February is Stout Month for the Mountain Sun group, which means all three locations will be featuring a rotating draft selection of stouts (including some stellar guest taps), along with various other happenings in honor of the increasingly popular style. It's an annual tradition that's become a much anticipated festival of sorts.
So much so that this past Saturday, the folks at the Vine Street location decided to host an exclusive preview of what's in store. For $50, dark ale enthusiasts were treated to a sampling of specialty stouts paired with creative snacks from executive chef Annabelle Forrestal, as well as a sneak peek at their brand-new, long-awaited brewing facility.
Plans to make Vine Street the flagship brewery for the Boulder-based Mountain Sun pubs have been in place for quite some time, and after cutting through the maze of red-tape necessary to do so in a residential area, that time has come. Vine Street's head brewer John Fiorilli and crew are all set to start mashing into their brewhouse this spring, pending a bit more paperwork. In the meantime, however, they figured what better place to throw a party?
The taps were manned by Mountain Sun's eight brewers, who were as happy to answer any questions patrons might have as they were to show them around.
A handsome, twelve barrel brewhouse will be the epicenter of Vine Street's production, the capacity of which is 5,000 to 6,000 barrels a year.
24 barrel fermentors line the wall of the spacious facility.
Attendees were allowed to roam free in the cozy, sunlit room, but according to Mountain Sun group's head brewer Brian Hutchinson, the space wasn't always so pleasant. "We had to do a of ton demolition in here," he explained, "pulling up the flooring, installing doors and windows. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it."
And the food pairings were just as well-constructed. Chef Forrestal put together a casual menu of sweet, savory and small bites that perfectly complemented the roasty beers and laid-back vibe.
Candied grapefruit rinds dipped in dark chocolate.
Smoked knockwurst & pretzel skewers.
Poached pears, gorgonzola, crushed pistachios, and a honey drizzle served on toast.
The new Denver facility is designed to relieve the burden from the two Boulder ones, both of which are having a hard time keeping up with demand; subsequently giving all three more room to experiment. "We'll be brewing the house beers here, but we're all really excited to get more creative at each location," says Vine Street's Fiorilli, a self-proclaimed pilsner lover. "We built this brewery to handle more capacity than we need right now. The extra leeway is going to be fun."
Vine Street head brewer, John Fiorilli talking with folks about his favorite subject.
Check out Mountain Sun's facebook page for updates on their celebration of the stout. And in no particular order, here's a small taste of what to expect on tap (as best as I can remember):
Old School Dry Irish Stout, 5 percent ABV. An old school stout indeed, drinkable and roasty.
Addiction Coffee Imperial Stout, 9.5 percent ABV. Brewed with coffee beans from Boulder's Conscious Coffee, it's bold, but not overwhelmingly so.
Girl Scout Stout, 5.7 percent ABV. Winning recipe from their Stout Month homebrew competition two years ago infused with fresh mint and cocoa powder. It's mellow, thankfully.
Nihilist Imperial Stout, 9.5 percent ABV. A strong, sweet stout made more so by the use of orange blossom honey.
Chocolate Dip, 6.9 percent ABV. Four pounds of Belgian chocolate make for an interesting take on a easily one-demensional style.
Stoked Oak, 7.2 percent ABV. Aged on oak chips, it has a welcome freshness about it not present in barrel-aged beers.
Korova Cream Stout, 5.7 percent ABV. Hard-pressed to make an impression on a smashed palate, but pleasantly creamy nonetheless.
Oatimus Prime, 10.8 percent ABV. A wonderfully complex and warm oatmeal stout, something I can't say I've ever had (also, a crowd favorite from what I could tell).
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Dropkick, 6.5 percent ABV. A citrusy, drinkable stout. And speaking of citrusy...
Trickster, 6.7 percent ABV. This stout "straddles the boundary of stout and IPA" with a huge hop profile that's not at all offensive. In fact, it was quite refreshing.