Beer Man

Great Divide Brewing Sells Land, Will Keep Barrel Bar Taproom Open

Great Divide's building and land now belong to McWhinney.
Great Divide's building and land now belong to McWhinney. Great Divide Brewing
Great Divide Brewing, which had at one time planned to have a large brewing campus in the River North Art District, announced on December 20 that it has sold its Brighton Boulevard packaging warehouse and the remainder of its land to a real estate investment firm. But as part of the deal, Great Divide will keep its Barrel Bar taproom open and will be able to use some of its barrel-aging and warehouse space.

The buyer, McWhinney, is a Colorado-based company that is responsible for redeveloping Union Station and the Crawford Hotel, along with dozens of other projects in Denver. In 2019, McWhinney bought 2.5 acres of the land that Great Divide owned, and it now owns the other 2.2 acres, as well.

"We had interest from multiple parties in the property," Great Divide founder Brian Dunn says in a statement, but he picked McWhinney because it allowed the brewery to keep its taproom. "RiNo has become our second home, and we’re excited to maintain a presence in this vibrant location through the foreseeable future with the Barrel Bar and our warehousing operations."

The land is zoned for mixed-use development of up to twelve stories, and McWhinney says it hopes to build residential, office and retail space on the site, which fronts the South Platte River. “Great Divide, the RiNo Art District and the adjacent RiNo Art Park will be terrific partners and neighbors for what will be one of our most vibrant mixed-use developments yet," says company vice president Kirsty Greer.
click to enlarge GREAT DIVIDE BREWING
Great Divide Brewing
After searching for a second location that would accommodate its dramatic growth, Great Divide bought the land in 2013 and broke ground the next year on what was supposed to be a $38 million facility. Phase one, completed in 2016, includes the existing 65,000-square-foot building where Great Divide packages its beer (which is still brewed on Arapahoe Street and trucked over) and the Barrel Bar. Phase two would have added fermenters and a brewhouse capable of producing 250,000 barrels annually, along with a second taproom and restaurant with a beer garden facing the Platte River and the Rocky Mountains.

But the craft-beer industry, which had been growing by double-digit numbers for five years, hit a wall in 2015, and many mid-sized breweries experienced significant sales declines, some of which resulted in layoffs, canceled plans and even acquisition by larger companies. Great Divide was one of the breweries hit the hardest, and it suffered significant sales declines before stabilizing and revamping its beer lineup.

After selling half the land in 2019, Great Divide announced in January of this year that it would have to sell the rest, shutter the Barrel Bar and consolidate its brewing and packaging operations at the original Arapahoe Street location. "One of the largest benefits is that the consolidation of operations will allow us to remain fiercely independent," Dunn told Westword at the time. 
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes