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Thursday, February 14,2013

The edge of heaven

Mountain Sun’s Stout Month pushes boundaries of black beer

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by Jefferson Dodge

Yo, America: Stop making beer worse.

I’m sorry. It’s Stout Month and I shouldn’t be so irritable. And I shouldn’t kick off what is mostly a glowing column that way. But by far, the biggest takeaway from a trip to Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery during the month dedicated to the darkest of beers is: “American” in a beer name is a big red flag.

I love stouts. The malt, the depth, the high alcohol, the subtle or bold sweetness. They’re glorious.

But both of the “American” stouts on tap, Dropkick American and Megatron American Imperial, had way too much American.

So no, I don’t mean American-made beer. But the “American” modifier evidently means it’s all about bitterness. The Megatron was about as hoppy as an IPA, no lie. The Dropkick wasn’t far behind. It’s just wrong. I know, I’m in Boulder. I should expect hops topping my organic flatbread and mixed in my granola. But I cannot abide a hoppy stout.

Especially when there are so many other things you can do with the blackest beer. Mountain Sun has also brewed up 48 Smooth Chai Stout, Norwegian Wheat, Dark Harvest Pumpkin and a lot more permutations of stouts, on steady rotation throughout February.

And those are awesome. I’m all in favor of experimentation and playing with stout styles, as the rapidly drained Oatimus Prime Imperial and Sharkbite Foreign Export — the winning recipe from a 2011 homebrew competition — attest.

The Chai, while a little thinner and lighter than most stouts, is smooth, mild and perfectly spiced. Oatimus Prime is a tour of my favorite stout flavors: first sugary, then alcoholic, then finishing with coffee. Elizabeth and Jeff extol the Norwegian Wheat’s nutty, chocolate-cherry complexity. The pumpkin beer’s perfect cinnamon spice highlights another delicious direction for the style.

And eventually, the only tasters left are those two monuments to hop obsession. Like the Chai, Dropkick’s on the thinner side, but where the former is mild and simple, the latter is bitter. Megatron, meanwhile, truly is as hoppy and sharp as an IPA.

But now I know. And on the other 10 or more trips I’ll make to the Mountain Sun restaurants before the end of the month, I’ll dodge the Americans and keep Stout Month malty. After all, the Suns are averaging about seven stouts on tap at any given time. Finding some killer beers won’t be hard.

And at least now, everyone in Boulder who wants every beer to have a hoppy bite will know the magic word.

Next stops: Fate Brewing Company, 1600 38th St., Boulder, 5 p.m. Feb. 21;

Gravity Brewing, 1150 Pine St. Unit B, Louisville, 5 p.m. Feb. 28. Members of the public are welcome.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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