Brian Dunn won’t tell you when he downed his first beer but he does admit, “I must have liked it enough for an idea to germinate deep in my brain to start a brewery someday.”
Indeed, Dunn would start a brewery. In 1994, Great Divide Brewing Company opened doors in Denver’s lively Ballpark neighborhood. Today, it serves as a national model of sudsy success with its flavorful and balanced brews that enjoy a dizzying array of acclaim.
Great Divide has brought home 18 Great American Beer Festival medals and five World Beer Cup awards, claimed 14 spots on BeerAdvocate’s “Top Rated Beers: Colorado” and been named among the top brewers in the world by RateBeer.
“I remember the 80-hour work weeks for the first three years. I didn’t start with enough money and we barely made it through the early years,” Dunn says. “Things were very tight and our survival was pretty questionable.”
Dunn recalls the sweat equity he put in as the only full-time employee brewing, bottling and selling all in a single day, and credits “attention to detail, creativity, passion for beer and hard work” for the company’s success.
Two decades after the opening of the Ballpark brewery and Tap Room, Great Divide opened a second location—the Barrel Bar—in the River North (RiNo) neighborhood in 2015. The five-acre space features an intimate tap room and a sour beer and barrel-aged storage room, with bike path access and grand views of Denver’s skyline and the snowcapped Rockies.
“RiNo was the right spot [for] a second facility,” Dunn says. “It’s vibrant, edgy and rapidly changing for the better. We’re a core part of the Ballpark neighborhood and I’m sure we’ll become situated in a similar way in RiNo.”
At both the Tap Room and Barrel Bar, Coloradans and visitors alike join for pints of the brewery’s popular year-round favorites including the Denver Pale Ale, Yeti Imperial Stout, Titan IPA and Colette Farmhouse Ale, among a lineup of seasonal pours. Each location offers tours for a behind-the-scenes look of this nationally recognized brewing company.
Today, Dunn sees his brewery as a perfect fit for Colorado. “Coloradans live here for the quality of life. Great Divide fits that culture because our employees have that sense of being, and our beers help provide a quality-of-life component for our customers.”