No visit to Denver is complete without a trip to a brewery (or three), so it makes sense that the first taproom that travelers will see inside Denver International Airport’s Concourse C is Great Divide Brewing, which holds court as one of the oldest, largest and most respected breweries in the Mile High City.
Great Divide and its concessions partner, HMS Host, won the right in March to open a new taproom at DIA, and will take over the now-closed Rock Bottom Brewing space later this year. The Rock Bottom chain was also founded in Colorado before being sold to an investment firm. New Belgium Brewing, Boulder Beer Company and the Denver ChopHouse (which has a brewery downtown) also have taprooms at the airport.
“We are a strong, locally owned business...and we’ve always wanted to be there,” says Great Divide founder Brian Dunn about the airport. “DIA has really started to expand its local offerings, so it’s important for us and for DIA to represent what local businesses are about.”
The Great Divide Brewhouse and Kitchen, as it will be called, is located near Gate 32 and will feature eighteen Great Divide taps, including some of the brewery’s core brands, along with seasonals, specialty beers and one-offs. The restaurant portion of the pub will showcase “elevated comfort food and gastropub fare,” Dunn says, some of it made with Great Divide beer (think Yeti-braised lamb meatballs) and much of it locally produced.
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HMS Host is an enormous food concessions company that operates thousands of food and beverage locations at more than 120 airports worldwide. Some of its brewery-related concessions include the two Cigar City Brewing locations at the Tampa airport, a Golden Road taproom at LAX, a Flying Dog Brewing taproom in the Baltimore airport and a Founders Brewing location in Michigan. HMS also has upscale, chef-driven restaurants in Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Las Vegas. “The food here is going to be amazing,” Dunn says.
Dunn first met representatives of HMS in the fall of 2015, when the two companies hooked up to bid on a proposal from DIA for a brewpub inside the attached Westin Hotel. Great Divide and HMS were one of four bidders that eventually lost to a group that included Smashburger, Tivoli Brewing and Midfield Concession Enterprises. Construction on Tom’s Urban Diner and Brewery, as it will be called, was supposed to be completed last year, but is now slated for this fall, an airport spokeswoman says.
One of the other losing bidders, an entity called DIA Brewing Co., has since filed suit against Midfield, former DIA chief revenue officer Bhavesh Patel and several other defendants, claiming that the process was rigged. DIA Brewing included Wynkoop Brewing and one of its subsidiaries, the Cherry Cricket, which had hoped to open inside the Westin. The other two bidders included Oskar Blues and Boulder Beer Company.
Dunn says he hopes the airport taproom will open in late 2018.