Great Divide adds a pilot brewing system for small-batch, experimental beers

Great Divide Brewing will add a new dimension to its ever-expanding beer empire next month when it sets up a seven-barrel pilot brewing system that will allow its brewers to experiment with one-off beers, special releases and new recipes.

The equipment, which was delivered this week, will complement Great Divide's existing fifty-barrel system, with which it brews all of its other beers, big and small.

"We have been doing a lot of expansion, and this just seemed like the next logical step in terms of rounding out the brewery," says Great Divide spokeswoman Hanna Laney. "It will be a chance for our [five] brewers to flex their creative muscle."

Several big Colorado breweries, including Odell, New Belgium, Dry Dock and Ska, have pilot systems where some of their most well-known beers were first brewed. Odell's five-barrel system is probably the most famous, since its 5 Barrel Pale Ale takes its name from the equipment (now owned by Denver's Caution Brewing, by the way). Others, like Breckenridge and Oskar Blues, have more than one brewery or pub, which gives them the freedom to experiment on a smaller scale before going big with a particular beer.

Great Divide just doubled the size of its tasting room in October, so the brewery wanted to be able to make some small-batch beers just for its local customers, Laney says. It's possible that the brewery could eventually bottle some of its pilot-system beers as well.

The pilot system should be up and running within a month, but Laney says Great Divide isn't sure what the first beer brewed on the system will be.

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