In 2014, James and Sarah Howat founded Former Future Brewing Co. in Denver. The enterprise was open for two years before they renamed it Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales. Not only did the name change, but so did the focus. It began to brew only coolship beers, beers that ferment spontaneously in the open air.

By utilizing the large, open-top vessel known as a coolship for fermentation, the brewery’s beers are unique from batch to batch because they rely on microbes in the air as part of their process. Since these microbes are ever-changing, it would be impossible to replicate previous batches according to James Howat.

The basis of Black Project’s offerings centers around a dedication to science and experimentation in the brewing process. It says its ingredients and processes are constantly evolving using local, spontaneous fermentation and lessons taken from the Belgian approach to brewing. Although the brewery appears to follow the traditional lambic brewing practices, such as spontaneous fermentation via coolship and blending batches to taste, it does not consider itself a lambic brewery because it is located outside of Brussels.

One of its most popular series is SHADOW FACTORY. The series features an all-wheat base designed for heavily fruited beers which is a slight change in its normal production process.

Black Project began to can its beers for the first time in September 2019. That first canning run included one SHADOW FACTORY release—Blackberry-Raspberry—as well as two other fruited beers, Magic Lantern and Dagger. Just a few months later, the brewery offered SHADOW FACTORY Cranberry-Boysenberry to fans as both the first release of the cranberry and raspberry variant as well as its first beer to be packaged in cans.

SHADOW FACTORY: Cranberry – Boysenberry is an American Wild Ale with a 4.5 percent ABV and an IBU rating of 9. The brewery released this new variant of the SHADOW FACTORY Series, along with six other beers, in December 2019. The series includes 15 other variants:

  • Blackberry – Raspberry
  • Black Currant – Cherry
  • Blackberry – Black Currant
  • Cranberry – Raspberry
  • Blackberry – Pomegranate
  • Boysenberry – Blood Orange
  • Aronia
  • Sweet Cherry – Pomegranate
  • Blackberry – Plum
  • Raspberry – Pomegranate
  • Blueberry
  • Boysenberry
  • Blackberry
  • Raspberry
  • Blackberry – Blueberry
  • Mango

Poured from a 16-ounce can into a Munique stemmed glass, the color is a bright magenta with a bubbly but quickly dissipating head. Despite the heavy amount of fruit, there is a little lacing. The aroma is heavier on the boysenberry side and very fresh.

Once in the mouth, I pick up much more of the cranberry, which adds to the strong tartness. Just like the aroma, the flavors are very clean. There is a huge amount of fresh, juicy fruits and a hint of sweetness.

The body is not too heavy and holds up well during the fermentation process. I enjoy the mouth-puckering tartness that comes through alongside the fruits. The funkiness associated with coolship beers is also very apparent. These notes give the beer a more complex flavor profile as it does not taste like a simple fruited sour ale. The finish thingstogether. As tart as it is, the finish is also nice and dry, like good Champagne. I honestly found very few flaws, however minor they may have be. It was slightly too sweet, possibly due to the heavy fruit additions, and the finish could have been more a little more crisp. However, it is a full-bodied, sour beer packed full of fruit and balanced to perfection.

Black Project SHADOW FACTORY: Cranberry-Boysenberry
BREWERY: Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
LOCATION: Denver, Colo.
STYLE: American Wild Ale
ABV: 4.5 Percent
IBU: 9
PRICE: $4.50 (Pack of Four 16-Ounce Cans, $18)
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 20, 2019
AVAILABLE IN: Four Packs of 16-Ounce Cans
This was my first Black Project beer and I was more than impressed. The color was gorgeous and the aroma was what I would expect from a brewery that puts this much passion and attention to detail into its products. Both the cranberry and boysenberry were demonstrated beautifully, though it was a trade-off between aroma and flavor. It was very tart, funky and clean with just enough sweetness to keep it from becoming overpowering. Based on this beer, I am very eager to dive more into Black Project and what it can brew.
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