By Colin Bane
Brian Dunn, founder of the Great Divide Brewing Co. in Denver, is a lifelong cyclist and the father of two teenagers who also have the racing bug. Great Divide will be a featured brewer in the Finish Village at Civic Center Park as the 2012 USA Pro Challenge concludes with a time trials finish for Stage 7, so Something Independent caught up with Dunn for more on how he’s spending race day and his tips for cool local spots worth checking out while race fans are in town.
Something Independent: How did Great Divide come to be involved in the USA Pro Challenge?
Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing is one of the founding partners in the race, and they’ve invited local brewers at each stage of the race to join them in the Finish Village. We were honored to have been chosen to represent the great local craft beer scene here in Denver. We’ve also got a couple of bike racers in the family: I have two kids who race bikes at a pretty high level, and I’ve done it forever myself, so I have a deep personal interest in and am a huge fan of the sport. We ride 5-7 days a week! And then the business interest is that we’ll be pouring some beers near the finish line.
How are you planning on spending race day?
We live in Park Hill, just on the other side of City Park, so our plan is to ride bikes over to City Park together and watch a little bit of the race, then cruise down along the race route on 17th Avenue. Great Divide is going to be pouring some beers and doing some fun things at the Denver Bicycle Cafe at 17th and Lafayette, a great little spot right along the race route where they’ll have some bleacher seating and where there are also some tools for working on your bike. It’s one of my favorite spots in Denver and should be hopping on race day. Then eventually we’ll end up downtown towards the end to check out the scene at Civic Center Park, see the end of the race, and represent Great Divide in the Finish Village. So we’ll be on bikes checking out a couple different places over the course of the day, which is really going to be the best way to experience both the race and Denver.
What do you make of having a time trials format for the final stage?
I think from a race perspective it’s pretty interesting and it could change some things up. From a spectactor perspective I think a sprint finish with a big group coming in all at once is more exciting, but then again, this way fans will get to see some serious cycling all day long. It’s great that it will be in Denver and I’m sure there will be a huge turnout if last year was any indication: last year was a blast.
Where would you send visitors looking for some great local businesses to support while they’re in town?
There are great local businesses all along the race course along 17th Avenue, for starters: there’s the Denver Bicycle Cafe, there’s Steuben’s, there’s the new Ace Restaurant where you can play some Ping Pong, and Park & Co. is a great burger joint. Watercourse Foods is also on 17th and then closer to Civic Center Park, on 13th, is City O’ City; those are both great vegetarian restaurants with the same owner and they both do great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and coffee. Those businesses are all locally-owned by friends of mine, and, incidentally, all serve Great Divide beers, and there are lots of other great local restaurants and bars downtown and along the race route. My favorite bike shop is City Velo, which is down by Denver University on Evans. We’ve got a bunch of bikes in our house and those guys keep us rolling. After the race, come on down to the Great Divide Tap Room at 2201 Arapahoe Street.
Sunday is my favorite day at the Tap Room because that’s when the Vegan Van is parked out front.
All those food trucks have been great for us. We have different food trucks down here seven days a week to get the people some food. It’s great because we don’t have to make it: We get to have amazing food without having to be a restaurant.
What else is new with Great Divide?
We are growing very steadily and it’s been a lot of fun: we’re up 35 percent this year and we grew about 40 percent last year, mostly growing in existing markets, so it’s been real stable growth. We have a lot of great local bars and restaurants carrying us, and the majority of our beer is sold here in Colorado. We also buy the majority of our raw materials and packaging materials here – we buy Colorado barley malt, we buy Colorado glass and labels and corrugated materials… we’ve been trying to source everything we can here in Colorado.
*Denver’s established quite a reputation for its local beer scene in recent years. *
Definitely. It seems like beer drinkers are learning about craft beers and local beers, and the business is a blast because we’ve been getting so much support from local beer drinkers and bar owners.
As a business owner, what’s your sense of the impact of staging a race like the USA Pro Challenge in Denver?
It shows the world that Denver’s a huge cycling community and a huge bike race community. Denver-Boulder is a cycling hotspot, and it’s huge. I think it also reiterates that Denver’s a fun-loving place, a great place to work and play. You can work here, ride your bike, participate in great races and events almost every weekend, go skiing or go ride your bike in the mountains, check out all of those other great towns featured along the race and throughout the state… it’s just great place to be active and be happy, and I think the coverage of the race is doing a great job of bringing that across, for Denver and for each of the cities hosting the race.
S|I is pleased to have writer Colin Bane authoring A Local’s Look at each stage of our On the Road with USA Pro Challenge tour. His work has been featured in ESPN.com, Westword, The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, Aviation Business Journal, Washington City Paper, and Bail Skateboard Culture. Colin is a skateboarder, snowboarder, action sports fan, and proud dad.