“From the Cellar” is an editorial project where Hop Culture’s managing editor digs into the Hop Culture cellar to review a beer. Have a vintage bottle or cellared beer you think we should try? Drop us a line at [email protected] with the subject line “From the Cellar.”
With the weather warming, we at Hop Culture have turned our attention to lighter offerings. Basically, your classic spring beers: highly drinkable lagers, delicate saisons, and zippy kettle sours. As we perused through the Hop Culture cellar looking for something special to open, our eyes landed on a two-year-old bottle from our friends at Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales. We’ve always been enamored of Black Project but this particular offering might’ve been a Hop Culture favorite. Meet CYGNUS: Blend B.
CYGNUS: Blend B at a Glance:
- CYGNUS: Blend B is a blend of three years of traditional, Lambic-inspired, coolship spontaneous ale that is then re-fermented on whole Montmorency and Balaton cherries.
- Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales in Denver, CO, a brewery that specializes in the Méthode Traditionnelle style, makes CYGNUS: Blend B.
- The beer is released annually in 750 ml bottles. This particular edition was released in 2019 and has been in the Hop Culture cellar since then.
- CYGNUS: Blend B is 6.7% ABV
The Story Behind Black Project’s CYGNUS: Blend B
In a state littered with world-class breweries making stellar sour beers, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales manages to stand out. Colorado is home to the likes of Amalgam, Primitive Casey, and Crooked Stave, to name a few. And they all play their part in progressing the state’s sour beer scene. Black Project has managed to translate artful, complex, stunning beers into hype.
That isn’t meant to be dismissive. Folks will line up for hours waiting for a Black Project release. Bottles of Black Project’s beer very likely travel the country as sour beer fans trade whatever they can for a taste of their magical beer. Even Black Project’s canned sour beers that taste like they could be explosive lactose fruit bombs feature wild yeast and real fruit resulting in a dynamic beer. There’s something special going on at Black Project.
So, we knew we were in for a treat when we popped open this two-year-old bottle of CYGNUS: Blend B. Released in 2019, CYGNUS is an annual offering from Black Project and exclusively features cherries. “Our goal was to do our own version of a high-end Belgian Kriek, perhaps even elevate it a bit more,” shares James Howatt, founder and blender at Black Project. “It uses 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old beer in its blend. It is one of my favorites.”
The base beer, which is a spontaneously fermented lambic-inspired beer was brewed under the Méthode Traditionnelle standards and guidelines. The beer is then aged on whole cherries, “predominantly of the Balaton variety, which is a type of Morello (red flesh vs white from something like Montmorency),” explains Howat. Uniquely, Howat and the Black Project team don’t pit the cherries. “I feel aging on the pits adds a lot of complexity and richness to the beer.”
The cherry-beer mixture rests in oak foudres for about a year before bottling.
Ultimately, Howat feels CYGNUS is a beer ripe for collecting and aging. “I think it is a beer that will age and develop for well beyond a decade but, with time, the fruit will become more subdued,” he explains. “If I were a customer, I’d drink one fresh and one at a couple years old, at least.”
So, how does it taste after two years?
What Does CYGNUS: Blend B Tastes Like?
- Pours an effervescent, light ruby red with basically no foamy head.
- Strong acetic acid aromas, which are characteristic of spontaneously-fermented beers, as well as freshly baked cherry pie.
- It’s tart! Be ready for some strong puckering sensation as you get a mouthful of tart cherry flavors.
- That sourness settles after a few sips as you find more mature, dark cherry notes.
- The slightest touch of residual sweetness rounds out the cherry experience.
The Bottom Line
CYGNUS: Blend B is a masterclass in cherry flavors. Like the best Belgian Krieks, this beer offers a spectrum of complexity. Although it starts off extremely sour, it ultimately ebbs and flows along sweet and tart lines.
Any fan of tart cherry beers should seek this out. Plus, consider letting this one age for a few years, allowing those complex cherry flavors to continue developing. Save CYGNUS for a special occasion! And pair it with a hearty dish. Maybe red meat or a savory, saucey meal like stew or even chili.
“CYGNUS is a great example of our bottled, Méthode Traditionnelle-certified beers that tend to focus on ageability, custom-blending of old beer from barrels, and whole fruit from producers we know personally,” Howat shares. “The focus is complexity, intricacy, and showcasing the product of true spontaneous fermentation.”
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