When it comes to breweries and quintessential pubs, Mountain Sun, Southern Sun and Vine Street Pub are hallmarks in that arena. They’re the OG’s of brewing beer, creating an inviting, warm community atmosphere, incredibly personal service and finger-licking good food.
In the Mountain Sun world, February is big. It’s Stout Month.
On their 20th year of Stout Month, all three locations will be featuring 60 different stouts (including 30+ Colorado-brewery collaborations) with at least 10 stouts being rotated and poured at all times, at each pub, for the month of February.
I sat with Head Brewer, John Fiorilli this past week at a packed Southern Sun to discuss what Stout Month means to them, their home brewers contest, his favorite stouts on the menu and their first-ever 100% Colorado-brewery collaboration on their 31 rotating guest beers.
John has been with Mountain Sun on and off since 2000 and now serves as their Head Brewer. At any given time he is managing 75 different brands of beers and calls Vine Street (their biggest location) in Denver, his home base although he makes the rounds to all their locations including their newest, Under the Sun. With 3 breweries to manage and 8 brewers on staff, Mountain Sun holds it down in terms of production and efficiency.
John laughed with me as he shared that February’s Stout Month is an all-hands on deck situation and it’s probably the one month he works everyday. His twinkling eyes and laugh don’t show him even that tired – that’s because him and everyone else loves working with Mountain Sun and loves what they do.
First, I asked John why stout? He answered, “Because it’s such a springboard,” they can go with so many directions with stout as the base. It gives room for exploration, which is why this month has so many activities and success around it. This is their only major, recurring beer month over the last 20 years that has stood the test of time and they’re excited that this was the first year they did all guest beer collaboration, 100% from Colorado breweries. It’s a perfect way to support other breweries and build a great stout together.
Stout Month – Homebrew Competition:
One of my favorite things about Stout Month is Mountain Sun’s Homebrew Competition (awarded in advance in December). John shares that most of the entrants are their most frequent customers and of course, are genuine beer lovers. This year, James Kunz was the winner (there were 70 entrants!) with his Kraken Dark Spiced Rum-Infused Oak Spirals. Each winner gets to brew their beer at Mountain Sun and see it served across the pubs during Stout Month. This beer has that Carribean feel to it with the infused Rum and the spice is a unique after taste.
When I asked John the genesis of the Homebrew Competition he smiled and said, “Talk to any brewer. They probably got their start brewing at home.” The extension of supporting your community and brewers that are just getting started is something they wholeheartedly support. Although the Mountain Sun brewers have fun judging the competition, they just have two rules:
1. The beer needs to be stout by style;
2. They go simply with the best beer on the table.
A lot of the brewers may lament, thinking about the intricacies or difficult nature of making that beer if they choose the winner, but they ignore that thought process, and purely go for the best.
First ever Bourbon Barrel-aged Mountain Sun stouts:
This is the first time they’re releasing Bourbon Barrel-aged Mountain Sun stouts to be released every Tuesday during the month of February. For the rest of the month you can try:
2/19/2013 – A The brand new BOB, an Imperial Milk Stout aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels, will be released solely as a barrel-aged product as they have never served it before barrel aging.
2/26/2013 – Their GABF Silver Award winning Addiction Imperial Coffee Stout aged in Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels.
John’s favorite beers that made the Stout Month list are:
- Norwegian Wheat Stout: This one is his “baby” he explained as it’s a true wheat beer (although the Germans may scoff at him he said) and it’s not sweetened by milk which keeps it less on the sweet side but a fun exploration of a wheat-stout beer.
- Addiction Coffee Imperial Stout: A solid coffee stout, that has been a longtime favorite of his. He’s always happy to drink it.
- Dark Harvest Pumpkin Stout: Particularly proud that they actually use real pumpkins (local whenever they’re in season) and blends their own spices by hand at Savory Spice Shop to top off that pumpkin spice mix when you sip the stout.
Less beer-related, but absolutely part of the month’s festivities is Chop Month. Mountain Sun customers and employees are encouraged to grow out their hair to “mutton chop” lengths. On February 28th, The Chop Competition begins and whoever wins for best facial hair takes home: ¼ barrel keg of Mountain Sun beer, two organic pork chops and is crowned King of the Chop for one year. They also give out 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention prizes, with Best Mullet winning a $100 Mountain Sun gift certificate. Do you notice John’s chops? Rocking it, right?
Can’t you see how this is such an epic month for Mountain Sun? They go all out. So hurry on over to Mountain Sun, Southern Sun or Vine Street to get in on those rotating stouts! What’s your favorite stout you’ve had from them or the guest collaborations thus far?