As if the brewery scene in River North wasn’t hot enough, now Great Divide is getting ready to open its new tap room, the Barrel Bar — probably sometime in the first two weeks of July. It's the first phase of a $38 million new brewery that the company is building on five acres of land on the banks of the South Platte River — a property that Great Divide purchased two years ago.
Built with seating for fifty people inside (although there is room for about one hundred total) and another sixty on the wrap-around patio, the Barrel Bar, at the corner of 35th Street and Brighton Boulevard, will have sixteen taps, which means there will be room for the Great Divide’s regular lineup as well as pilot beers and barrel-aged brews.
The tap room also boasts a Crowler machine — the Oskar Blues-invented machine that cans beer to go. So customers will be able to choose just about any Great Divide beer on tap and take it with them in a 32-ounce can.
The cozy space and bar are decorated with reclaimed wood from the buildings that used to be on the site, along with barrel staves and old railroad ties. Some of the staves hang from the ceiling, while others line the walls. The tap room is managed by Miguel Lopez.
Great Divide founder Brian Dunn checks the canning machine before a test run.
But the tap room accounts for just a tiny corner of the building, a massive, 70,000-square-foot warehouse that was constructed to house Great Divide’s enormous canning and bottling lines, plus cold storage, dry storage, fermentation tanks and two barrel-aging rooms — one that will eventually hold 1,200 barrels and another just for sour beers.
It’s those two rooms, located adjacent to the tap room, that gave the Barrel Bar its name. And customers will be able to see the barrels — from the street, at least — through glass windows that were specially treated so that they don’t allow UV rays to come through and damage the beer, says brewery spokeswoman Shannon Berner.
But it’s the canning line that will make the real difference for Great Divide, which has only used bottles until now. Built by Germany’s KHS, it can seal about 350 cans per minute and will begin operating this month. It will only take four people to operate the system.
The brewery will start by canning Titan IPA, Colette Farmhouse Ale, Lasso IPA and Whitewater Wheat, but it will eventually can most of its beers. Distribution will start in Colorado before hitting the company's other states. You'll be able to find all four of the first beers in the Candemonium mixed twelve-packs that will be for sale in stores.
In order to do that, the brewery will use a tanker truck to haul beer made at its existing location, at 2201 Arapahoe Street (which is now operating 24 hours a day), to the new facility. The tanker truck can carry 2,000 barrels of beer at a time.
The tanker will pour the beer into two 300-barrel brite tanks, and from there, it will be canned. Eventually, Great Divide will build a second huge building at its new location that will hold a state-of-the-art brewhouse. But that may not come on line until late 2016. Even after the Barrel Bar opens, Great Divide will continue to operate its existing tap room on Arapahoe Street, which also has sixteen taps.
Great Divide brewed 42,000 barrels of beer in 2014 and expects to make 48,000 barrels in 2015. After that, Berner says, the brewery should grow by about 20 percent each year. It is currently the largest brewery located inside Denver city limits.