James Kunz has been making his own beer for four years, but before December, he'd never entered a homebrewing contest -- let alone won one.
But that changed when the rookie took top honors in the Mountain Sun Pub group's stout competition by, well, releasing the Kraken. Starting in mid-February, the group's three breweries - Denver's Vine Street Pub and the Mountain Sun and Southern Sun pubs in Boulder -- will feature his recipe as part of their twentieth annual Stout Month.
See also: - Mountain Sun's homebrew competition started with 29 bottles of beer on the wall - Homebrewers will compete to create Mountain Sun's next Stout Month beer - Under the Sun is hiring, plans to open next month in south Boulder
The beer, called Release the Kraken, is an oatmeal stout aged on an oak spiral that had been soaked in Kraken Black Spiced Rum. After winning the contest, Kunz got to help brew a six-barrel batch of the beer, slightly altered, at the Mountain Sun Pub in Boulder.
"I was doing research on beer styles and trying to find out what the differences are between a stout and a porter. I was trying for a porter, but it ended up being more like a stout, so I figured I might as well enter it," says Kunz, a mechanic for the B-cycle bike-sharing program. "I was kind of just winging it on the recipe, and it turned out okay."
More than okay. The seven Mountain Sun brewing staffers who judged the contest, thought it stood above the other 28 submissions in the annual competition. (Read a sip-by-sip account of that day in our story, "Mountain Sun's homebrew competition started with 29 bottles of beer on the wall.")
And brewing at Mountain Sun was a lot of fun. "It was like a playground for homebrewers..a larger version of what I have," Kunz says.
Scaling up a recipe from a homebrewer to a commercial operation can sometimes be difficult, says Mountain Sun head brewer Jeff Ramirez, who worked on the recipe with Kunz and then brewed it with him in early January.
"It can be tough with these oak-aged ones, trying to reproduce the same flavor," he explains. But the Mountain Sun version is pretty close to original.
Stout Month begins Friday, February 1, with a party at the Vine Street Pub and runs all month; there will be around thirty rotating Mountain Sun stouts on tap along with an equal number from other Colorado breweries. There will also be a series of special barrel-aged releases over the course of the month.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan