Westbound & Down Brewing Company

Great beer is only a short drive away

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Michael J. Casey

Westbound & Down Brewing Company, the Idaho Springs-based brewery that was dubbed the Great American Beer Festival’s 2019 midsized brewpub of the year, is currently at work putting the finishing touches on its second location, this one in Lafayette, at 2755 Dagny Way.

“Lafayette is coming along well,” Eric Schmidt of Westbound & Down says in an email. “Brewery is up and running and the tanks are full. We brought down the canning line last week and packaged our Inaugural IPA.”

Schmidt says the plan is to have the Lafayette brewery “open to the public in September, with a full brewpub not far behind.” 

That’s great news for the fall, but terrible news for those who lack patience. Lucky for the impatient among us, Westbound’s O.G. facility is but a short drive away.

Situated in a parking lot south of I-70, Westbound & Down opened in the former mining town of Idaho Springs in late 2015. Today the endeavor is a three-pronged affair with a modernist brewpub in the middle, a renovated Western bar to the left and a general store to the right. There’s also a medium-sized patio out back — with a delightful view of Bridal Veil Falls — and covered dining out front where Miner Street has been temporarily converted into a pedestrian mall with al fresco dining. Westbound also offers more isolated seating: large wood barrels converted into indoor/outdoor dining during the pandemic. The barrels don’t appear to be getting much use these days, with everyone crowded around bar tops and community tables sharing beers, bison burgers and fried green tomatoes. Still, the barrels wait for chillier times and rainstorms when an enclosed space will be a perfect place to drink outside without the hassle of the elements.

And Westbound & Down is a fine place to drink, particularly at the bar top inside the Buffalo Bar. According to some Westbound & Down literature, the Buffalo dates back to 1963, but the bar and back bar are originally from Telluride’s Cosmopolitan Saloon. If you’re a Pantera fan, you might recognize it from the album cover for Cowboys From Hell. It’s the kind of drinking hall that calls to mind Frontier Days. They drank more spirits than beer back then, and to that end, the Buffalo is loaded for bear.

But forget bears, let’s talk beers: The tap list features about 10 house and two guest beers on draft. You could jump right in with a pint of Westbound’s silver medal-winning Double IPA, but it’s 7,526 feet up here. Start small with either the Quick Draw Pilsner or the Milder Dan Brown Southern English Brown. The Quick Draw, in particular, is soft and bready, full in the mouth and features Hallertau Mittelfrüh, Zuper Saazer & Tettnanger hops. If you’ve ever been one who passed up a Pilsner because “they all taste like a tin can,” try this.

The award for the best name of the bunch goes to Don’t Hassel the ‘Hef,’ and the beer is just as fetching: Banana and clove on the nose, sweet malt and wheat in the mouth. It’s round, creamy and thirst-quenching with a pop of citrus. This one disappears fast.

For the hopheads, Westbound & Down features hazy and clear IPAs. Its Westbound IPA is a thing of beauty, with the color of clear honey, an attractive head of white foam, and an exquisite balance of bitterness and body and juicy hops bursting with tropical fruit and citrus rind. It clocks in at 7% alcohol by volume but doesn’t drink like it. San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing once scored a perfect 100 among beer critics with their Sculpin IPA. If they ran the contest again, Westbound IPA would give Sculpin a run for its money.

All those and a whole lot more will be local soon enough. Until then, the short drive is worth your time. Oh, and it’s about 10 degrees cooler in Idaho Springs — should that be of interest to you as well. 

ON TAP: Westbound & Down Brewing Company. 1617 Miner St., Idaho Springs, westboundanddown.com. Opens daily at 8 a.m.

Odd13 celebrates eight

Speaking of Lafayette, the city’s first purveyor of hazy IPA celebrates its eighth anniversary Aug. 6-8 at the brewery: 301 E. Simpson St., Lafayette. With the goofball comedy Dodgeball as its guide, Odd13’s OCHOversary will feature limited-edition beers (including Batches O’Brewlihan, an octo-hopped hazy IPA), a block party on Saturday and a kick the keg event on Sunday. The festivities are free and kick off Friday at noon. For more, visit Odd13’s social media accounts.