night’s highlights included the usual march of the bagpipes around the convention center, the creative costumes and general drunken debauchery.

But aside from the typical scenes, there were more than a few special tappings. This included a whopping 18 percent ABV beer from Black Project called Covert #1 that went almost immediately and a collaboration beer from Avery and Odell that was blended on site during a ceremonious pulling of the taps from Adam Avery and Doug Odell. Other highlights included a delicious Fernet Branca beer from Forbidden Roots made in partnership with Fernet Branca using 17 ingredients from its secret recipe. If there was one snafu last night, it happened at the very end when the restrooms were reportedly blocked off, leaving thousands of people without a place to relieve themselves. But according to the organizers of the event, the incident won’t occur moving forward.

Many beers and two nights remain for the popular festival, including the announcements of who will win the coveted medals during this year’s competition. Make sure to check back with 303 Magazine for updated coverage and follow us on Instagram to see more live from the festival.

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Beers Worth Chasing At The Great American Beer Festival

It’s finally here – the week of The Great American Beer Festival and all of the beer debauchery that comes along with it. People and beer from around the country are making their annual pilgrimage and the list of what’s being poured at the main event is slowly leaking out.

And while the official list is not out yet, we used PorchDrinking’s preview pour list to guide us in our hunt for the best brews. Last week, we gave all of our best tips for festival survival last week so now it’s time to get down to beer business.

Every beer drinker is different – each has their taste preferences and unique palates which makes it hard to select the must-try beers. So instead of giving a definitive list, we are breaking it down into three categories that will give you a sampling of styles from around the country. Here are our suggestions for the best beers to help you live your best GABF.

Worth The Wait

With 800 breweries pouring it might feel like a waste of time to wait in any of the long lines you will see.There is a reason behind those lines, and it’s not just hype— they are delicious, hard to get brews.Let’s start with the dark beers, those that are tucked away and left to mature in special barrels that only come around once a year.

Fremont Brewing Company out of Washington is bringing its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star an oatmeal stout that’s a blend of beer aged eight, 12 and 18 months in 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon barrels.  From Michigan, Founders Brewing Company is bringing KBS its imperial stout brewed with large amounts of coffee and chocolate before being tucked away for cave-aging in oak bourbon barrels.

Colorado is also well respected on the list of beers sure to be worth the wait. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales can easily be the first booth out of beer so if they are on your list (and they should be), go there first. You can’t go wrong with any of its beers but Covert – a spontaneous super braggot with cherries, raspberries and black currants coming in at an ABV of 18 percent is a nice way to get the party started. While Black Project is new on the scene – there is on OG beer that is sure to have a line and never disappoints, and that is the original double IPA from Russian River Brewing Company out of California. Get your hop fix with Pliny the Elder – any beer drinker should have it from the tap at least once.

Collaborative beers also foster attention since often this is the only time they are available. Last year, Odell Brewing Company and Avery Brewing Company both out of Colorado found themselves sharing festival space. This year – they did it on purpose and have created a special beer that mixes as it pours from the tap. Odell’s stout is a white coconut-aged in rye whiskey barrels with Avery bringing a vanilla and coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels. When the tap pulls forward the two beers will mix and land in your glass.

Beers From Around The Country

This is it. This is the moment to see what the rest of the country is doing – where the trends are leading and to see how these beers stack up to our local brews.

If you are feeling extra adventurous, check out Scratch Brewing Company out of Illinois. All of its beers are brewed with foraged ingredients – go for LeavesLeaves is a specialty saison brewed with leaves from 34 different plants and trees including oak, sage, laurel, mint, thistle and blackberry to name a few. Keep the exploration going by visiting the booth for Speciation Artisan Ales out of Michigan which focuses on what wild microbes can do in a beer. Its Rhubarb Vanilla Incipient features two pounds of Michigan grown Rhubarb with Mexican vanilla beans.

Moving to the Pacific Northwest, you can try Great Notion Brewing if you are in search of something to appease your hop needs. Great Notion is making noise by jumping into the haze craze. Its hazy imperial IPA Juice Box is made with all mosaic hops and is straight juice. Toppling Goliath Brewing Company may be across the convention center since it’s based in Iowa but it will keep the hop party going with its Pseudo Sue. This American style pale ale is a single hop beer focusing on Citra making the citrus and mango pop.

Not everyone can get to Portland, Maine, but GABF brings Maine – more specifically Allagash Brewing Companyto Denver. Allagash White is the flagship and a nice easy drinking beer but we would recommend Avance – a strong, sour ale with strawberry preserves that’s aged in oak barrels.

Normally we would suggest that you stay away from beers you can get locally because you can get them anytime, but at GABF there are exceptions. A lot of local breweries are bringing the fire to the festival – beers that we locals will have trouble snagging.

New Belgium Brewing Company who has revamped its sour program and will be pouring Oscar Aged in Blackberry Whiskey Barrels. This is a foeder-aged dark sour put into fresh blackberry whiskey barrels from Leopold Bros. Distillery in Denver.

Equally scarce and only being poured with limited bottles per session is Royal Oil from Bull & Bush. It’s is an English strong ale that is bourbon barrel-aged for two years to get the perfect flavor profile. While it didn’t take Comrade Brewing Company two years to finish Fresh Hop Superpower IPA – it does only come once a year. The use of fresh hops takes an already award-winning IPA to another level.

Fiction Beer Company is taking one of its classic beers to the next level with Barrel-Aged Feely Effects. It starts with the classic green tea milk chocolate stout and then it’s aged for 18 months in a bourbon barrel. It’s not often you see green tea – much less barrel-aged green tea. And then there is Medianoche from WeldWerks Brewing Company – the bottles for this beer are released this week and tickets for the opportunity to purchase them sold out in minutes. This could be one of the only chances (for now) you get to try this imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for 17 months.

Each session at GABF lasts for just about four hours which means you could conceivably have 48 different beers if you drink one pour every five minutes. If you are super competitive and have liver of steel, that might the route for you. For everyone else, start with this list and then build on it when the final list goes live. Go for what you might never be able to have but more importantly go for what you want – GABF is your own personal beer paradise.

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Five Denver Foods Made With Beer and Beer Ingredients

As ticket holders for the Great American Beer Festival gear up for three days of beer saturation, it's easy to see why beer is on our brain. But those who can't make it to the annual extravaganza of fermented beverages should consider eating their hops instead...or at least nibble on tasty snacks that are either inspired by beer or made with the stuff. These five items can all be taken to go, and offer the chance to try Colorado beer without stepping inside the Colorado Convention Center, or a bar, this weekend.

Beer-Inspired Pickles
As part of The Real Dill's Briners & Brewers series, owners Justin Park and Tyler DuBois paired with Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project to create the ultimate beer cuke. Enter Colorado Wild Sage Pickles, a marriage of cucumbers with the same herbs and ingredients that flavor the Crooked Stave's Colorado Wild Sage Brett Saison. Like the beer, these pickles feature lemongrass, sage, hops, lemon and a dash of malt to help give them a slightly spicy, tart and mouth-watering quality. They taste like someone marinated a cucumber in a glass of the beer, minus the alcohol. While the pickles are sold out on the Real Dill's website, there might still be a few floating around at retail stores. Or keep an eye out on the website for new beery pickles in the series.

Dry-Hopped Coffee
Coffee and beer? You usually don't see these two things together unless it's as a hangover cure or strong breakfast stout, but Phil Goodlaxson at Corvus Coffee decided to add hops to a recent batch of cold brew. "It’s kind of an interesting story about how that came to be," says Goodlaxson. "I was doing a lot of beer events early on, and for one of the South Denver beer fests, I decided to make something more 'beer-y' on a whim, and so we went to a local homebrew store and bought some hops, dry-hopped some cold brew and ordered a stamp to make some pretty basic labels for the bottles." Now anyone can try the stuff by heading to one of the Corvus Coffee shops (1740 South Broadway or 4925 South Newport Street) or seeking it out at some of the city's finer markets. "It was something I was planning on doing only once, and it led to what is now a million-dollar cold-brew business," Goodlaxson says. "I may never have bottled cold brew at all if it wasn’t for that original hopped coffee."

Beer-Infused Ice Cream 
Every year, Sweet Action Ice Cream doles out a handful of beer-infused ice creams in honor of the Great American Beer Festival, and this year is no different. The full list of flavors that owner Chia Basinger is making at his Baker-neighborhood shop hasn't been released yet, but in 2016 he whipped up Butter Pecan Maple Porter made with Renegade Brewing's Pancakes Maple Porter; Vegan Colorado Peach Ale with Copper Kettle Brewing's Peach Golden Ale; and Honey Nutmeg Sour Red with Black Project's Voodoo Sour Red. Get the ice cream in a cone or take a six-pack to go. Also whipping up great beer ice cream is Gerry Kim at Frozen Matter in Uptown. Take a pint of the Milk Chocolate Stout (made with Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout) home, or stay for a beer float, which can be made with any ice cream. It's the best adult soda-shop treat ever.

Salami Laced With Ale
Wine has been used in charcuterie for decades, so it was only a matter of time before someone started using beer to flavor cured meats. You can taste this pairing in the Colorado Sour Ale Salami coming out of Elevation Meats in Denver. Made with Trinity Brewing's Seven Day Sour, the pork-based salami offers meat and beer lovers a tasty marriage of two great products. To try this delectable blend, look for it at specialty shops around town or order online; you can visit The Preservery and Culture Meats & Cheeses to sample before you buy.

Beer Brats: Coming Soon
For a while now, Jensen Cummings of Brewed Food has been working with the folks behind Tender Belly to create a line of beer-spiked brats. The process has been slow, and the team is still trying to perfect it before packaging and selling the meat on the market. "Our IPL [India Pale Lager] brats are not available for retail just yet, and we have only been sampling and testing in very few select accounts," says Stephanie Duffy, Tender Belly's sales manager, in an email. "They will be ready to share with the world soon."

Until then, we can only salivate over what's to come. 

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GABF 2017: 50 must-taste breweries

Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales (Denver, Colorado): W10

Look for the line to find Black Project, it’s worth the wait. The cult-status brewery specializes in beers made with yeast and bacteria derived from open-air fermentation and then carefully crafted in the barrel, often with local fruits. Get back in line a couple times — again, it’s worth it.

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Méthode Gueuze No More

(Austin, TX) – Jester King Craft Brewery founder shares a tale of how his well thought out homage to lambic inspired beer making process was squashed by the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers. Here are Jeffrey’s very kind and diplomatic words in response to a pretty absurd request.

Simmering in the background for much of 2017 has been a disagreement between Jester King and the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL). The disagreement is over our use of the term “Méthode Gueuze”. We adopted Méthode Gueuze as the style description for our three-year spontaneous blend released in 2016, and attempted to establish Méthode Gueuze as a new, certified style of beer.

Our motivation was to deal with the problem of what to call Lambic and G(u)euze inspired beer made outside of the traditional region of Belgium. We wanted to make clear to beer drinkers that our beer was made following the traditional recipe and technique of G(u)euze, but was not made in the traditional region, and therefore is not authentic. We also wanted to help establish a set of standards for brewers pursuing Lambic-inspired spontaneous fermentation outside of Belgium. The terms “Lambic” and “G(u)euze” have been thrown around fairly causally in the past when it comes to sour beer, and we wanted it to actually mean something when a beer is said to be inspired by Lambic or G(u)euze.

It was with this mindset that Méthode Gueuze was adopted. We were bolstered by the support of Jean Van Roy of Brasserie Cantillon, and announced the terminology and certification effort last November. In hindsight, we should have done more to secure the support of other traditional Lambic producers, namely HORAL. In our estimation, if we came up with a solution for what to call Lambic-inspired beer made outside the traditional region, but alienated a significant portion of the Lambic community in the process, then we have failed.

Our intent has been to approach this topic in a respectful manner, as we’re a seven year old brewery that has been doing spontaneous fermentation for only five seasons, and the traditional producers have been making Lambic for decades, if not centuries. On top of that, it’s their tradition, not ours. We’re just the new kids who discovered what the masters have been doing forever, often times in total obscurity, grew to love what they do, became hugely inspired, and wanted to see if their traditional methods would work 5,000 miles away.

Back in March, we received a letter from HORAL voicing their displeasure with Méthode Gueuze. To be honest, when we got the letter, we went through a gamut of different emotions and seriously considered telling HORAL to “get lost” in so many words. However, in the end, we came back to the principle that our efforts will have failed if they result in a significant portion of the Lambic community being at odds with us. It was in this spirit that we reached out to HORAL for a sit down meeting to discuss the disagreement. HORAL graciously agreed to the meeting, and back in June, we travelled to Lot, Belgium to meet with them. We were accompanied by James Howat of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales in Denver, Colorado.

First off, HORAL was a very kind and friendly host, and showed us great hospitality for which we are very appreciative. As we knew going in, HORAL did not approve of the term Méthode Gueuze, and it became apparent that they did not appreciate the words “Lambic” or “G(u)euze” being used in the fanciful name or stylistic description of Lambic-inspired beers. We can empathize with their position, as it is their tradition, and we can see how in their eyes we might come across as interlopers trying to profit off of what they’ve been doing for ages.

They did however agree that there is a problem with what to call Lambic-inspired beers made outside the traditional region and were supportive of Lambic-inspired beers in general. They also had no problem with the terms “Lambic” and “G(u)euze” being used outside of the fanciful name and stylistic description of the beer (for instance, writing on the back of the label that “this beer is inspired by Lambic”). Based on this, HORAL proposed an alternative term “Méthode Traditionelle”, in reference to beers made following the traditional method of making Lambic and G(u)euze, but outside of Belgium. While there was some initial hesitation on our part because a lot of things can be made following a “traditional method”, we agreed that in the context of Lambic-inspired spontaneous fermentation, Méthode Traditionelle works. In other words, we’re signifying that we made spontaneous beer following a traditional method, and are free to expound or elaborate on the fact that the traditional method comes from authentic Lambic and G(u)euze.

Sure, we would have ideally liked to have drawn a more direct connection, à la “Méthode Gueuze”, or by extension “Méthode Lambic”. But we highly respect HORAL’s position and have no desire to create the impression that our beer is authentic Lambic or G(u)euze. As we’ve stated many times over the years, our spontaneous beer is not Lambic or G(u)euze! And once again, what good is a new style description if a significant portion of the traditional producers are at odds with it? We have no desire to create life long enemies. We respect these brewers, their families, their ancestors, and the incalculable time they’ve put in over generations carving something out of nothing. We don’t want to disrespect that, even if it was far from our intent. These are several of the brewers that helped inspire us in the first place after all. And frankly, carving out our own tradition and legacy of making beers unique to the microflora, climate, and ecology of the Texas Hill Country is way more important to us than anything else. While we’re hugely inspired by and respectful of the Lambic tradition, our main purpose is to make beers reflective of our own time, place, and people.

The bottom line is that our 2017 three-year, G(u)euze inspired blend to be released this fall will not bear the moniker “Méthode Gueuze”. It will rather carry the style name “Méthode Traditionelle”. Similarly, we will not continue to pursue the certification for Méthode Gueuze. However, we’ve continued to work with some of our most respected American colleges producing spontaneously fermented beer on the Méthode Traditionelle alternative. We still desire to see standards in America and elsewhere when brewers pursue Lambic inspired beer. More information about the initiative can be found HERE.

We appreciate all the support we’ve received over the last year or so. It means a lot to be part of a passionate community where there may be disagreement, but ultimately, everyone in our experience is respectful and comes at it from a good place. We’re grateful to be part of it, and look forward to a bright future for beer and the beer community.

Jeffrey Stuffings
Jester King Brewery

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For Epic Brewing, Everything Changed in the Time It Took to Brew a Single Beer

It’s stunning how quickly things are evolving these days in the craft-beer industry: styles, trends, rules and regulations, even the packages that beer is sold in. Breweries are bought and sold; they change names, change focus and change addresses. One day a beer maker can be on the top of its game, and the next, it can be left behind, wondering where everybody went.

The pace of change caught Epic Brewing off-guard on September 1, when news broke that The Commons, a well-loved Portland brewery, would close its doors at the end of this year; its space will be taken over by San Diego's Modern Times, which is opening a new outlet in Portland. Founded in 2011 by Mike Wright, the Commons had grown quickly from its original garage into a 10,000-square-foot showplace of a brewery and tasting room, gathering accolades, attention and lots of debt along the way.

What’s the connection to Epic? “We were literally chopping up honeydew melons and adding them to the foeder when the news popped up on my phone,” says Epic national sales director Darin McGregor. “The melons were for a collaboration beer we were making with the Commons.”

Common Interests, a sour ale brewed with Oregon red winter wheat and Colorado honeydew melons, will debut next week, during the Great American Beer Festival, on tap at the brewery and around town. But rather than being a celebration of the ties between Epic and the Commons, it will serve as a tribute to the Portland brewery and a reminder that things can change a lot in the time it takes to brew a single beer.

The collaboration began last summer when Epic’s brewers flew to Portland to see friends at the Commons, in particular star brewer Sean Burke, who had been with the Commons since 2011. Burke then flew to Denver to plan the project at the Evergreen home of Epic founder Dave Cole, and returned to Oregon ready to go. In the meantime, Epic brewers Kevin Crompton and Anthony Biaz got to work on their side of things.

Epic had just acquired two huge wooden barrels, adding to its already brag-worthy collection of foeders, which are typically used to aged sour beers. “We thought of this beer the moment we got them,”McGregor says. “It will be the first one to come out of them.” Once brewed, the beer was emptied into the foeders and allowed to age for months. But in June, Burke, who had been with the Commons since 2011, left suddenly and without public explanation. That news came as a surprise and a bummer for Epic, which also began having trouble reaching anyone at the Commons, McGregor says.

In late August, Crompton and McGregor drove to Rocky Ford — a melon-growing region east of Pueblo — to pick up 4,000 pounds of ripe honeydews. A few days later, they set up an assembly line by the foeders to disinfect the melons, rinse them, slice them open, seed them and chop them into cubes, McGregor says.

That’s when they heard that the Commons was closing. “We are not upset. We are empathetic. A lot of breweries are having a hard time making the ins and outs balance. I think that is what this beer represents. It’s hard to even complete a collaboration because of how quickly the sands are shifting," McGregor says.

Something similar happened to another Denver brewery five months ago, when Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales got the news that Anheuser Busch InBev, the makers of Budweiser, had purchased sour specialist Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Black Project was in the midst of two collaborations with Wicked Weed at the time, one in Denver and one in North Carolina.

AB InBev has bought ten formerly independent breweries over the past few years and used them to leverage sales. Because of the corporate giant’s business practices, Black Project, like many other independent craft breweries, doesn’t support AB InBev or its subsidiaries.

“In Denver alone, we've seen several instances of highly aggressive, predatory and what we consider to be unethical practices,” Black Project wrote on its blog in May. “We truly believe that AB InBev intends to systematically destroy American craft beer as we know it. We don't personally buy, seek, trade or acquire any of their products for this reason, and we've been known to encourage our friends to do the same.”

As a result, Black Project decided to dismantle its half of the collaboration, blending the beer that was supposed to have been a part of it with another beer in order to make something different. The brewery also asked Wicked Weed to take Black Project’s name off the version of the collaboration that was aging in North Carolina.

Although that situation is very different from what happened to the Commons, the point is the same, McGregor says: A lot can happen in the time it takes to make a single sour beer.

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Great American Beer Fest 2017: Can’t-miss events around Denver

The first week of October offers an embarrassment of craft beer riches thanks to the Great American Beer Festival.

But it creates a good-to-have problem: How do you pick where to grab a beer in Denver if there are so many special events at the same time?

This is where we can help. From our ultimate GABF week calendar, we selected the five can’t-miss events this year:

Beers Made By Walking, Oct. 3, 6-9 p.m. 

The most unique craft beers poured today are the ones defined by their terroir — the ones that embrace and reflect the surroundings of where they are made. The Beers Made by Walking festival is the showcase for those beers, challenging brewers to draw inspiration for a beer by taking a walk in nature and foraging ingredients local to their area.

“Each beer is a unique, drinkable portrait of the landscape,” according to organizers.

This year’s event will feature more than 30 brewers who hiked 14,000-foot mountains, wandered through community gardens and camped in national parks to form their recipes. Twenty of the beers were made just for the event. And the brewery list includes some of the most innovative brewers in the country, including Black Project, Four Noses; Haw River; Burial Beer; Fonta Flora and Trophy. Tickets cost $40 and proceeds benefit the museum. More details here.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd.

The Crooked Stave Portfolio Tap Takeover, Oct. 5, 11:30 a.m. 

Crooked Stave Artisans is much more than a sour-beer (and now IPA) master. The Denver company also owns a beer distribution company. And each year for GABF it puts on a show with the best in the craft business, offering some amazing beers that make appearances in Colorado for only one week a year.

The Crafty Fox is hosting a tasting of Crooked Stave’s distribution partners that pulls from across the country, including Chicago’s Half Acre, Oklahoma’s American Solera, Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids and more.

The Crafty Fox, 3901 Fox. St.; Oct. 4, 2-6 p.m. 

Plus: Hops and Pie in Denver is pouring 23 breweries distributed by Crooked Stave a day later, including Oregon’s Ale Apothecary, California’s Societe and Connecticut’s Two Roads, as well as “additional treasurers.”

Hops and Pie, 3920 Tennyson St.

Colorado Invitational: GABF Kickoff Party, Oct. 4, Noon-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

A new event this year is drawing some huge hype. The Colorado Invitational will feature six breweries that are making some of the most interesting beer in the state right now.

The lineup includes three breweries known for making some of the best hazy IPAs — Odd13, WeldWerks and Cerebral — as well as the well-regarded 4 Noses and innovative Wiley Roots.

New Image Brewing, which is known for their hazy IPA East Coast Transplant, is hosting the mini-festival for two sessions. Each brewery will bring two beers and New Image will pour its full list and special one-time releases. Brandon Capps, the brewery’s founder, said he wants it to be an intimate experience — unlike GABF — that allows people to talk to brewers in depth about the beer.

To add to the fun, the event will take place outside and include live music. Tickets cost $35. More details here.

For a bonus experience, test Colorado’s IPAs against some of the best in the nation later that evening at Falling Rock Tap House. The Denver craft beer bar is hosting an All-Star IPA Throwdown at 9:30 p.m. that features Wyoming’s Melvin Brewing, Maine’s Bissell Brothers and many more.

New Image Restaurant and Brewery, 5622 Yukon St., Arvada

Casey Brewing and Blending Tasting, Oct. 6, 11:30 a.m. 

Casey Brewing and Blending in Glenwood Springs comes down the mountain only so often to share its coveted Belgian-inspired beers. And GABF week is one of those times.

The best time to taste Troy Casey’s beers is Friday at Hops and Pie. The brewery is offering nine different barrel-aged beers and the side-by-side experience allows fans to experience the nuances of how different fruits and wild yeasts come together in the barrel to produce unique beers. Translation: Geek out.

The tap list will include The Cut: Sour Danube Cherry, Dry Hopped Apricot Casey Family Preserves, Dry Hopped Oak Theory, The Low End, The Cut: Grape, The Cut: Plum, Cherry Fruit Stand, Grape Fruit Stand, and Plum Casey Family Preserves.

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Friend or Foe? Breweries’ Perspectives on Legal Marijuana

Does legalizing recreational marijuana cut into beer sales? That’s the million-dollar question. More likely, it’s a billion-dollar question, since recreational marijuana was estimated to be a 6 or 7 billion-dollar industry in 2016. 

Debate over the answer began heating up in November of last year, when a report from Cowen and Company, first published by Brewbound, found that legalized recreational weed was associated with decreased beer sales in the three historically strong beer markets of Colorado, Washington and Oregon. 

The Cowen report led to a flurry of headlines, and not just from beer-industry publications: “Legal Marijuana Hurts Beer Sales” (Time); “Beer sales take a hit in states where marijuana is legal” (Slate); “Buzz Kill, Dude! As Pot Sales Soar, Beer Takes a Hit” (Barron’s). 

Also last fall, The Boston Globe reported that The Beer Distributors of Massachusetts and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Massachusetts chipped in $75,000 toward the anti-marijuana-legalization campaign in advance of a November 2016 ballot measure. It ran under the headline “Why is booze business against legal pot in Massachusetts?”

Then came the counterpoints. Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewer’s Association, a trade group representing small and independent breweries, penned a post questioning some of the Cowen study’s methods. He wrote instead that “Although I don’t purport to know what the long-term effects of marijuana legalization will be, I can say that I see no evidence that legalization has had an effect on beer sales in the short term.” MarketWatch reporter Jason Notte authored an opinion piece arguing that Big Beer’s troubles aren’t weed-related, writing “Folks are still saying weed is bad for beer, but nobody seems to remember any of the evidence to the contrary.”

The debate was on. With a handful of states recently decriminalizing marijuana possession and starting the process of licensing dispensaries, stakes are high (pardon the pun).

Missing from much of the back-and-forth, which dealt primarily in economic forecasts and sales data, were the actual experiences of breweries in the four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska) allowing recreational weed. Were they feeling the pinch of legal pot? 

Yes and no. Some breweries, especially in Denver, cite an increasingly expensive commercial real estate market as dispensaries and growers snap up warehouses left and right. A few other taprooms relay stories of overly high customers who had to be refused service. But none that I spoke with said legalized recreational marijuana had noticeably impacted their sales. 

“I’ve read a lot of the articles saying people are concerned about it cutting into beer sales, but I’m a little skeptical,” says Patrick Annesty, sales and marketing director at Denver’s River North Brewery. The brewery’s Washington Street taproom is located near several dispensaries as well as a bar-type space where it’s legal to smoke recreational marijuana. “We do see some tourist overflow from those. People are in the neighborhood from going to those places, but overall, I couldn’t really claim a positive or negative effect either way. It’s such a small blip on the radar in terms of everything else going on in Denver.”

Everything else going on in Denver includes a booming restaurant scene, an influx of new residents and enough construction cranes to create steel hashtags across the sky.

Sarah Howat, co-founder of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, also located in Denver, says she also can’t point to a boom or dip in sales attributable to legalized weed.

“I don’t know that it’s impacted our business; I guess it’s hard to know. But I think [weed and beer] are different experiences. You’re either in the mood to smoke weed or to drink beer,” she says. “But sure, people will come in, have a couple beers and then ask ‘Hey, isn’t there a dispensary down the block?’ That’s pretty normal.”

What’s not normal, Howat says, is how dispensaries and growers have driven up the cost of warehouse space in Denver. She says Black Project was considering expanding to a larger facility in Denver, but had to put it on hold because industrial space was so expensive.

“When we’d look at warehouses, they’d be snatched up right away and a few months later there’d be a growhouse there,” she says. “We didn’t want to look at a second space outside of town initially, but we’ve considered that now.”

But Brandon Proff, managing partner of Our Mutual Friend in Denver’s booming, nightlife-centric River North neighborhood, says some of that real estate competition has leveled out due to new regulations. He also says legal weed’s saturation point causes those looking for real estate these days to not be willing to pay as high a price for spaces, thus leveling the playing field a bit.

“A couple years ago, the marijuana industry was definitely to blame for a lot of things because warehouses were just being gobbled up by grow operations. Now they’ve implemented a lot more oversight and they’ve put a lot more road blocks in the way in terms of types of buildings and where in neighborhoods they can be. That’s kind of mellowed it out and is making it easier for other types of businesses to be there,” he says. “I was looking at potentially doing a second location and one space that I looked at was a former growhouse.”

Overall, Proff says, he would characterize pot’s effect on his business as neutral.

“As I see it, there’s not a blatant competition. I certainly wouldn’t say that we’re missing out on anything, no way.”

“As I see it, there’s not a blatant competition,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t say that we’re missing out on anything, no way.”

Though none of the breweries I spoke to reported a decline in sales due to legalized pot, all had at least one story of the unexpected effects it can have on taproom patrons. Some were more dramatic than others.

“Last summer, a paramedic had to be called to the brewery because a woman ate too much of an edible—unbeknownst to us—then came to the brewery, ordered a beer, took one sip, passed out and fell off her barstool,” says Steve Luke, founder and head brewer at Seattle’s Cloudburst Brewing. The brewery’s location near cruise ship piers means the taproom sees its fair share of tourists, some of whom are new to marijuana but are curious to try it. “The people that are coming from out of town, walking into a weed shop and buying whatever they want as a novelty, those are the people we see affected the most. Our staff is already trained not to overserve people, and [weed] is a separate element, but it’s fairly obvious if they see one of those people that are doing it for the first time.”

Though the woman was eventually fine, Luke says the said the incident made him worried that this type of thing could become a regular occurrence. Since then, though, Cloudburst hasn’t had a problem as intense as that, and Luke says any type of weed-related issues have been “few and far between.”

“There is some big marijuana fest every year down by the Sound. Those people are just walking outside all day; they’ve been smoking weed for eight hours outside so they’re not really interested in beer at that point,” he says. “They might come in, look around, get some free water and walk out.”

Proff from Our Mutual Friend said the taproom staff sees an occasional overly stoned patron, at which point they’ll stop serving that person alcohol and politely ask one of his or her friends to take the guest home. He says that the brewery encourages its staff to monitor people “in real time” because guests can arrive seeming coherent and then become less so as a marijuana edible kicks in. Mostly, though, he doesn’t see a huge percentage of drinkers overlapping their beer drinking and marijuana consumption, even if they’re into both. 

“I feel like at least as far as people I know, it’s not a part of the menu of what people are specifically planning on doing when they’re going out on the town. … I would say that as far as the ecosystem is concerned, everyone coexists. There are frequenters of all the different industries at each others’ places. In that way, it’s pretty harmonious,” he says.

Though recreational marijuana was first legalized by referendums in Colorado and Washington in 2012, it’s enjoyed a longer relationship with some breweries who make no efforts to hide their enthusiasm for hops’ biological relative, cannabis. Lagunitas’ OneHitter series; Oskar Blues’ Pinner; SweetWater’s 420; KettleHouse’s Fresh Bongwater … all reference an enthusiasm for the sticky stuff and long predate legalization.

“Sort of no matter their legal status, both beer and marijuana have been around for millennia,” says River North’s Annesty, who says the brewery doesn’t specifically look to market to or collaborate with dispensaries or marijuana users. “It’s not like this is some seismic shift in the culture of consumption. Both have been around for a while and I don’t think either will go anywhere anytime soon.”

Westword Beer Calendar

Colorado's biggest little beer festival returns to Breckenridge for the second time on January 4 to 6, 2018, with some upgrades and improvements. Tickets for the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival go on sale today at 10 a.m. at — and they will sell out very, very quickly. Here's a quick rundown.

The main event is the commercial beer tasting, $75, on January 6 at Beaver Run Resort; breweries from all over Colorado and the nation showcase their biggest best beers here and often set trends for the upcoming year. In addition, there are three food-and-beer pairing events over the course of the weekend. One stars the beers of Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head; the second highlights Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King and Cory King of Side Project; and the third will bring together rising stars Jeremy Tofte of Melvin Brewing and James Howat of Black Project Wild and Spontaneous Ales.

Beyond that, there are seminars and presentations galore for professional brewers, homebrewers and those who just want to learn more about beer and brewing. There will also be a large number of parties, side events and beer tappings in and around Breckenridge. (Bring water. Bring so much water.)

Festival co-founder and organizer Laura Lodge says the fest will keep its same basic structure, with some tweaks. "One change, the most highly requested change, was to create a central meeting place within Beaver Run Resort," she says about the fest's primary location. "So we are going to create a 'pop-up Falling Rock' in the central area by the pool, hot tubs, arcade.... There we will have some tastings Friday afternoon, music at night, our own bar selection, and lots of space to gather and visit."

There will also be a festival app this year, sponsored by DigitalPour, showing all of the beers at the commercial tasting, the location of the breweries, and real-time updates.

Big Beers was founded in Vail but moved to Breckenridge in 2016. Now in its eighteenth year, it is considered to be one of the best small beer festivals in the nation — not just because of the beers that are poured and its location at a ski resort, but also because brewery owners and celebrities show up in person to mix and mingle.

Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival Tickets on Sale Sept. 6 in Breckenridge

BRECKENRIDGE – The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival is gearing up for its 18th anniversary weekend Jan. 4-6 at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, and tickets go on sale Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m.

Held in high regard by brewers and passionate fans, the festival garnered a top 10 spot in the 2017 USA Today 10Best Beer Festivals reader's poll.

To purchase tickets, go to

Veterans of the Big Beers Festival know they must be quick to score Calibration Dinner seats for the custom double beer pairing menu created around Avery and Dogfish Head beers, and to be entertained with stories shared by the brewers and owners themselves.

For Big Beers 2018, Adam Avery, founder of Avery Brewing in Boulder, will be sharing the stage with Bryan Selders, of Dogfish Head, former head brewer and now brewing ambassador for their new Rehoboth Beach brewpub.

The Small Plates & Craft Beer Pairing event on Friday afternoon, Jan. 5, and the Traditional Brewmasters' Dinner on Friday night also sell out in minutes — if not sooner.

Jeremy Tofte, of Melvin Brewing Co., and James Howat, of Black Project Brewing Co., will be rocking out the Small Plates Pairing this year, and the 2018 Big Beers Featured Brewmasters will be headlining the Traditional Brewmasters' Dinner.

Held in Vail for 16 years, the Big Beers Festival relocated to Breckenridge in 2017.

Pondering the Pint: Sour cousins see resurgence

While American craft beer fans are clamoring for "sours" today, their history has been mixed. Two traditional sour styles in particular, which sound alike and share a similar history, are worth knowing more about: gose and gueuze. Forms of both are being made across the United States, with gose being among the country's fastest-growing session styles.

Gose (pronounced GOZ-eh) and gueuze (GOO-za) are beers born in regions not too far from each other. Differences emerge from there, though, beginning with their heritages and the source of their sour-ness.

Gose is a German style from Lower Saxony, named after the Gose River, whose brackish waters gave the beer a salty character. Gueuze (or geuze), a sub-style of blended lambic, originated with the Gauls in east-central Belgium. Both styles are wheat-based and originally open fermented —- exposed to airborne microbes to provide yeasts and bacteria for fermentation. Lactobacillus strains gave gose its earthy, dry-sour character. Strains of brettanomyces and bruxellenis gave gueuze a tart, acidic sourness. The original strains behind each style are lost, as both all but disappeared and were later reintroduced.

Gose enjoyed popularity in Germany's Harz Region from 980 A.D. until the 19th century. The Harz Mountains are the lands of fairy tales: dark forests, stormy mountains, and the highest elevations in Northern Germany. This isolation contributed to the style's longevity, but the writing was on the wall as industrialization and world wars came to the rugged region.

Beginning around 1824, the style's production decreased, as pilsner and kölsch became cheaper to make. Despite flashes of a gose renaissance in the 1930s and '50s, by the 1980s gose was lost and nearly forgotten.

A local professor, Lothar Goldhahn, is credited with reviving gose in the city of Leipzig around 1990. Since then, gose has been brewed with top-fermenting (ale) yeast and lactobacillus in closed fermentation. American versions of the style, including Avery's El Gose, similarly rely on improvised methods, including adding diverse salts and blending in citrus flavors.

Lambics appeared slightly earlier than gose. Records from Julius Caesar's campaigns reference an early sour wheat beer made by the Belgae Gauls in 57 B.C. Later records tell of Charles V's (1519-1556 A.D.) fondness for lambic blended with marzen beer for a sweeter taste — a precursor to gueuze.

By 1559, Belgian law embraced the financial potential of lambics, codifying specific ratios of barley to wheat to balance tax revenues and crop harvests. In 1839, the area in which lambic could legally be brewed was limited to Brussels and the surrounding two miles, and until 1860 foreign beers were virtually prohibited in Brussels. The protection zone insulated the livelihood of local brewers and the regional micro flora unique to lambics.

Ultimately, these efforts did not hold back the invasion of bottom fermented German beers — lagers. Occupying forces during both world wars confiscated brewing equipment or forced breweries to brew German beers, permanently changing the local beer paradigm.

After World War II, brewers with limited access to ingredients also began adding filler flavors and colors. Gueuze drifted from its roots as a wild-fermented wheat beer with aged hops into a sweetened concoction. This created confusion in labeling, and in 1965 Belgian law again stepped in to regulate use of the term "gueuze." Thereafter, original gueuze became known as "old gueuze."

In 1997, lambic brewers, recognizing the importance of keeping their traditions alive, formed HORAL (High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers). The group seeks to promote lambic brewing, its culture and to denounce irregularities and mislabeling. HORAL secured European Union protection under a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed label, designating the style and its sub-styles (including gueuze) as geographic specific appellations, uniquely identifying beers from the Brussels region.

For this reason, American brewers modeling sour lambics —- open-fermentation; 40 percent wheat/60 percent malted barley — are unlikely to call their beer "lambic" or "gueuze." Instead, brewers like Denver's Black Project use "méthode gueuze" or "spontaneously fermented" to identify their beers and honor the uniqueness of traditional lambics.

Though sour beers are hot in American craft brewing today, they remain a niche product. This is partially due to a lack of domestic tradition around the artistry and attributes of these styles. But as more U.S. consumers learn about and request these sour beers, their Old World and 21st century versions are experiencing resurgence.

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Westword Beer Calendar

Paste magazine, which must have ten refrigerators in its office, has released yet another ranked list of craft beers, this time focusing on wild and sour ales — a difficult task that it describes as "venturing into a quagmire of conflicting styles and sub-styles — you’re just hoping to find your way out again, when all is said and done."

But when Paste did find its way out — ranking the top fifty beers out of 143 that it tried — ten Colorado beers came with it, including the one in the top spot: Black Project's Peacemaker, a blend of two spontaneously fermented beers that were aged in bourbon barrels that had also been used to age Colorado cherry wine.

The result is no surprise, as Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales has been building a name for itself nationwide over the past few years. In fact, Paste recounted the reaction of its own staff like this: "It was telling that while looking over all of the beers that were arriving for this tasting, multiple tasters pointed toward the Black Project label and said something to the effect of 'I’ve been hearing a lot about these guys.'" As for Peacemaker, they said it was "unique from pretty much anything else in the entire tasting."

The other beers to make the top fifty were Crooked Stave Petite Raspberry in fifth place; WeldWerks Brewing Peach Climacteric at eleven; Avery Brewing Apricot Sour in fifteenth place; Dry Dock Brewing's Maurea and Astraea at 22nd and 41st, respectively; TRVE Brewing's Ostar at 23; Upslope Wild Christmas Ale at 25; Epic Brewing's Sour Brainless on Peaches at 27; and Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett at 29.

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Black Project's Latest Beer Release Brings Lambic-Inspired Beer to Denver

From its inception and through its transformation from Former Future Brewing Company to what it is today, there has been something distinctly unique about Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales. There has been a personality, a belief and an uncompromising dedication to the craft of beer. Its next release, project ROSWELL, this weekend is the next step in the evolution of its beer and brewery.

Project ROSWELL is the first time the Black Project team can share the fruits of their labor from the exploration of spontaneous fermentation (yeast captured from the air) after nearly a year of work. The project focused on pushing the limits of a traditional beer style and fruiting process. The beers from ROSWELL are Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented, barrel aged and then super fruited causing yet another refermentation. What does this mean to you? It means you’re going to taste some damn good, extremely limited beers that could become their own distinct style.

Black Project took the traditional Belgian process and then literally— from the airborne yeast of spontaneous fermentation—injected it with flavors that can only be found in the fresh air of Colorado. There are six variants of the beer – each came from the same base beer, so the true characters of each super fruiting shines through. Each variant you try will lead you down a different path while having in common a nice acidity, great mouthfeel and a pleasant tartness. These are not going to be beers that make you pucker— they’re dry instead, begging you to try another lusciously fruity sip.

The release for bottles to-go starts Saturday, July 22 at 2 p.m. and includes variants of Apricot (MOGUL), Raspberry (GRUDGE), Blackberry (MAJESTIC 12), Cranberry (HIGH DIVE) and Guava (BLUEBOOK). Each variant is named after different theories surrounding the ROSWELL mystery.

The limits have been announced at three per person and could drop to two per person depending on the number of people at the release. That’s right, you cannot purchase the entire set, but this was done with altruistic intentions. By limiting the number of bottles, it will maximize the number of people who will get these precious bottles. More importantly, it will encourage people to share and share alike at bottle shares and other events. Make friends so you have a chance to complete the set.

The Blueberry (SIGN) variant will not be available to go, but it will be available for on-site consumption starting on Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m. 

There’s only one way to take the Blueberry home. Black Project is giving a bottle of Blueberry (SIGN) to the three people who post the most creative photos of the bottles on social media. So think outside the box and use #ShareRoswell on social media or post it to Black Project’s Facebook Page to enter — winners announced at the end of August.

The blueberry was special— all of them were— but two of them stood out to us. The raspberry is incredibly layered and jammy while staying dry – a rare combination. And then there is the guava – undoubtedly guava beers have been done before but in our experience, no beer has been able to capture the true essence of the fruit. The tropical notes captured your nose and when you dove in you experience a burst of guava with a hint of something closer to almost a light ginger.

The excitement and anticipation surrounding ROSWELL is well-deserved. If you have never gone to a release or are a regular on the release rotation, this is one you will not want to miss. The beer community is going to come together this weekend on Broadway, and trust us when we say that Black Project knows how to host a release party.

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Black Project Wants Beer Drinkers to Share the New Roswell Super-Fruited "Lambics"

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales doesn't make the usual beers, but the brewery's latest creations are a little more unusual than, well, usual. This Saturday, the brewery will release five different fruited versions of Roswell, a lambic-style sour beer that was brewed, fermented spontaneously and barrel-aged over the course of about nine months; the beers were then re-fermented on a ridiculously plentiful five pounds of fruit per barrel.

To make Roswell, Black Project cooked up fifteen barrels (about thirty kegs) of base beer last fall and then cooled the batch overnight in an open-topped vessel known as a coolship. During the night, the wort (or unfermented beer) collected wild yeast and bacteria from the air, which began the fermentation process. The liquid was then aged in oak barrels. Last spring, brewery owners James and Sarah Howat selected barrels with the least amount of acidity — so that the beers would have a dry flavor and mouthfeel — and separately added the fruit; they then used the same wild yeast (which was collected from the original fermentation) to re-ferment the blend of beer and fruit.

The five variants — raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, guava and apricot — will be available in bottles to the public this Saturday, July 22. Each 500-milliliter bottle will cost $20, with a limit of three per person (though that might be lowered to two, depending on the demand). On Sunday, a sixth variant, blueberry, will be available for pours in the taproom but not sold in bottles; all six versions will be available to drink in the taproom that day, as well.

Beers like these are known as lambics in Belgium, where brewers have a centuries-old tradition of using airborne yeast and microorganisms to ferment the beer, giving them sour, wild or funky aromas and flavors. U.S. brewers are only just beginning to experiment with the style and are often hesitant to use the world "lambic," out of respect for the style's regional origin.

Over the last few weeks, the Howats have been heavily promoting Roswell with a series of cool videos and Facebook posts that tie the beer to Roswell, New Mexico, where a UFO supposedly landed in 1947. Black Project regularly names its beers and events after planes, rockets and other aerospace-related technology — going so far as to announce its releases with mysterious coding, as if they were secret government projects or undercover operations. Roswell has been no exception.

But the publicity was unnecessary: A line will form around the block on Saturday — with the first few people arriving in the middle of the night and sleeping on the sidewalk — just as it always does for a new Black Project release, and the beer will sell out within a few hours or less.

Even with only 420 bottles available for sale to the public, this will be the brewery's largest-ever release, about double that of previous releases — thanks to a recent expansion that saw the addition of 140 new wooden barrels, more space next door to the brewery and the brand-new coolship.

Since there are six versions of the beer, they will be highly sought after and heavily traded following the release. Traders, lambic lovers and beer geeks from other states, and even Canada, have said they are flying in to try to score some Roswell, and there are others looking to acquire it from people who have promised to pick up bottles, even though that likelihood is far from certain, James says. "People are already trading them online," he points out.

And while the demand is flattering to the Howats — and also encouraged by their stealthy marketing — they also want people to actually drink the beer rather than trade it as a commodity. As a result, James and Sarah are planning to handle this release a little differently than what they have done in the past.

For starters, they are only going to allow people to buy two (or possibly three bottles) each, meaning drinkers won't be able to collect an entire set. While limits on bottles are nothing new, the Howats are hoping that this will encourage people to open their bottles with friends so that they can try all five bottled variants (and stick around to sample the blueberry version at the brewery).

"We want to get this into as many hands as possible," Sarah explains. "The idea is that we want people to get out of their house, get together and share it with each other."

They will also tell people on release day about a contest in which Black Project will award several special bottles of Roswell to people who do the best job — with pictures and a story — of using social media to demonstrate how they are sharing the beer with like-minded drinkers. The awards will be for the funniest social-media share, the most creative and most adventurous. And the special bottles to be awarded? The elusive blueberry Roswell, which won't be for sale to the public.

The bottle release takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday; Brewed Food will be on hand to pair the beers with Tender Belly bratwursts served on pain de mie buns with kimchi, gochujang mayo and a side of Hop Ash potato chips (first come, first served). The official names for the six variants of beer are: MOGUL | Apricot; MAJESTIC 12 | Blackberry; HIGH DIVE | Cranberry; BLUEBOOK | Guava; GRUDGE | Raspberry; and SIGN | Blueberry.

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Nothing alien about Denver’s Roswell party; it’s all about the fruit

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Roswell, N.M., may be hiding aliens, but Denver’s Roswell is all about native species — of fruit and microbes.

Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales on S. Broadway always packs their beers with locally captured microbes, but it also packed its latest beers with fruit. By incorporating as much fruit as possible and still call it beer, they developed a new concept they call “super-fruiting.” The brewery will showcase this technique this weekend with the latest annual release of the Lambic-inspired Roswell beer series.

Black Project bills itself Colorado’s only 100 percent spontaneous and wild brewery. The project began in late 2016, when James and Sarah Howat decided to shift their attention from clean ales to solely spontaneous and wild ales, including sours, mixed-culture saisons and Lambic or Gueuze-inspired beers. Black Project evolved from Former Future’s Brewing Company, expanding their barrel cellar by adding over 140 oak barrels, four puncheons and a custom-built copper coolship.

Using this new cellar, the beers in the Roswell series were spontaneously fermented, barrel-aged and then re-fermented with extreme levels of one of six different fruits: apricot, blackberry, cranberry, guava, raspberry and blueberry. The batch was then cooled in the coolship overnight to allow the unfermented beer to collect wild yeast and bacteria from the air. The result is a series of naturally sour but fruit-forward beers, each with a distinct fruit flavor.

Made once per year during the late spring from a Lambic-inspired wort brewed the previous year, the Roswell beers have a deep flavor but lower acidity than if they had spent all summer in a barrel. Expect a rich and spontaneous flavor accompanied by a distinct funk and complexity that dissolves into a vibrant fruit flavor and aroma..

James Howat is the Black Project brewer, blender and co-owner. A former microbiologist and high school science teacher, he uses his background to experiment with the brewing process on a cellular level. By capturing microbes from the environment and purposefully allowing them to evolve from batch to batch, he creates truly unique beers.

The Roswell event starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 22, at the brewery, 1290 S. Broadway. Five of the Roswell variants will be released alongside a special BrewedFood pairing. Food is first-come, first-served, so get there early if you want a Tender Belly Bratwurst with pain de mie bun, kimchi and gochujang mayo and a side of Hop Ash potato chips. Bottles are also sold to go with a limit of 3 per person.

The party continues at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 23, with an exclusive, onsite-only release of the blueberry Roswell variety, and a limited preview of their upcoming Biere Brut / Biere de Champagne made with Red Fox Cellars Barbera grapes. Bottles are available for on-site consumption only.

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Westword Beer Calendar

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales will unveil a project that has long been in the works: Roswell, a "Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented ale that is barrel-fermented, barrel-aged, and then re-fermented with high levels of one of six different fruits," the brewery says. The beer was made with an idea that Black Project calls super-fruiting, in which as much fruit as possible is packed into the brews, "while still calling the end result a beer." In the future, Roswell will be made once per year "during the late spring from a lambic-inspired wort" brewed the previous 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." Black Project will release five of the variants in bottles today, although people in line (and that line will form in the middle of the night, with customers sleeping on the sidewalks) will only be able to purchase three bottles, in order to encourage sharing (this may be lowered to two per person). The Roswell beers are Apricot, Blackberry, Cranberry, Guava and Raspberry. A sixth version, Blueberry, will only be available for on-site consumption; all six versions will be available for on-site consumption on Sunday, July 23. All will be sold in 500 ml bottles that are available for $20. Brewed Food will be on hand to pair the beers with Tender Belly bratwurst with a pain de mie bun, kimchi and gochujang mayo, with a side of Hop Ash potato chips.

ROSWELL Release at Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales

We’re excited to finally be able to declassify a project we have been working on for almost a year: ROSWELL

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.

On July 22, join us for the public release of five bottle variants of ROSWELL and a special Brewed Food pairing with Tender Belly Bratwurst with pain de mie bun, kimchi and, gochujang mayo with a side of Hop Ash potato chips. Then on July 23, we’re hosting an exclusive, onsite only release of SIGN and a limited preview of our upcoming Biere Brut / Biere de Champagne made with Red Fox Cellars Barbera grapes.

Bottles To-Go:
ROSWELL: MAJESTIC 12 | Blackberry

Bottles for On-Site:
ROSWELL: SIGN | Blueberry

500mL bottle, cork and capped – $20 /bottle
Limits will be set this week*

*All limits are subject to change, at anytime, without advanced warning.

Black Project Releases 6 Lambic-Inspired Super-Fruited Ales

Denver, CO — Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is announcing ROSWELL, a once per year bottle release party spanning two days, July 22-23, 2017.

ROSWELL is a new series of “super-fruited” beers that are Lambic-inspired, spontaneously fermented, barrel aged, and then refermented with high levels of one of six different fruits. ROSWELL is 100% spontaneous, meaning it was cooled in a coolship overnight allowing the hot wort (unfermented beer) to collect microbes from the air. These microbes are wild yeast and bacteria, which ferment the beer and naturally sour it. ROSWELL was brewed in the fall of 2016, when Black Project expanded into their new barrel cellar, adding over 140 oak barrels, four puncheons, a small 12hL fouder, and a custom-built copper coolship.

In August 2016, Black Project took over the taproom of Former Future Brewing Company, retiring Former Future. Both businesses are owned by James and Sarah Howat, but the husband and wife team decided to focus their attention from clean ales (non-sours) like porters, cream ales, and stouts to spontaneous and wild ales, like sours, mixed-culture saisons, and Lambic or Gueuze inspired beers – a blend of one, two, and three-year-old spontaneous barrel-aged beer. While customers may think that Former Future and Black Project are two separate breweries, both breweries opened on January 1, 2014 and used the same brewing system. Black Project beers were originally cooled on the roof of the building using two 2BBL / 60gal stock pots and then the beer was fermented in barrels. This kept the sour beer separate from the clean beer, preventing wild microbes from souring non-sour beer. The first Black Project spontaneous beer was brewed in late February 2014 and in August 2014, Black Project released Colorado’s first spontaneous ale, called “FLYBY”.

FLYBY went on to win a medal at the Great American Beer Festival that year. This was followed by another medal in the same category the year after. As Colorado’s only 100% spontaneous and wild brewery, every beer that’s produced by Black Project off of South Broadway in Denver, is made with only yeast from the environment, either from the air or from fruit and flowers that have been foraged. As a former microbiologist and high school science teacher, James Howat – brewer, blender, and co-owner – uses his experience and background to create a one of a kind beer that cannot be replicated at any other brewery, down to the individual cell.

This release of ROSWELL follows the brewery’s mission to “innovate in the research and development of spontaneous fermentation” and was created to showcase a concept they call “super-fruiting”, where the brewery uses as much fruit as possible, while still calling it a beer.

ROSWELL is made once per year during the late spring from a Lambic-inspired wort that was brewed earlier that fall. This gives the beer a 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. The true wild-caught microbes mean that the beer is deliciously dry while still packing an incredible amount of fruit flavor. Flavors include apricot, blackberry, cranberry, guava, raspberry, and blueberry.

On July 22, Black Project is releasing five of the bottle variants of ROSWELL to the public with a special BrewedFood pairing of Tender Belly Bratwurst with pain de mie bun, kimchi and, gochujang mayo with a side of Hop Ash potato chips, first come first serve. Then on July 23, the brewery is hosting an exclusive, onsite only release of SIGN, the blueberry variant, with a limited preview of and upcoming Biere Brut / Biere de Champagne made with Red Fox Cellars Barbera grapes.

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Westword Beer Calendar

The Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar on East Main Street in Buena Vista is celebrating its first anniversary with a mini beer festival and live music from 2 to 6 p.m. Baere Brewing, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Cerebral Brewing, Elevation Beer Company and Melvin Brewing will be pouring during the fest. Live music will start on the outdoor stage at 3 p.m. with Boulder-based rock band Augustus, followed by Denver-based bluegrass band the River Arkansas at 6. The Jailhouse recently extended its liquor license to include the lot next door, which houses an outdoor stage called the Watershed BV – a shared community space – where all the live music will take place. There will be food from the Bearded Lady food truck, and the Jailhouse will be open before, during and after the fest, with service as usual and a special selection of beers filling its ten taps.

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