Let’s face it, most of us procrastinate at one time or another dealing with the daily drudge. More often than not, the source of that procrastination could be having yet another beer. But when you procrastinate about having any beer, especially one freshly made on tap, well that is close to a craft beer sin in my book. If there was a craft beer Pope, or Bishop, or Priest, one would have had to recite 30 Zicke-Zackes in penance. And I’d be chanting them right there with you because for years I’ve been delaying a visit to Great Divide Brewing.
Truth be told, one of the reasons I kept putting off going in was because of one beer: Denver Pale Ale. For years it was a staple of bars around town, paired with New Belgium’s Fat Tire, it was most establishments’ attempt to appease craft beer drinkers. And I couldn’t stand it. It definitely put the pale in pale ale to my taste. And it put me off buying any Great Divide product whenever I went for a beer run. Did I mention this was over 15 years ago?
Well a few years later I did have something they brewed that made me reevaluate how I felt about them. Could have been a Titan IPA, could have been something else, I don’t remember; but it was the usual situation of being in a bar with friends or family and picking the only craft beer option on tap. I must have made a comment of liking it, because a few weeks later the Wife came home with a sampler pack that we drank up with various hmms, ahhs, and ohhs. Great Divide brews quickly became recurring tenants in our fridge, not to mention a go to at beer festivals.
I’d pass by the taproom occasionally on my way home from work and would mentally put it on my to do list of places to visit next. And I kept doing that, for the past 15 years or so I’ve worked downtown. And finally I did something about it.
We made it a point to stop in after work on a late January day, ready to make up for lost time. Arriving around 4:30, the place was packed, as per all of the scuttlebutt I’d heard; we were lucky to grab that last two places at the bar as the hubbub around us grew and grew.
Looking around as we settled in with a Hercules DIPA and an Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Stout, we realized that we were at the limits of where the old taproom ended. Off to our left, the new space that had been opened weeks earlier was equally packed. Both of our beers were incredible; the Hercules extremely full bodied and almost creamy, while this incarnation of the Yeti had just enough of a hint of coffee to balance out the generous dark malts and plentiful hops.
It slowly dawned on me throughout that night that more than any other brewery, GD’s beers are much better on tap than what is available in bottles. Bottled, their line up is strong and satisfying, but on tap it transcends the merely good to become the elixir of the beer gods. So much so that I would pit Hercules against Pliny the Younger in a blind taste test; not that one would be better than the other, but head to head the quality of each would stand up to the obsessive passion that fan boys have for Pliny. Mind you, this would only be apparent when both are tasted on tap, and that that’s how my taste buds roll.
The turn of the last century structure unbelievably filled up even more as we sampled tasters of Morning Wood Cask Conditioned Stout and Old Ruffian Barleywine. Again both exceeded our expectations with their complexity, each having just enough sweetness. The older I get, and with tastes in general changing, I’ve come to appreciate barleywines considerably more. Over the past decade American brewers have begun to balance out what was once a cloying sweet brew; the addition of abundant hops rounding off the malt for a more palatable beverage.
As we began to wind up our visit with a Claymore Scottish Ale and Titan IPA, conversation was struck up with a patron who grabbed a rare empty stool next to us. Dave, a recent transplant from North Carolina, was perusing a trail map of Rocky Mountain National Park in preparation for a snow shoeing hike the next day. Having hiked some of the trails he was considering, I offered my observations on his options, the talk evolving into the topic literally in hand of craft beer. He related his limited visits to one of the new beer meccas, Asheville, and went on to say how excited he was to explore the Napa Valley of beer that is Colorado. The Ballpark neighborhood Great Divide borders on, appealed to him with its growing options of bars, top quality restaurants, and growing craft beer influence.
When we bid adieu, it was to go to exactly one of those great restaurants, our favorite artisanal pizza in the city, Marco’s Coal Fired Pizza. Located just a couple of blocks away on Larimer, Marco’s crust is both crunchy and chewy, infused with a flavor you can only get with a coal fired oven. It also doesn’t hurt that they have Titan IPA on tap.
Now that we’ve made that first step in visiting Great Divide Brewing, I know that we’ll be back. Even though the brewery selections in the area just increased by one with River North Brewing (which is very good by the way), and many more scheduled to open soon, we’ll still stop in. You can count on at least one more visit from us, hell, we forgot to buy a GD pint glass to add to the collection.