The idea behind Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales has always been a dream of ours. Spontaneous fermentation is fascinating to us, so our mission defines that dream. Our goal is to explore what is known and to challenge what is possible.
When we first started the brewery three years ago, Black Project used two 60gal stockpots as our coolship, both purchased on a shoestring budget after our initial attempt of adding a coolship to our brewery with a KickStarter failed. This meant that we had to be creative.
Every time we brewed a new spontaneous beer, we would hoist both stockpots (empty) up to the roof of the brewery, then pump boiling wort through a 75ft hose, from the brewhouse, out the back doors, up to the coolship. We'd cover the pots with a nylon-mesh screen, then come back in the morning to pump the now-cooled wort, back down to the barrels. I will always fondly remember being on the roof, watching the coolship fill in the darkness with large columns of steam rising from each vessel, illuminated by a small work lamp. The temperature was often below freezing, but the warmth from the wort kept it from being too uncomfortable. However, the nostalgia of those nights doesn't erase the memory of how cold it was when coming back to empty the coolship, early in the morning, quite often still below freezing with the wort now being in the 60s. That meant no help staying warm waiting for the wort to be slowly pumped down into barrels.
This early coolship system allowed us to cool 120gal of wort and fill two oak barrels almost exactly to the brim. It worked. The cooling rate was perfect, the inoculation surface area was ideal, and a little exercise going up and down the ladder certainty didn't hurt. That being said, one of the most exciting times for Black Project came last fall when we were able to expand our facility by an additional 1,000 square feet by subletting space from the shop next-door. We even cut a doorway through the brick into the building and walled off a part of the neighboring tenant's space. As soon as the walls were up, we immediately filled the room with about 100 additional neutral French oak barrels. Next, we moved our existing barrels into the cellar, bringing the total number of oak barrels closer to 140. A few months later, we added a 1200L foeder and four 450L puncheons.
As we added all of these oak vessels, I knew we wouldn't be able to easily fill them all in a winter using our existing rooftop coolship vessels. The time had come to build a custom coolship. I worked with Spencer Langford from Langford Distillery Systems to specify the dimensions and structure of a new coolship to be situated under a large window in the barrel cellar. Late last fall he completed the work and delivered the coolship. It is 360gal with a divider in the middle for single batches, constructed as a copper tub that free-floats in a heavy duty stainless steel frame. We also slightly reconfigured our brewhouse to allow brewing 5bbl batches of lower-gravity beers.
All of our lambic-inspired wort in the 2016-2017 season was brewed using this coolship and the results and have been extremely promising. The depth and volume are the exact dimensions that I feel yield the ideal cooling rate for this style of beer making. The divider allows for some split-batch experimentation and also for single-turn brew days when necessary because of time or ingredient constraints. We couldn't be happier with the new coolship and everyone at Black Project is really proud of it. The coolship and the barrel room are always a high point for visitors getting tours of our small facility.
That being said, since we started small and since we are still very small, in the grand scheme of American breweries, we refuse to compromise, take shortcuts, or otherwise sacrifice what we believe in so that we can produce more beer. This means that we may not be able to easily accommodate the demand for our product. However, the good news is that, just like our coolship that went from two huge stockpots on our roof to a beautiful custom-built copper piece of art, we are continuing to slowly grow our production while still increasing quality and innovation in our beers. Over the last few months, we have been planning several new versions of popular beers to return to the brewery, building relationships with local growers and maltsters, will be debuting several new lambic & gueuze-inspired blends and variants later this year.
ROSWELL is our largest release to date, with 420 bottles available to the public. This may not be a lot in comparison to many breweries, but it is a significant amount of beer for us, considering most of our beer takes nearly a year or more to produce.
Please know that we do our very best to ensure all of our beer is as available as possible. Specifically, when we set bottle counts for release days, we have always, and will continue to always, strive to find the best compromise between high allotments and more availability.
Details and Limits here - blackprojectbeer.com/roswell
We thank all of our fans for their continued commitment to our beers, as well as for their continued understanding that as a small brewery making long aged spontaneous beers we sometimes may not be able to keep up with the demand for those products. Thanks again for your understanding and for your passion for what we do.