Idaho Springs, Colorado:
Westbound & Down Brewery Tap Room /
Buffalo Restaurant and Bar
Visited on: Friday 8th June 2018
It sometimes happens that side-by-side pubs combine into one establishment. The situation here in Idaho Springs is similar except that one of them is newly established brewery. What makes this unusual is that décor of one is very traditional, the other ultra-modern. I will start with the Buffalo Restaurant and Bar as it is the one with the history. It is an amalgamation of four buildings that are said to have been built in 1881.
The most important one was occupied by the Golden Rule Mercantile Store. There was also a bar amongst the four addresses. It is thought that this was The Buffalo which opened in 1884. One of the bartenders was John Rohner, who at one time had fought for the World Heavyweight Championship. He asked for a raise of one nickel. This was requested to a Mr Worth, who owned the Golden Rule store, so it must have all been part of the same business. Worth refused, Rohner resigned and vowed to put Worth out of business.
As promised, this happened as Rohner purchased the businesses in 1906. He changed the interior layout of the building and named it as John Rohner’s Bar and Billiard Hall and that’s the way it stayed until 1963 when it became the Buffalo Restaurant and Bar (for the second time?)
Even in the Buffalo restaurant part of the building there are two distinct parts of the room. Facing out to the street are the bar and back bar and what a fascinating history they have. Built in Chicago in 1860 they were destined for the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Telluride. Like Idaho Springs, this is an another well-preserved western town which is unusual as it is at the end of a valley with only one way out apart from a very difficult mountain pass road. Nowadays it is well known for its film festival.
Back in the 1860s the Cosmopolitan was a watering hole for Billy the Kid. Nevertheless, despite the notoriety, it closed. The bar furniture was purchased by the Windsor Hotel in Denver where it was installed in their Belle Star room. The Windsor was built in 1880 by an English Architect and was the city’s first luxury hotel. It had 400 rooms with many internal features copied from English royal buildings. Despite revival attempts it fell on hard times in 1940s and 1950s and was demolished in 1960. It was on the corner of 18th Street and Larimer.
The itinerant bar furniture was purchased again and headed west to Idaho Springs and the Buffalo Restaurant.
Between 2014 and 2015 it was renovated, see below. So the Buffalo room as it appears now, dates from then. If you entered from the street the bar counter would be in front. Look left and see the magnificent “Stampeding Buffaloes” mural on the upper wall. Glance right and the wall is occupied by three mounted buffalo heads
Walk beyond the bar take a look at restaurant part of the room. At the end of the curved bar counter is the drinks cooler that was also part of the equipment that travelled from Chicago to Tellerude to Denver to Idaho Springs. Beyond this the rest of the restaurant spans out will the walls filled with old advertising signs that were inherited with the acquisition of the restaurant in 2014. There is also a framed 1865 cutting from the New York Herald reporting the assassination of President Lincoln.
Passing from the old to the new I returned to the Westbound & Down brewery side of premises. This is basically a square island with a four-sided bar counter around all of it. Naturally there are many stools surrounding it and loose wooden tables and chairs occupy the rest of the room. The brewery occupies a similar square space behind the bar counter. Around it are shelves to assist with upright drinking.
Beyond this is a way out (or in) from its parking lot (car park). There are two large illuminated signs advertising the two businesses that can be seen easily from I-70. The brewery was built new for the pub in 2015 by the JV Northwest company from Oregon and I believe it is of 20 barrels (bbls) capacity.
There was a good range of beers available when we visited: The Angry (Dan) Brown Ale (5.8%); Miner Street Wheat (4.5%); Westbound and Down Belgian Pale Ale (5.5%); Colorado Pale Ale (6.5%); Seven Sisters Stout (4.7%); Burt’s Blonde Ale (5.2%); Westbound Porter (6.6%) and Westbound Double IPA (9.3%).
We tried four of this selection and here are our thoughts on them: Burt’s Blonde Ale was very bitter and had no discernible honey tastes, as it was described as having. Westbound Porter had a slight toffee taste with medium bitterness.
Colorado Pale Ale was very bitter yet with a softer bitter after taste. Westbound Double IPA was a very complex beer with a complicated hop flavour and a light biscuit malt taste.
On the part of the owners there is no explanation as to why the brewery is named Westbound and down. It is said to be unconnected to a song called Eastbound and down which features in the iconic film Smokey and the Bandit starring Burt Reynolds.
“Eastbound 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…”
This is a very interesting pub-brewery-restaurant and it should be visited if you’re anywhere in the area.
Westbound & Down Brewing Company, 1617 Miner Street, Idaho Springs, Colorado 80452
Tel: 720 502 3121. Web: westboundanddown.com
Hours: Monday-Sunday 11.00-22.00
Idaho Springs has a bus stop. It is used by Bustang inter-regional routes.
These run from Denver to Glenwood Springs and v.v. (twice a day) and Grand Junction (once a day).
It is also served by Greyhound from Denver to Grand Junction and beyond and return twice a day.