Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetuate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

—Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing

…or, just cut out the stuff that doesn’t work.

My example: Mountain Sun Pubs & Breweries’ Stout Month—an annual tradition and highlight of drinking in Boulder County. While writing Boulder County Beer (available Feb. 22, 2021, from Arcadia Publishing), I knew something had to be said about the significance and the popularity of the dark ale in the Centennial State, but, alas, it found no home in the finished manuscript. So, it finds one here:

February in Boulder County ain’t just any month: It is Stout Month—a clever marketing ploy that’s become an annual tradition.

The year: 1994. The man responsible: Jack Harris, Mountain Sun’s first brewer. Harris was anticipating a winter slowdown and needed an event to drive business to the brewery.

“He just came up with this genius idea where he was going to brew as much stout as he thought he could handle,” John Fiorilli, director of brewing operations for Mountain Sun since 2009, said. “He was going to buy stout from other breweries. He was going to put all that stout on the stout tap wall. And kind of see what happened. 

What happened was: Everybody came in.

Harris returned to Oregon in 1996, but Stout Month remained a Mountain Sun staple. Each February, the taps fade to black at Mountain Sun and its sister restaurants—Southern Sun in South Boulder (opened in 2002), Vine Street in Denver (opened in 2008), Under the Sun in South Boulder (opened in 2013), and Longs Peak Pub in Longmont (opened 2014). From Chocolate Dip Stout to Shadow Master Belgian-style Stout; from Ludovico’s Vanilla Cream Stout to Norwegian Wheat Stout; and from Addition Imperial Coffee Stout to NIHILIST Russian Imperial Stout.

Stout Month has extended well beyond Mountain Sun’s walls. Case in point: Stoked Oak Stout, a masterful blend of various malts (some smoked), pure vanilla extract, and toasted oak spirals. The concoction was thought up by Scott Overdorf, winner of Mountain Sun’s First Stout Month Homebrew Competition in 2007. The win encouraged Overdorf to go pro, brewing for Mountain Sun before leaving to set up his own brewery in Tasmania, Australia: Hobart Brewing Co.

The Stout Month Homebrew Competition ran for nine years and produced a handful of annual staples: 48 Smooth Chai Stout, Coconut Cream Stout, and Girl Scout Stout (a refreshing and light mint chocolate stout), to name three.

“People always ask, ‘Why stout?’” Fiorilli said. “Stout is the building block for all these flavors. … It’s the base beer itself that makes these flavor combinations work.”

Each Stout Month was accompanied by a new artistic theme. Photo taken at Longs Peak Pub & Taphouse.

It’s worth mentioning that Stout Month isn’t just a Mountain Sun endeavor; many area breweries got in on the celebration. In 2020, Mountain Sun poured 36-plus house stouts with 15-plus guest stouts. The year prior, there were more than 18 guest stouts. These stouts were from new breweries trying to gain traction, from legacy breweries reminding drinkers of the standards that set the table and everything in between. Some of the best stouts were experimental one-offs that ended up being popular enough to join seasonal, even year-round, line-ups. 

Covering Stout Month for Boulder Weekly was a personal favorite (links to past posts below) and one that’s sorely missed this year. The kegs were barely dry when the coronavirus-pandemic shutdown in-person dining and drinking on March 16, 2020. Mountain Sun and her sister pubs—Southern Sun, Under the Sun, and Longs Peak—switched to to-go orders and did away with their cash-only policy, and began taking credit cards. In July, Southern Sun and Under the Sun opened parking lot patios for outdoor drinking and dining. Much too small to safely operate under COVID-era restrictions, Mountain Sun closed up shop and began the long wait for a vaccine. Vine Street—where most of Mountain Sun’s beer is brewed—stayed closed for structural renovations on the building. Summer looked promising, but in September, the first snowfall of the season deflated any hopes that outdoor dining and drinking could continue indefinitely. On Jan. 4, 2021, Mountain Sun suspended operations altogether until spring with a postponement of the 28th annual Stout Month to September.

Boulder Weekly articles:

Tour de Brew: Mountain Sun’s Stout Month,” Feb. 2, 2017

Tour de Brew: Mountain Sun’s Stout Month Part 2,” Feb. 9, 2017

Tour de Brew: Longs Peak Pub & Taphouse,” Feb. 16, 2017

Tour de Brew: Wrapping Up Stout Month,” Feb. 23, 2017

New in Brew: It’s Stout Month,” Feb. 1, 2018

Tour de Brew: Vine Street Pub & Brewery,” Feb. 8, 2018

Know Your Brew: Stout,” Feb. 15, 2018

Tour de Brew: Stout Month,” Feb. 9, 2019

Know Your Brew: Russian Imperial Stout,” Feb. 21, 2019

Fade to Black,” Jan. 30, 2020

A packed Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery in 2018.

One thought on “Stout Month

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