From Squirrel Traps to Yetis: Brian Dunn's Journey

Twelve years before his iconic Yeti, fresh hops and award-winning beers began pouring from Denver-based Great Divide Brewing Company, founder Brian Dunn was embarking on another venture on an entirely different continent: building a farm in Algeria. After two decades of success and growth, Dunn's passion for great beer and entrepreneurial spirit deliver an inspiring tale of launching a business with determination and a few humble squirrel traps. Join us in celebrating Great Divide Brewing Company's 20th birthday in June!

Brian Dunn is the founder of the well-known Great Divide Brewing Company, located in Denver, Colorado. He is a passionate entrepreneur who loves beer and has worked hard to build one of the most popular microbreweries in the state. Since its founding in 1998, Great Divide has earned an impressive eighteen medals and is known for beers like Yeti, Hibernation Ale, Fresh Hop, Cream Ale, and more.

Before he built a brewery in Denver, Brian Dunn had an interesting entrepreneurial journey that started in Algeria. From 1976 to 1982, he built a farm in Algeria which ultimately led to the formation of Great Divide Brewing Company in June 1998. As recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, many fans of the Colorado-based business are looking back to understand more about the man behind this award-winning brewery.

Brian Dunn’s Early Life

Brian Dunn grew up on a farm in Brookings, South Dakota and was the oldest of 10 children in his family. His mother and father taught him good work ethic and a solid but adventurous sense of purpose which is perhaps why he went on to build a farm in Algeria at age 23. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics and Business Administration at South Dakota State University while working full time. Later on, he completed his MBA at the University of Colorado – Denver.

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The Beginning: Algeria and River North Brewery

After his time as a student in South Dakota and Colorado, Brian Dunn moved to Algeria to build a farm amidst a group of entrepreneurs. His period there taught him that striving for success can take you far in life. After Algeria, Brian pushed the boundaries of U.S. beer even further when he opened the River North Brewery in Denver in 1996.

At River North Brewery, Brian had the opportunity to experiment with beer recipes, tootling with American hops and experimenting with Belgian styles. During his time at River North, he made plenty of connections as an influential leader. He quickly attracted locals to the brewery, introducing them to craft beer for the very first time.

The Story of Great Divide

In June 1998, Brian opened Great Divide Brewing Company. The great divide was meant to symbolize the gap between what was and what could be. From the start, Brian Dunn was dedicated to the brewery's success and creating a sense of community among its followers. He began with a very minimal budget, mostly self-funded, and his passion to brew beers of distinction. And that he did.

At first, he used River North’s tanks, creating some of the Had Beef Belgian-style seven, Hercules Double IPA, and the summer favorite, Hey Day. As sales increased, Great Divide amplified both their beer production and distribution. Brian’s success partly depends on the attraction of hop-lovers. Developing a well-known concept of fresh hop IPAs and incorporating unique ingredients from the local environment.

Great Divide’s Recipe for Success

Brian’s success as an entrepreneur and beer drinker is based on a few key principles that he has stuck to for the past two decades. These components acted as the building blocks for a successful business:

  • Quality Ingredient Selection
  • Continuous Innovation
  • Creative Collaborations
  • A Passion to Educate
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Brian has always been passionate about introducing beer fans to tastemaking ingredients and beer styles, continuously creating something new and stirring up inspiration. To this day, Great Divide is renowned for its creativity and impeccable ingredients selection, bringing beer fans new recipes every season. Additionally, continued partnerships with communities, educational endeavors, and brewing competitions have helped to educate and stimulate conversations around beer.

20 Years of Yetis and Squirrel Traps

In June, Great Divide Brewing Company celebrated their 20th Anniversary with two Yeti variants and their original beer. To add to the celebration, the brewery spruced up their parking lot with plenty of entertaining and interactive activities, complete with a "wheel of misfortune" and live music.

Brian Dunn has gone from building a farm in Algeria and opening River North Brewery, to building an award-winning brewery in Denver. His hard work and creative vision has resulted in a brand that has helped bring craft beer to the forefront of American beer culture. As Great Divide continues to celebrate yetis, fresh hops, and perhaps squirrel traps, Brian will continue to work hard, experiment and

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