We didn’t wake up planning to visit Westbound & Down Brewing Company.
Like most every weekend we woke with no real destination in mind, but the goal to visit a new, local craft brewery. No matter how busy our schedules may be during the week, a brewery visit is a fun way to spend a rather uneventful weekend. It helps us try new places, plus it gives us time to press pause on our otherwise busy lives and catch up over a couple of beers. It’s not really hard to find the time to stop somewhere for a few beers. Truthfully, with so many breweries we haven’t visited yet, the difficulty lies in deciding which brewery to visit.
That’s why we are always happy when March brings us Westword’s Best of Denver list. While we don’t always agree with their choices of the top spots in the city, the annual publication is a great tool to help us discover new places. This year they recognized several breweries for having the “best of” something – be their taproom, patio, or even ambiance. Several of the winners are places still on our list to visit, so we decided that this month we’ll let the Westword guide us to great spots.
The relatively new Westbound & Down Brewing Company wasn’t really on our radar. We honestly didn’t know much about them, although to be fair, what little we had heard was all positive. So when Westword selected Westbound & Down as their winner for Best Brewery Restaurant, we were pretty intrigued. Great food in a brewery is not always easy to find. Furthermore, it makes you wonder, if the food is so good, how are the brews? Clearly this called for a trip to Idaho Springs to check them out.
Visiting Westbound & Down Brewing
Westbound & Down Brewing Company opened in December 2015 in downtown Idaho Springs. They’re next door to the newly reopened, historic Buffalo Restaurant and Bar. In fact, there’s an opening between the two establishments, so that Westbound & Down and The Buffalo work together to offer two great experiences under one roof. They share a menu, so you can enjoy great food and beer from either the restaurant or the brewery taproom.
We arrived shortly after lunch, so we (initially) stuck to beer. With so many to choose from, we decided to start with a sampler tray of 4 5-ounce tasters. For our first four samples we selected all pale ales and IPAs, which included: Colorado Pale Ale (CPA) IPA, Another IPA, Modern Mountain Pale Ale, and Westbound Double IPA. And wow… it was literally love at first sip. We both truly loved the Colorado Pale Ale. It was dry hopped with Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial and Citra hops, giving it a bright and citrusy aroma and flavor. It was our immediate favorite, though every one of these beers were terrific.
We followed that up with another taster tray to take a deeper dive into the Westbound & Down beer menu. This time we sampled: Don’t Hassle the Hef (a Hefeweizen style brew), Den’Var Pils Czech-Style Pilsner, Belgian Pale and Bel-Hop Pop Belgian Strong Pale. Again, all the beers were great, but here we had a split decision on the favorite. Jeff really loved the Hef, while I enjoyed the Den’Var Pils. That’s not really a surprise though, it aligns with our style preferences. However we did both agree that even after 4 more brews, the Colorado Pale Ale was still our favorite.
Even after our 8 samples, we still didn’t try all the Westbound & Down Brewing Company beers. Their menu also featured a Tripel, a Russian imperial stout and an American stout. We had to save a little something for next time…
We also really enjoyed the environment at Westbound & Down Brewing Company, and that’s not just the beer talking. The tasting room is fairly large, but subdivided by some well-placed walls, that provides a bit more privacy than most brewery spaces. There is a large bar, and the 15-barrel brewery is nestled into the space if you want to peek inside to see what’s brewing. Behind that are a couple more tables. You can enter from Miner Street or park around back and enter at the door facing I-70. The modern decor really sets Westbound & Down apart from the more historical Buffalo next door, so that each space has a totally separate identity.
Since we are notoriously poor planners, we didn’t arrive hungry. We didn’t plan on eating, but then we saw the food coming out around us and knew we made a huge mistake. Every dish looked amazing. Clearly our research wouldn’t be complete unless we tried something. So after our tasters we wandered around Idaho Springs for a while, working up a hunger. We returned a few hours later for dinner. Yes, you read that right. The food looked so good that we literally killed time around town just so we could return to eat. Don’t judge us.
When we came back for dinner we sat in The Buffalo, primarily just to check out the other side of these two establishments. The menu was the same, though the decor was notably more of what you’d expect in a historical Colorado restaurant. We both ordered full pints of the Westbound & Down Colorado Pale Ale IPA, and started with an appetizer of jalapeño rolls served with a cheese spread. They were so good I barely snapped a photo before we devoured them. For dinner we each had two versions of a similar dish: the southern-style hot fried chicken. I chose the entrée, served with a biscuit and a side of Brussels spouts. Jeff went with the fried chicken sandwich, topped with white cheddar and cole slaw, and served with fries.
OMG y’all… this fried chicken was incredible. There is no wrong way to eat it – both the entrée and sandwich were equally delicious. The chicken was perfectly fried and spiced, though it wasn’t too hot. Every aspect of the dish – the fries, the sprouts, the bread – was wonderful. Chalk this one up as a win for the Westword, they clearly got their Best Brewery Restaurant choice right. We can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes on the menu.
Overall First Impressions
It’s safe to say we were completely impressed with Westbound & Down Brewing Company. The beers were fantastic, the food was amazing, and we love that we get the option of hanging out in the brewery or enjoying their beers while dining at The Buffalo. We found new favorites in many of their beers, and even purchased a few crowlers to bring home. Westbound & Down is a great addition to downtown Idaho Springs, and certainly makes us want to spend more time there.
Totally Random Side Note:
If you can read this article without your brain immediately kicking in with the East Bound and Down song by Jerry Reed, you’re obviously better (or younger) than we are. The entire trip to Westbound and Down I had that song playing on a loop inside my head. Yes, I know that the song is “east bound” and this place is “Westbound.” And yes, I know the brewery has nothing to do with the song. Still, right or wrong, that’s how my brain works. Come to think of it, it’s been far too long since we’ve watched Smokey and the Bandit… so this may be a sign. I think we are going to have to grab a few more Westbound and Down crowlers and bring them home for a movie night.
“East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run…”
About Westbound & Down Brewing Company
Westbound & Down Brewing Company is located in Idaho Springs. They’re open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Go check them out, and make sure you arrive hungry!
Westbound & Down Brewing Company
1617 Miner Street
Idaho Springs CO 80452