You’ll have to forgive Jake Gardner if he repeatedly points out that Westbound & Down Brewing’s new location in Lafayette offers eighteen different beers on tap. Because for months and months at the height of the pandemic, he was lucky to have eight at the brewery’s original location in Idaho Springs.
Like most other breweries in the state, Westbound had to suddenly go into packaging in 2020 after the coronavirus takeover, so when breweries, bars and restaurants were finally allowed to reopen, it no longer had plenty of beer to serve. Balancing the cans and the draft in the months that followed proved tricky as the volatile nature of the pandemic made planning difficult.
“We were still a month and a half behind regulations, but that was everyone’s story during COVID,” says Gardner, chief brewer and operating partner at Westbound & Down.
But those needs are also what prompted the brewery to jump at the chance to open a second location – complete with a new fifteen-barrel brewhouse and larger canning line – in the former Endo Brewing space. at 2755 Dagny Way in Lafayette. Which – again – has eighteen beers on tap, including six IPAs, four lagers, three stouts, barrel-aged tenders, a hefewiezen and a handful of fruity sours.
They’re made on what Westbound brewer Derek Goodman calls “the Ferrari of brewing systems”, which comes with bells and whistles that allow for automatic processes and are particularly good at making hazy IPAs – which are some of the best vendors at the brewery, despite his love for clear West Coast IPAs. Even better, adds Goodman, is that he can stand the brewing platform and watch customers drink his beers.
But the beers are just the beginning.
Westbound Mill, as it’s known, quietly opened on Dec. 20, 2021, serving round, Detroit-style artisan pizzas made with beer in the sourdough crust (which is fermented for 48-72 hours) and toppings like Ezzo River bear meat pepperoni, salsa verde, mozzarella and spicy honey.
High-end appetizers round out the menu, including beets and burrata with blood oranges, salsa verde and almonds; and Chilli Cheese with Summer Sausage and Pickled Mustard Seeds on Buttered Crackers.
“We wanted to do something different,” than the burgers, fries, sandwiches, nachos and chili that Westbound serves at the historic Buffalo restaurant that’s attached to the Idaho Springs brewery, the chef and general manager said. Casey Taylor.
With its food and beer, Westbound doesn’t just want to do something to get it done, Gardner adds. “We want to contribute to the larger conversation about craft beer.” For example, while Westbound is primarily known for its IPAs, it has also helped launch a new wave of hoppier, “Italian-style” pilsners in Colorado over the past two years. Westbound also spends as much time and effort brewing West Coast-style IPAs as they do their hazies, which is unusual at this time.
So far, these contributions are making Boulder County beer drinkers happy, and they’ve proven despite the fact that Westbound hasn’t done much marketing or promotion thus far. That’s partly because the brewery maintains limited hours (3 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily) while it updates. It is also awaiting the completion of its two patios, which will be able to accommodate around forty people on sunny days.
But it’s also because of the Marshall Fire, which devastated parts of Lafayette and the surrounding area just days after Westbound opened. So, rather than promoting the business, the brewery chose to participate, donating food and raising funds for people who had lost their homes.
Last weekend, however, the brewery welcomed the release of Western Justice, an imperial stout aged in three types of whiskey casks and then packaged in eight-ounce cans. And there was a line at the door for that.
“It felt like old-school beer culture – rows, a full patio – and it got me excited about where we can go,” says Westbound marketing director Eric Schmidt, adding that it feels good to be able to fill a space where people were already used to drinking craft beer. “Boulder County people know their beer so well, so it was really cool to have so many people around. It feels good to be a part of it.”