Must Be the Mole Stout makes its way to Rio Grande Frisco
Get the beer
Both the regular and barrel-aged versions of Must Be the Mole Stout will only be available at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, and a specific release date for each has not yet been determined. The beer will be $6 for a pint or $3 during happy hour, which is Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. or late-night Thursdays from 9 p.m. to midnight. Check the Summit Daily in coming days to learn more about the availability of this new beer.
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurants are known for their knockout margaritas, but a new collaboration between the Frisco location, Breckenridge Distillery and Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. in Edwards means beer enthusiasts won’t be left out when looking for a beverage to pair with their next meal.
The three companies have joined forces to create Must Be the Mole Stout, a bold beer that starts with a base of Crazy Mountain’s winter seasonal Snowcat Coffee Stout.
“The Rio wanted me to put in things like chocolate and chilies and some light spices to try to get a winter warmer type stout, a mole stout,” said John Allshouse, head brewer at Crazy Mountain. “So it kind of has some profiles of the spices that are in mole. Half of it’s going to go into bourbon barrels from Breckenridge Distillery, and then we’ll age those until, during tasting, we find that they’re picking up the bourbon flavor. And the other half will be carbonated and go straight into kegs to get served.”
Getting the flavors at the appropriate levels to balance the beer was a complicated undertaking, Allshouse said.
“There’s four or five different things in there: cocoa nibs, there’s a balancing sweetness in there — sweet orange peel — then there’s these pasilla peppers and a balancing sweetness of that, too, to try to balance that heat like the mole would,” he said. “I used a little bit of anise, and there’s a couple of spices, cinnamon and allspice. To get those in there at the correct time and correct level has not been easy. I did a lot of glass testing, get some of the stout and pour them in there to figure out what I liked and didn’t like, so it took me a couple of weeks to figure out.”
Kevin Selvy, CEO of Crazy Mountain, said the end result would pair really well with pretty much everything on the menu at Rio Grande.
“Bolder flavored beer tends to complement bolder flavored food, and I think there’s a lot of reasons that beer and food go together,” he said. “The hops and acidity in beer help clean off your palate; it helps you have every bite of food be fresh, whereas a margarita doesn’t.”
Noah Coleman, bar manager at the Rio, said that as a long-time bourbon man, it would be fun to have a barrel-aged beer that features elements of bourbon on tap to complement the bar’s expanding liquor selection.
“Even though our margarita is our most popular item, not everyone wants a margarita because they know how strong they are and sometimes they just want a beer,” he said.
Rio Grande wants to put Must Be the Mole on tap as soon as possible in Frisco, Allshouse said, so he will draw off what’s needed to fill the three bourbon barrels that are sitting at the ready in the brewhouse and then keg the rest immediately, likely by the end of this week. Customers at Rio Grande could see the beer on tap as early as next week.
“With winter coming up, it’s nice to have a stout on tap that’s going to complement the season,” Coleman said. “The margarita has driven our business for 28 years as a company, but we’re proud of everything we offer. We don’t put anything on the shelf just to have it.”
The barrel-aged version of the stout will need two or three weeks to draw some bourbon heat from the Breckenridge Distillery barrels, Allshouse said.
“These are brand spanking new barrels, so they are going to put bourbon flavor into the beer, and I want that, first and foremost, but it is a really big stout, so the stout is going to have its own flavor profile to contend with,” the brewer said. “We’ll get some mellowing to the stout from the barrel itself, along with the bourbon flavor. If we left it in there long enough, we would pick up the sweet sugars from the wood. I’m not sure when I’m going to pull that. I’ll have to keep tasting it to figure out exactly what I want.”
Because bourbon barrels can only be used once to make bourbon, Breckenridge Distillery has supplied the used casks to breweries all over the state for their barrel programs, so many that master distiller Jordan Via has lost track of where they’ve all gone.
“We’ve been approached by pretty much all of the decently sized breweries in Colorado to provide them with barrels,” Via said. “I’ve tasted a lot of amazing products that have been aged in them.”
Breck Distillery booze hustler Litch Polich said it’s rare that you get three different entities involved in a collaboration like this one, and when Allshouse approached the distillery about doing a mole beer aged in bourbon barrels, they thought it would be a fun partnership.
“This seemed like a really fun collaboration with the Rio Grande coming into Frisco, being so well-known in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver and having Crazy Mountain putting out some really fun beer,” Polich said. “Getting to know the people behind the scenes, people selling it and making it and slinging margaritas at the Rio — it’s fun to build those friendships when it’s going to be a good product on all ends.”
Erich Whisenhunt, head of kitchen operations for Rio Grande, said Crazy Mountain approached the restaurant and wanted to work out a partnership. With its emphasis on local sourcing, Whisenhunt said Rio tried to reach out to a Summit County brewery to collaborate, but wasn’t able to connect.
“I know we reached out to Backcountry (Brewery), and it just never worked out,” he said. “We wanted to partner with them — I think we still do — we just haven’t had a chance. There’s two new breweries in Steamboat and we’re trying to figure it out, too. Some breweries have the capacity and capability to do it, and some don’t. So that’s kind of how our partnerships are formed.”
Selvy said Crazy Mountain has created a couple of private label beers for Rio — Allshouse mentioned the Rio Loco, an India Vienna Lager — so this new project is just another step forward.
“They had an idea to find some barrels and barrel age a stout,” Selvy said. “And that’s when we roped in Breckenridge Distillery with the idea that we’d keep it kind of local to the mountains, and everyone is friends anyway, so it was a natural fit.”
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