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Posted: July 09, 2010

Great Divide’s viral video

A commercial no one paid for

Jay Dedrick

The images are steeped in ‘70s tans and browns, the music seemingly crackling from a drive-in movie car speaker. Two tough leisure suits with badges take down a bad guy in an urban alley before quenching their thirst with suds from a nearby tavern. The creators of the 40-second spot threw "The Streets of San Francisco" in a blender with a vintage Miller Time commercial and poured out an homage that would make Quentin Tarantino envious. Or thirsty.

Probably both.

Anyone who's found the video online -- you can watch it here -- would reasonably conclude that it's a paid commercial for Denver's Great Divide Brewing. That's the real Great Divide Tap Room where detectives Turk Smorgenson and Bannister McCloud unwind after their bout of thug busting. But Great Divide founder Brian Dunn was as surprised as anyone when he discovered the production.

"I was so surprised and shocked, but it was great," Dunn said. "People sometimes review beers on video, and they'll send it to us. That's more factual -- what they're noticing about the beer. This is the first time someone has ever made a commercial for us." 

So if Great Divide didn't produce the spot, who did? Turns out Dunn recognized the faces behind the mustaches -- longtime customers and friends David Thomas and Brian Yuhnke, co-workers at CU Online, the University of Colorado Denver's web-based school. The two had recently finished working with an intern on a spoof video about online learning; it starred the 70s cops seen in the Great Divide tribute. 

"We already had these two characters we liked and we thought it would be fun to do this," Thomas said. "It took about one hour after work, from start to finish, to shoot the footage."

 "This was just us doing something for fun that we love," Yuhnke said. 

"But it came out so good, we got excited about it," Thomas said. "It's the ultimate fan video." 

The crew at the bar gave the shooting their blessing, and only requested that the guys keep the video a secret so that Dunn would be surprised. 

"It shows they have a huge amount of interest in their beer if they choose to do that in their spare time. We're honored they did it," Dunn said. "I was impressed by their creativity. They're always thinking about some way to do something better and different. I thought it was super well-done. We're nowhere near being able to do a TV commercial, but theirs was a great angle, a great idea. I love it. They make me laugh." 

With or without fan-produced "advertising," Great Divide is having a more-than-okay year. Production is up 90 percent over last year. "And Colorado is up 63 percent over last year," Dunn said. "It's nice to see the home market growing at a healthy clip." 

The recent addition of three new tanks took annual brewing capacity from 16,000 barrels to 24,000 barrels; another tank coming in September will raise the limit to 27,500 barrels. Product-wise, Great Divide has two new styles arriving in August: a wood-aged IPA and a smoked Baltic porter. 

As for Thomas and Yuhnke, their hobby might be growing, too. They're toying with the idea of producing another fan video for a favored establishment. Stay tuned. 

Hop to it: The Summer Brew Fest at Denver's Mile High Station promises samples of 90 beers from 35 craft breweries. Tickets for the July 23 event are available here.

To celebrate the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, Wynkoop Brewing has unwrapped Tut's Royal Gold, an unfiltered ale made with ancient fermentables (honey, wheat, teff) and spices including tamarind, coriander, grains of paradise, orange peel and rose petals. Go here for more info.

The National Homebrewers Conference had its biggest attendance ever last month in Minneapolis: 1,300 homebrewers, professional craft brewers and beer enthusiasts. The event has been hosted annually for 32 years by the Boulder-based American Homebrewers Association.

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