In September of last year, I found myself in Denver, Colorado during the Great American Beer Festival. I had plenty of time to kill before the festivities kicked off that evening, so I searched for a nearby brewery. I had already visited Wynkoop earlier in the week (having their B3K Schwartzbier and Fresh Hopped Cask IPA), and was looking for something else. I quickly discovered that Great Divide was within a decent walking distance of my hotel and the convention center.
When I arrived, I discovered they were having an open house because of the amount of people in town for GABF. The doors from the tap room to the brewery were wide open and anyone was allowed to mill around the entire brewery while the brewers were trying to get things done around the craziness.
When you walk into the brewhouse, you immediately notice the 50 barrel copper coated brewing system in front of you. The mash/lauter tun had a huge grain hopper over it to dump crushed grains in. when talking with one of the brewers, I found out they had recently installed the grain catch and pump directly below it to pump out the spent grains. The boil kettle was a combination kettle and whirlpool. I watched for a bit as they cooled and transferred their second 50 barrel batch of the day into a waiting 100 barrel fermenter.
They had several 100 barrel fermenters in the building, but had just added four 300 barrel fermenters outside of the building. Overall, their current capacity is about 24,000 barrels a year. Also inside the brewhouse were several bourbon barrels for aging beer and a new (used) keg washing and filling line, which had just been purchased, but not yet installed.
Behind the brewery was their bottling line. Within the last couple years they had purchased a $1 million bottling line and packaging system. While I was there, it was moving quickly as they bottled their Hibernation Ale for the fall. Just beyond this was a huge cold storage area where cases and kegs were stored for shipping.
Outside, they had set up several tents and were serving beer and food. Being there earlier in day, I was able to enjoy a few hours in the warm Denver sun along with $2 drafts, including their Rumble Oak-Aged IPA, Hibernation Ale, and Hoss Rye Lager. I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon before the Great American Beer Festival.