Great Divide celebrates its fifteenth anniversary

When Brian Dunn organized his business plan back in 1993, he was worried about being late to the game. A half dozen other microbreweries had already started here, selling small batches of craft brew to the hops- and malt-loving denizens of downtown Denver.

But it turned out Dunn was right on time. While a number of these early breweries have come and gone, Dunn's Great Divide Brewing Company will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary on Saturday, June 6, in the same building -- an abandoned dairy processing plant -- where it started, albeit with some nicer equipment.

"We have stuck it out, and we've become part of the fabric of Denver," says Dunn, whose brewery, taproom and patio, at 2201 Arapahoe Street, are now in the heart of the burgeoning Ballpark neighborhood, just four blocks from Coors Field.

Great Divide, which was known early on for its lighter Denver Pale Ale, now sells more Titan IPA than any other beer -- a fact that makes a bold statement about bold beers. Titan, Dunn says, is a higher-alcohol (7.1 percent), heavily-hopped whopper that speaks to craft beer drinkers' desire to test of edges of what goes into their pint glasses.

And from there, Great Divide's beers just get bigger and bigger. Take the Belgian-inspired Hades ale at 7.8 percent alcohol by volume; or the Hercules Double IPA, an enormously hopped beer with 10 percent alcohol by volume; or a whiskey-barrel aged version of its sweet and hoppy Old Ruffian barely wine, which weighed in at 12.7 percent alcohol by volume, the most powerful brew Great Divide has ever produced.

"We like to make adventurous beers and push the limit," Dunn says. "Those are the ones that we have the most fun brewing and that we think people are looking for." But he doesn't like the "extreme" beer label that often accompanies microbrews. "These are all very balanced, very drinkable beers."

Saturday's birthday party will witness the release of a new beer, the 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double India Pale Ale. Based on Denver Pale Ale, Great Divide describes it as a "copper-hued" gem with a malty sweetness that "provides a backdrop for earthy, floral English and American hops, while French and American oak round off the edges and provide a touch of vanilla." The beer, at 10 percent alcohol by volume, will be available in 22-ounce bomber bottles at Great Divide's Tap Room through August 1.

But you might as well just down one at Saturday's party, which takes place from 2 to 7 p.m. The $20 entrance fee includes live music from Denver bands Dressy Bessy, the Swayback and Young Coyotes, as well as other beers and food -- including brats made from Denver Pale Ale and brownies made with Yeti Imperial Stout.

So help Great Divide celebrate, and drink a piece of Denver brewing history.

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