Great Divide, Denver
Andrew – homebrewer, beer lover, compost aficionado, novice couchsurfer, and passable chef. Totally willing impromptu beer tour guide.
Our first evening of exploration lived up to its promise. We went out on the north side of downtown, enjoying Great Divide and River North breweries and, despite the rain, managed to have a blast. Ok, no surprise there.
You guys. I don’t know about where you live, but coming from Minnesota, having beer tanks outdoors is TOTALLY unheard of. So initially I was pretty shocked at the sight of giant stainless steel fermenters, naked and getting rained on. Evidently this is common in Colorado.
Created by Brian Dunn in 1994, Great Divide burst onto the scene by earning several major awards within three months of the brewery opening – winning one GABF award and four WBC awards. Yes, you read that right. Five major awards at the three month mark.
Admittedly I have been drinking Great Divide for years without knowing about this impressive CV. Given all this information, Great Divide could also be ranked on a list of the most under-appreciated breweries out there. Have you ever gotten palpitations from hearing about the latest seasonal from Great Divide? No? Russian River more your thing? OK.
Well, not me. I greatly appreciate a steady stream of solid and balanced work plus a varied portfolio over hype and extreme brewing – nothing against the hype kind of places, they absolutely deserve the recognition they get and there is a reason people illegally FedEx bottles across state lines.
The beer that got me jiving on this decorated Colorado brewery was, without any doubt, the Orabelle tripel. It is a seasonal delight (the season recently ended, sorry) which I will be stockpiling, zombie apocalypse style, next year.
Inside Great Divide feels a bit like a clown car. The place isn’t very big from the outside, considering their production level and distribution area, but they use their taproom space very efficiently. The bar and tables seat a full house with some standing room and only with the slight sensation of sardines jammed in a tin can. Orders were taken quickly and beer was served in a knowledgeable manner. Another bonus? The beer is quite competitively priced with all samples at a mere $1 each.
I kicked things off with the spicy and satisfying Hoss Rye Lager, an exemplary rye beer that drinks easily but is never boring.
My flight consisted of three beers relatively unknown to me. First was the Hades (near left in photo), a Belgian golden ale that is very crisp and light despite its 7.8% ABV. It has some unique spicing and was a good opener.
Next, the Rumble oak-aged IPA blew me away. I knew this beer was good, but sometimes the everyday, year-round beers that are always on the shelves get a bit lost in my memory. Revisit this if it has been a while for you. French and American oak are extremely subtle in flavor against the significant northwest hop profile. But more than flavor the wood adds a palpable smoothness (a characteristic I rarely cite in beer as it seems meaningless, but here it shines) and body.
Finally in the flight was the Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti. What can I say? This beer is dessert. Actual cocoa nibs in the brewing, vanilla from the oak, and a dash of cayenne…synergistic perfection.
I sipped on a few of Andrew’s beers – The 20th Anniversary Belgian Ale, Lasso IPA, Hercules DIPA, and [something something] Porter – and he tried mine. We were in the germ-swapping business fairly early into our time together.
Great Divide is an absolute must during a trip to Denver. Whether or not you’ve tried their beer in bottles, the taproom is something to behold and the crowd is incredibly diverse. They frequently play host to food trucks and even have an outdoor area during fair weather.