The transcendent power of an evening brimming with excellent food, incredible stouts, and brilliant company took a few days for this Examiner to recover from, and so it is now that I’m finally getting around to the inauguration of the 17th Annual Stout Month on Monday, February 1. The “sneak peek” event that kicked off Stout Month at the Southern Sun boasted a full table by the time I arrived, but I was greeted warmly by Kuvy Ax, the PR Director for the Mountain Sun, Southern Sun and Vine Street Pubs. After a quick introduction to the founding, owning, managing and brewing party that maintains the day-to-day operations, plates and glasses were passed and I found myself enjoying the first bites of a succulent roasted chicken-and-potato dish, accompanied beautifully by both the frothy Coconut Cream stout and the Stoaked Oak Stout, both personal perennial favorites. The Coconut Cream is light enough to live up to its name, yet has enough body to stand up to these breweries’ Stout standards—no easy feat for any stout. The Stoaked Oak stout’s woody flavor and intense aroma followed well, and I heartily enjoyed the light, flaky, yet surprisingly substantial veggie and chicken quesadillas that graced my plate next. All the while I had the opportunity to chat with fellow journalists from publications as diverse as personal weblogs and the Daily Camera, discussing Stout and Chop Month’s rise over the years to a major event within the Boulder community.
If the first two beers were phenomenal, the third I tasted was otherworldly. “Addiction”, the latest coffee-based imperial by the brewing crew at the Sun pubs, arrived in a standard imperial stout glass along with an ABV of 9.7% and enough caffeine to load up a cup of regular coffee. The taste was superb, and I don’t even really drink regular coffee—I’m a tea-and-latte kind of gal. The roasty, toasty aroma was enough to entice me, and after my first sip I thought, “This is all I want to drink. Possibly forever.” And then the caffeine kicked in and I realized that simply finishing off the glass might keep me up all night. (I did, regardless…who in their right mind wouldn’t?)
Substantial burgers and sandwiches arrived next and we eventually adjourned to the brewery itself, where one of the brewers gave us a guided tour of the brewing process. Some of the Sun’s brew facts I already knew, and are reason enough to set them apart as exceptional—such as their lack of filtering and bottling—but others came as a surprise, like the grain tower outside of the Southern Sun, which is impossible to miss but becomes more appreciable when you understand that 80 to 100% of the grain used in their brews comes straight from that container, every day, no matter what they’re brewing.
By this time I was sipping away on a Nihilist Imperial, a kicky stout with a particularly punchy attraction. It’s difficult for me to describe Nihilist…it’s just one of those brews you’ve gotta try on your own. It’s an extraordinary brew with a flavor somewhat reminiscent of anise.
I caught a safe ride to the Mountain Sun, where the fellow stout-lover’s vibe was strong, ferocious, and four-deep at the bar, with servers hollering out to anyone who had yet to order. I can’t even imagine what the waitlist for a table must have been, but I managed to snap a few photos of Sun fans shimmering with stout enthusiasm and delight.
If you’re visiting Boulder during the fabulous month of February, by all means stop by the Mountain Sun, Southern Sun or Vine Street Pub (located at 17th and Vine in Denver) a give our phenomenal local stouts a try. I, myself, am looking forward to seeing what’s on tap the next time I end up at one of the Suns, which will surely be sooner rather than later.