I would be willing to bet that every day people walk past the obscure branding of Black Project and have absolutely no idea they are walking past one of the cities best Spontaneous and Wild Ale breweries. Appearing to be the “speakeasy” version of breweries, unless you are actively seeking them out, one can easily to brush right past that simple black door in the hustle and bustle of every day life. Or perhaps, the random observer happens to notice and they begin to wonder what goes on behind it, and their mind is lead to illusions of secret government agencies or hideouts for spies…
A “Black Project” by definition is a term used by US militaries for highly classified defense projects that are so secretive they are not even acknowledged by military personnel. When you step into Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales, you get the feeling of being part of something important and confidential. When you see the expansive bar, you take note that it appears to be made out of the wings of an old fighter jet. And if you reach to look at the beer list you are presented a simple, grey metallic folder; which all ties seamlessly into the theme. The color scheme consists of all neutrals: blacks, grey, and white which is strangely inviting in a no nonsense type of way. The Black Project mission statement is “Innovation in the research and development of Spontaneous Fermentation” and you can feel the passion the owners have for producing the best product out there in the way they choose to showcase their beer. No embellishments or extras to take away from the reason you stepped inside in the first place which is to drink a finely crafted beer.
One thing that sets Black Project apart, and truly elevates them as one of the top sour beer producers in the state, is that the owners James and Sarah Howat have so much fervor for the nature of their craft. The motto they live by when brewing their beer, is that Black Project utilizes science and experimentation, while also adhering to traditional Belgium brewing processes. None of Black Project’s beers can ever be copied because they are fermented with Microbes caught within the local environment, so these beers truly are as local and “Coloradoesqe” as you can get. How cool is it that when you savor a Black Project beer, you are drinking something that is specific to the area around you. The flavor profile is defined by the wild yeast that is present in the air around you. It helps you to feel connected to the beer your hand and to be transported back in history to a time when this was the way all beer was produced. This is a pretty neat experience, and is why Black Project is one of a kind.
As you can see from their current list of offerings, they limit their beers to a select few at any given time. Most likely due to the long, tedious, and expensive process of brewing this style, Black Project chooses to focus and perfect a few options, rather than to have a vast array of offerings. I rather like this minimalist approach, and find it refreshing to know that the five or so beers that are on tap have been made with a labor of love and are at the peak of their drinking perfection. Each beer has a lengthy one page description which talks about the base beer, any fruits that were added, as well as ABV, IBU’s, and acidity level. This information is extremely helpful because there are levels of tolerance the drinking population has for various levels of acidity. Those people that enjoy a light or mild acidity range can choose a beer to match their preferences, and the same goes for those hardcore sour heads that can tolerate higher levels of acidity. Having this information really allows the consumer to get to know the beer they’re drinking, as well as help to understand certain aspects of a beer that they prefer.
During my visit to Black Project I tried three out of the five offerings and thoroughly enjoyed all three. The leader in the clubhouse being Outlaw Shark. This 6% beer starts with a Golden Sour base and blended with Apricot, Guava, and Elderberry. Bringing a tart sweetness from the Apricot as well as tropical notes from the Guava, it was a complex explosion of flavors, that helped me to discover that Stone Fruits tend to be a favorite flavor profile of mine. The Nixie, which is a Golden Sour base that has been lightly fruited with Raspberries, while also coming in at 6% drank a little lighter and more delicate, with soft raspberry sweetness. It was definitely a close second and only second due to my own flavor preferences. Both were categorized as a mid level of acidity which was perfect in my opinion. Being the sour lover that I am, I have been known to put myself through the discomfort of sour induced heartburn, that some higher level acidity sours can cause me, but I experienced nothing of the sort with these two, and lost myself in the delight of these tart, fruity, effervescent examples of the style.
With the passion and love the owners put into these beers, it is no wonder that Black Project is a top spot for Sour beer enthusiasts and sought after and traded for by people across the country. While people come far and wide to try to delicacies Black Project has to offer, I can count myself one of the lucky ones that can go over and drink these delicious beers whenever my little heart desires and I can continue to enjoy a truly wild ale.