John Fiorilli: Director of Brewing Operations at Mountain Sun

We attended a dinner at Under the Sun recently where I had the chance to meet John Fiorilli, Director of Brewing Operations at Mountain Sun Pubs & Breweries.

The term “Director of Brewing Operations” comes about because John is responsible for overseeing brewing at all five of the Mountain Sun locations. As a group of brewpubs, Mountain Sun and its brethren are sort of in a class by themselves here in Boulder, not really what many of us think of us a brewery and yet more than a restaurant. It is because of this I was so impressed, meeting John, in how much emphasis the Mountain Sun folks actually do put on their beer.

I was able to catch up with John by email to ask him a few questions about his job:

john-fiorilliWhat brought you back to the Mountain Sun from your brewing jobs out on the East Coast? I moved to Boulder from Delaware after graduating from the University of Delaware in 2000. My first job in Boulder was at the original Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery location as a server/cook. After seven months, I was promoted to manager at Mountain Sun. The brewers there at the time were the ones responsible for my interest in home brewing. I left Boulder in 2003 to pursue a career in the brewing industry. After spending five years on the East Coast brewing at two different breweries, my goal was to return to Boulder and brew for the Mountain Sun. I wanted to return to Mountain Sun as I’ve always been impressed by the culture Kevin, Paul, Tom and the rest of the ownership team here created. Working here immediately after college had a huge influence on my career/life path.

Mountain Sun is famous for its Stout beers and Stout Month. How do you describe a Stout to a non-Stout drinker? First and foremost, I tell them not to be intimidated by the dark color. Dark does not automatically mean it’s a heavy beer. We brew light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied Stouts. The dark color simply comes from heavily roasted malts, similar to how coffee beans are roasted, which is a create flavor comparison as well. If they are still weary, I ask them if they drink coffee. If they do AND they enjoy beer, it’s very easy to convince them to try stout as the roasted flavors are so similar to coffee. Lastly, I demonstrate the wide array of flavors that can be achieved in stouts. Part of what makes Stout Month so successful is that “Stout” is a spring board for so many different flavor profiles. I’ve attached the list of House Stouts released for Stout Month 2016 so you can see how many different ingredients are used.

You seem especially enthused about German and Belgian style beers right now. Is that correct and, if so, why? Our brewery team loves brewing styles from all regions. Currently, we are a little German and Belgian forward but we typically keep some English styles and obviously a range of American beers as well. We just love variety and so do our customers. As you could tell from our conversation last night regarding the Hilltop Vienna Lager, we also love brewing tradition/history and how certain historical events have influenced beer styles and beer culture.

Mountain Sun, as well as 4,400 other businesses, is riding the wave of the craft beer revolution. Have you seen any effects of increased competition in the market place? There is a lot of competition in the market place currently. Because I purchase beer from other local breweries to serve at our locations, I’ve noticed the price of kegs dropping a bit in an attempt to sell more product. For us, we only brew for our five restaurants and don’t sell any wholesale beer so we’re sort of shielded and that hasn’t affected us.