By Amy Tindell
My parents and I were looking for a lunch spot, but we found ourselves at Great Divide Brewing Company instead. To be fair, we’d heard rumors of collaborations with food trucks, but the Denver neighborhood home of the award winning brewery had no extra space with the bustle of the day’s Rockies game at Coors Field.
The most noticeable thing about Great Divide is its outdoor fermentation tank farm. Next to the building that houses the brewery and tap room on Arapahoe Street stand neat rows of 300 barrel insulated fermentation tanks which give Great Divide a maximum capacity of 65,000 to 70,000 barrels per year. Great Divide’s founder Brian Dunn started small in 2001 when he bought the building, an old dairy processing plant, but strategically added fermentation tanks over the years to increase the brewery’s capacity as its popularity grew. The space is now full.
Inside, the brewing equipment shines through large windows in the tap room. Great Divide strives to maintain sustainable brewing practices, including using mainly locally grown and malted grains, reusing grey water, and recycling all cardboard and glass. Tap room patrons are encouraged to bring their own food, from food trucks or nearby establishments, to pair with the 16 year round and seasonal beers on tap. Around the tap room hang different versions of logo art featuring Yeti, the face of Great Divide’s imperial stout, with the caption: “I believe.” My parents and I, foodless but believing, ordered a strategic set of samples, the proceeds of which go to nonprofits.
Inspired by the artwork for Great Divide’s Colette, I took a risk on Dunn’s homage to the centuries-old beverage of choice of Belgian farm workers. Made with barley, wheat and rice, and fermented with no fewer than four different yeast strains, Colette is tart and fruity, with notes of lemon and pear, with a dry finish that makes it refreshingly light. The funky yeasty taste that is the signature of the Belgian style is not overpowering, making Colette a well-balanced beer.
My mom’s favorite sample was Claymore, named for the Scottish two-handed longsword used in medieval times and made famous by William Wallace. She noted the roasty caramel malt character of Claymore, characteristic of the wee-heavy beers of Scotland. The beer poured deep ruby in color, and due to its modest hop profile and 7.7% ABV, tasted sweet and went down warm. As the website states, “this beer only requires one hand, but it’ll still make you feel like nobility.”
My dad decided that he believed, strongly, in Yeti. Yeti is Great Divide’s imperial stout with 9.5% ABV, pouring dark and heavy into the glass. Dad said it smelled like a cup of coffee, but when sipped, the roasty notes gave way to an unexpected malty sweetness, though the finish was bitter. Like the Claymore, the booziness of the beer created a pleasant warming effect.
Our sampling complete, we ventured off in search of food. Although our visit was relatively short, we planned to return to Great Divide in the near future, in its new spot on Brighton Boulevard in Denver. The Arapaho Street location will transition to a small-batch production facility, while the new digs will feature an 80,000 barrel capacity brewery, a larger tap room, and a beer garden. With change and expansion afoot, Great Divide’s fans have a lot more to believe in than Yeti.