When they judge the annual Stout Month homebrewing competition at the Vine Street Pub, the brewers there have one primary guideline: the best beer on the table wins, regardless of its style or similarity to any other beer that Vine Street, or any of its Mountain Sun group siblings, serves.
Daisy Raymondson didn't know that when she set about creating a recipe for her Raspberry Chipotle Stout, however. “I was looking at what had won in previous years, and what they brew, and figured I should do something different that they hadn't had on yet,” she says. “Something a little kooky.”
So, based on a sauce that her husbands makes, she created a recipe for a Raspberry Chipotle Stout. “I made three batches over the last year and fed it to a lot of people who gave me lots of good feedback,” she says.
In the end, Raymondson's beer was both different – Vine Street doesn't brew any chile stouts – and the best beer on the table, says John Fiorilli, who oversees the brewing operations for the Mountain Sun group of pubs, which includes the Vine Street Pub in Denver and Southern Sun in Boulder. Today at 4:20 p.m., all five pubs will tap Raspberry Chipotle Stout.
Raymondson, who is a regular at Southern Sun and will be there today, is the first woman to win the Stout Month competition in its 22-year history – something that is both interesting and immaterial at the same time. Still, since it is estimated that at least 90 percent of American homebrewers are men (although that is changing), the odds weren't in her favor.
This year's competition featured 37 entries, and the quality of the beer was higher than it has ever been before, Fiorilli points out.
Now that it has won, Raymondson's beer will continue to be brewed and tapped in future years, as have many of the previous winners like Coconut Cream Stout, Girl Scout Stout, Sharkbite Foreign Stout and Chai Stout.
Raymondson was in the same homebrewing club with Adam Boggs, the brewer of two of those (Coconut and Girl Scout). Boggs has since gone pro, taking a job at Hawaii's Hoku Brewing Company. But Raymondson says he offered her some feedback and advice on her techniques.
When it came time to scale up the recipes from her homebrewing system to Vine Street's much larger professional system, though, Raymondson, who has been homebrewing for seven years, let Fiorilli do most of the tweaking.
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“I got to work with him over the course of the day, which was a lot of fun,” she says. “I learned a lot.”
And in the months since she won, Raymondson has built up some momentum. “It has inspired me to start entering other homebrew contests. This one was intended to be kooky. Now I want to hit some more traditional styles, like a straight dry Irish stout, and see if I can do that.”
Stout Month continues at all five Mountain Sun-owned pubs through the month of February with dozens of house and guest stouts on tap.