Longs Peak Pub and Taphouse are part of the Mountain Sun brewery group. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

Mountain Sun brews up a shining image

BOULDER — How has a Boulder-based chain of breweries and eateries grown and thrived since its founding a quarter-century ago? For Mountain Sun managing partner Paul Nashak, the answer is startling:

“Bad business decisions.”

You read that right.

“We learned that you make business decisions based on the ideology behind what you’re doing, not the financial bottom line,” Nashak said. “That’s how you sleep well at night, knowing you’re making good decisions. We believe in doing things right.”

For instance, Mountain Sun produces 120 varieties of beers in a year, doesn’t filter them and uses only the best ingredients. “That’s not economically friendly,” Nashak said, “but it’s something we believe in.

“We don’t distribute our beers. When you distribute beer is when you win awards so you can put those medals on your six-packs. Fine. But working across the country makes me nauseous. Instead, we’re focused on the experience people have when they come to us,” Nashak said.

“We try to keep our food local, organic, chemical-free and genetically unaltered when possible. Part of our mission is to put out food with love,” he said. “If we wouldn’t be proud to serve it to our grandmothers, it’s not hitting our menus.

“We’ve offered health insurance to our employees since the mid-‘90s,” he added, “and we have higher pay than many other restaurants.”

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If you go

MOUNTAIN SUN PUB & BREWERY

1535 Pearl St.

Boulder, CO 80302

303-546-0886

SOUTHERN SUN PUB & BREWERY

627 S. Broadway

Boulder, CO 80305

303-543-0886

UNDER THE SUN EATERY & PIZZERIA

627A S. Broadway

Boulder, CO 80305

303-927-6921

LONGS PEAK PUB & TAPHOUSE

600 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

303-651-7886

mountainsunpub.com

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The restaurants’ menus offer some vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items, and Mountain Sun’s website lists the eateries’ food suppliers. And to encourage conversation, there are no televisions — almost unheard of for a pub these days.

The pubs vary the homemade beers they offer, but nine staples are always available including blackberry wheat, Anapurna amber, Colorado Kind Ale, Illusion Dweller IPA, Java Porter, FYPIA and XXX Pale. Awards for Mountain Sun’s brews include 10 Great American Beer Festival medals, two at the World Beer Cup and one at the Alpha King Challenge.

The mural behind the bar at Longs Peak Pub was created by a former employee. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

Like the food it serves, Mountain Sun’s growth has been local and organic as well. Founded in October 1993 by Kevin Daly, the chain now has three restaurants in Boulder, two of them with breweries attached, plus one restaurant and brewery in Denver and an eatery in Longmont. The chain celebrated its 25th anniversary bash last year at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons.

According to Mountain Sun’s website, the original location on Pearl Street in Boulder opened with a mission “to create an environment that was as comfortable as your living room, where great food, craft beers, and conversation flowed freely” and with a commitment to “community engagement, environmental stewardship and employee equity.”

Nine years later, a larger version of the original pub opened in South Boulder with a 10-barrel brewery, living room, expansive patio and more seating overall. Instead of TVs, there are shelves full of books and board games.

Attached to that location is Under the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria, featuring community tables, a fireplace, a wood-burning oven, and taps pouring 21 Mountain Sun ales, 10 guest beers and eight wines.

Mountain Sun expanded to Denver’s Uptown neighborhood in April 2008, opening the Vine Street Pub at 17th and Vine streets, just southwest of City Park. In its first year, Westword named it Denver’s best brewpub. To reduce costs of transporting beers from Boulder, a brewery was opened in Denver that could produce 5,000 barrels annually, more than both its Boulder breweries combined.

In September 2014, the company opened 8,000-square-foot Longs Peak Pub and Taphouse on the ground floor of Burden Inc.’s new Roosevelt Park Apartments in Longmont. It features 21 craft beers on tap including more than a dozen Mountain Sun ales. A focal point of the room is a colorful mural behind the bar that was painted by Bryce Widom. “He was an employee 25 years ago who became an artist,” Nashak said. “He’s been changing up our chalkboards quarterly ever since.”

The Longs Peak Pub and Taphouse tends to be a busy hangout. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

Nashak himself is in his 25th year with Mountain Sun. “I was hired as a normal employee,” he said, “and worked my way up until Kevin offered me ownership.”

In total, including brewers, servers and management, the chain employs 365 people, Nashak said.

Besides good service, “we believe in community involvement,” he said. “You don’t just go into these neighborhoods. We sponsor festivals all the time and put on our own. We have free live music” — on Sunday nights at Mountain Sun and Monday nights at Southern Sun — “because we believe that’s community service.”

No more new locations are in the chain’s immediate future, Nashak said. “Right now, we’re seeing a saturated market since 2015, so we’re just focusing on the well-being of our restaurants,” he said. “If the climate changes, we might look to open more restaurants.”

And apparently, that’s not a bad decision at all.

BOULDER — How has a Boulder-based chain of breweries and eateries grown and thrived since its founding a quarter-century ago? For Mountain Sun managing partner Paul Nashak, the answer is startling:

“Bad business decisions.”

You read that right.

“We learned that you make business decisions based on the ideology behind what you’re doing, not the financial bottom line,” Nashak said. “That’s how you sleep well at night, knowing you’re making good decisions. We believe in doing things right.”

For instance, Mountain Sun produces 120 varieties of beers in a year, doesn’t filter them and uses only the best ingredients. “That’s not economically friendly,” Nashak said, “but it’s something we believe in.

“We don’t distribute our beers. When you distribute beer is when you win awards so you can put those medals on your six-packs. Fine. But working across the country makes me nauseous. Instead, we’re focused on the experience people have when they come to us,” Nashak said.

“We try to keep our food local, organic, chemical-free and genetically unaltered when possible. Part of our mission is to put out food with love,” he said. “If we wouldn’t be proud to serve it to our grandmothers, it’s not hitting our menus.

“We’ve offered health insurance to our employees since the mid-‘90s,” he added, “and we have higher pay than many other restaurants.”

______________________

If you go

MOUNTAIN SUN PUB & BREWERY

1535 Pearl St.

Boulder, CO 80302

303-546-0886

SOUTHERN SUN PUB & BREWERY

627…