Mountain Sun locations

Mountain Sun, 1535 Pearl St., Boulder

Southern Sun, 627 South Broadway, Boulder

Under the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria, 627 A South Broadway, Boulder

Vine Street, 1700 Vine St., Denver

Longs Peak Pub and Taphouse, 600 Longs Peak Ave., Longmont

February's approval rating is officially below average.

This is not substantiated by facts other than the days are short, the nights are cold and greeting card giants cash in when candy hearts reign among wet, heavy snow.

Not to mention, at the beginning of the month a chubby bucktooth rodent boasts that winter will probably never end.

Beer, anyone?

The Mountain Sun Pubs and Breweries staff knows February's a struggle, and that's why they've been making it rain stouts every February for the past 25 years.

Paul Nashak, a managing partner of the five-chain brewery, said that when Mountain Sun opened in 1993, the first head brewer, Jack Harris, pitched the promotion in February to help combat one of the restaurant business' slowest month.

"It seemed like the perfect month to celebrate stouts," said Nahsak. "It's crazy how it's blown up. After Christmas hits, we hire like mad and bring on extra staff."

Nashak knows February can be a fruitful — and stressful — month for staff, so they'll bring in massage therapists for pre-shift relaxation. The staff are the ones who have the most fun with the month, he said.


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"It's a hard thing to describe," said Nashak. He said one of their top philosophies is that "it's more fun to have fun." When we developed this promotion, it started out as a way to turn a dark and cold month into a good time."

Since the success of Stout Month, Nashak has given seminars on the success of the brewery's February sales. The concept caught on nationwide, he said, as breweries from France to California implemented their own stout months — many which took a page out of Mountain Sun's playbook to mirror its success.

Bartender Andy Veley pours two draft beers for customers on Tuesday at Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery.
Bartender Andy Veley pours two draft beers for customers on Tuesday at Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

Nashak said each of the five locations — Mountain Sun, 1535 Pearl St., Boulder; Southern Sun, 627 South Broadway, Boulder; Under the Sun, 627 A South Broadway, Boulder; Vine Street, 1700 Vine St., Denver; Longs Peak Pub, 600 Longs Peak Ave., Longmont — will have special promotions all month, like comedy bingo, stout bingo, punch cards for stouts imbibed, concerts, tastings, giveaways, gatherings and more.

And if you think all stouts taste like Guinness, then head to one of the pubs and get a tour guide from the staff, said Nashak.

"The reality is, think of stouts like a blank canvas," said Nashak. "You can do anything with them."

John Fiorilli, director of brewing operations, said the underlying flavors of stouts, like chocolate and coffee, are great jumping-off points to expand flavors. He said the malts are roasted similar to coffee and produce a roasted flavor that can be perceived as chocolatey.

"A lot of people like coffee and chocolate," Fiorilli said. "Building upon a recipe that uses chocolate and coffee malt flavors as a base leaves almost endless flavor variations."

This allows brewers to experiment with ingredients like chai spices, coconut, coffee, chocolate, pumpkin, fresh mint, vanilla beans, fruit (cherries this year, Fiorilli said) and chile peppers.

"Sometimes we use these ingredients in combination and we can make it all work," Fiorilli said. "We also barrel-age several of these stouts in whiskey or bourbon barrels. All these flavors work so well with the roasted, chocolatey, coffee-like character of stout."

Featured barrel-aged stouts this year include Bourbon Barrel-Aged Addition Imperial Coffee Stout, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oatimus Prime Imperial Oatmeal Stout and Chocolate Thunder Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout.

"The barrel-aged stouts are always fun," said Fiorilli. "In particular, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chocolate Thunder Imperial Milk Stout is always a favorite of mine. We source barrels from Four Roses that have been freshly emptied and get them filled with Chocolate Thunder as quickly as possible. The combination of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and bourbon flavors from the barrel are just amazing."

Fiorilli said Planet Lovetron Chocolate Coconut Imperial Milk Stout is always a crowd favorite.

"We typically release this on Valentine's Day," said Fiorilli. "I mean, who doesn't love a strong stout brewed chocolate and coconut?"

Nashak said that with Stout Month, the pubs have created something that's "greater than ourselves."

"People love it," said Nashak. "You walk into a Mountain Sun pub on a Tuesday in February at 2 p.m. and there's already an hour-long line to get it the door."

New this year

Fiorilli said the majority of the guest stouts have never been poured during Stout Month. There are always some returning favorites, but he said more than half of the stouts are new to Stout Month.

Fiorilli said there are three new House Stouts:

• Ned's Two-Alarm Cherry Chile Stout: Cherry Chile Stout is medium-bodied with malt flavors reminiscent of chocolate, molasses, licorice and a touch of smoke complemented by the tart, fruity flavors contributed by a blend of Dark Sweet and Red Tart Cherries. Red and Black Morita, Ancho and Guajillo Chiles impart a complex pepper flavor, enhance the smokiness from the malts and add a touch of lingering heat.

"I'm particularly proud of our newest creation, Ned's Two-Alarm Cherry Chile Stout," said Fiorilli. "Personally, I'm not big on peppers and beer, especially when the resulting beer is too spicy. The goal with Ned's Two-Alarm Cherry Chile Stout was to showcase the smoky character of Morita chiles and to complement those flavors with fruit in the form of both dark sweet and red tart cherries."

• Old World Stout: This modern execution of a historical English Stout from the 18th century is dark in color and medium-bodied with assertive flavors of biscuit, toasted hazelnut and dark roasted coffee. The complex malt character is complemented by flavors of charred oak from aging in wood and funky aromas reminiscent of tart cherry contributed by the Brettanomyces (no fruit added).

• Second Breakfast Chocolate Coffee Oat Stout: This Dark Chocolate Coffee Oat Stout is low in alcohol yet chewy, silky and full-flavored from the additions of malted, flaked and caramelized oats. Cold-extracted coffee, roasted from Nederland's Salto Coffee Works, adds an assertive coffee aroma and an underlying roasted edge.

Stouts on tap

House beer rotating selection:

48 Smooth Chai Stout

Casual Friday Stout

Chocolate Dip Stout

Coconut Cream Stout

Dark Harvest Pumpkin Stout

Fluff's Travels S'mores Stout

Girl Scout Stout

Korova Cream Stout

Ludovico's Vanilla Cream Stout

Moloko Plus Coffee Cream Stout

Montserrat Foreign Export Stout

Norwegian Wheat Stout

O'Stengl's Dry Irish Stout

Shadow Master Belgian-Style Stout

Sovereign Star Stout

Space Odyssey Stout

Stoked Oak Stout

Thunderhead Stout

Trickster Stout

Yonder Mountain Stout

Imperial Stouts:

Addition Imperial Coffee Stout

Megatron Imperial Stout

NIHILIST Russian Imperial Stout

Oatimus Prime Imperial Oatmeal Stout

Planet Lovetron Chocolate Coconut Imperial Milk Stout

Barrel-Aged Stouts:

Barrel-Aged Addition Imperial Coffee Stout

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chocolate Thunder Imperial Milk Stout

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oatimus Prime Imperial Oatmeal Stout

New Releases:

Ned's Two-Alarm Cherry Chile Stout

Second Breakfast Chocolate Coffee Oat Stout

Old World Stout

Guest Stouts:

Avery Brewing — TWEAK Bourbon Barrel-Aged Coffee Stout

Black Shirt Brewing — Black Beacon Sound Imperial Red Rye Stout

Call To Arms Brewing — Dust In The Wind Dry Irish Stout

Cannonball Creek Brewing — Imperial Almond Cherry Chocolate Stout

Cerebral Brewing — Under The Stars Imperial S'mores Stout

City Star Brewing — Night Watchman American Stout

City Star Brewing — Widow Maker Russian Imperial Stout

Comrade Brewing — Maple Donut Quit Stalin Russian Imperial Stout

EPIC Brewing — Son of a Baptist Imperial Stout

EPIC Brewing — Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

Fiction Beer — Donut Panic Chai Donut Oatmeal Stout

Finkel & Garf Brewing — Oatmeal Milk Stout

Goldspot Brewing — Sweet Romance Lavender Honey Stout

Great Divide Brewing — Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout

Lady Justice Brewing — Your Winter Cardigan

Left Hand Brewing — Fade To Black, Vol. 1

Mockery Brewing — Black Forest Cake Milk Stout

Modern Times Brewing — City Of The Dead

Odd13 Brewing — Blucifer

Our Mutual Friend Brewing — The Deepest Darkest Fear

Pagosa Brewing — Salty Caramel Stout

Platt Park Brewing — Barrel-Aged Chocolate Cherry Stout

Ratio Beerworks — Genius Wizard Russian Imperial Stout

Renegade Brewing — Depravity Imperial Peanut Butter Cup Stout

Sanitas Brewing — Cinnilla Stout

SKA Brewing — Autumnal MolĂ© Stout

Spice Trade Brewing — Chai Milk Stout

Surly Brewing — Darkness 2017

The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project — Turkish Coffee Stout

The Post Brewing — Brunch Stout

TRVE Brewing — Stout O)))

TRVE Brewing — Coffee Funeral Imperial Stout

TRVE Brewing — Total Funeral Imperial Stout

Upslope Brewing — Oatmeal Stout

Vindication Brewing — Freedom Stout

Wild Woods Brewery — Double Chocolate Smores Stout

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants