Summertime pilgrimages to coveted high-country trails make westbound I-70 a hot—and often frustrating—route. Knowing that those who go up must eventually return to the Front Range, Westbound & Down’s proprietors crafted a unique brewery just off the busy throughway in Idaho Springs. The trio of friends—all Colorado natives, including Jeff McFarland, whose family purchased and remodeled the former Buffalo Restaurant in 2014—shaped the inviting, modern rest-and-refuel concept around sophisticated beers made as naturally as possible.

Westbound’s non-filtered brews rely on natural fermentation. Pure, clear Creek County snowmelt is filtered on-site, while carbonating stones produce the bubbles and wind-powered electricity keeps the hefeweizens, saisons, Belgian ales, and American porters flowing through the custom stainless steel taps. You can dip into 18 rotating options via a sampler of four 5-ounce pours ($12); start with the sweet, biscuity, malty Westbound Double IPA and the crisp Coloradan-Mexican Lager, two of the brewery’s top sellers.

Westbound & Down's taproom
The historic bar at Westbound & Down (photo courtesy of Westbound & Down)

Following microbrew geek-out time in the taproom, shift to the town-and-country ambiance in the dining room, which reflects the owners’ travels to breweries in Oslo and Iceland. Sliding into feather-soft Victorian high-backed booths under rustic chandeliers and a bronze-painted tin ceiling, it’s easy to summon the gold baron spirit of this mining town’s heyday.

The kitchen is as impressive as the brewery, transcending standard pub fare with pepper-dusted house cracklin’s ($4), panko-crusted fried green tomatoes with coconut serrano dressing ($9), and a memorable beef burger crowned with Tender Belly coffee-bacon jam ($16); the menu caters well to famished folks heading in after a day of hiking, mountain biking, and rafting among the area’s sublime Rocky Mountain landscape. Hence, the jalapeño cheddar buns with beer cheese dipping sauce ($4) and the thick-cut cheesy fries paired with house-made pork green chile ($10)—both satisfying options to share with your adventure partners.

The next time you’re cruising west into the hills, perhaps hitting single track near Floyd Hill or trekking up Mayhem Gulch Trail, take time to re-up over Westbound’s session brews and indulgent Colorado comfort bites.

If you go: Plan to stay for live music in the restaurant on Wednesday evenings.

1617 Miner St., Idaho Springs, 720-502-3121

Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.