COVID times call for COVID measures, and Westbound & Down Brewing is answering that call.
The growing Idaho Springs brewery, which is busting at the seams at its original home at 1617 Miner Street, will open a large production facility and a second taproom at 2755 Dagny Way in Lafayette. Westbound had been planning to build a new location in the Boulder County town, but changed course as demand for canned beer quickly increased over the past few months because of the pandemic — and the feasibility of construction lending got murkier.
"We started looking for something that we could get up and running a little more quickly to meet the current demand for cans," says Westbound's Eric Schmidt. The brewery only began packaging a few of its styles in January, but it's now brewing and canning at least two new beers every week.
The Lafayette building, which comes with plenty of outdoor space for social distancing, was formerly occupied by Endo Brewing, a mountain bike-themed beer maker and bike repair shop that was founded in 2017 by Bob Lichens and Kevin Van Winkle. Endo quietly closed in May (as first reported by the Boulder Weekly).
Westbound will use some of Endo's equipment but plans to bring in a much larger fifteen-barrel brewing system, along with a canning line and several large fermentation tanks. Although Endo's closure isn't a cause for celebration, Schmidt says it's good to be reusing a building that was meant for brewing.
"It feels good to be going into an existing space and not to be over-saturating a market, especially in this day and age of so many new breweries," he explains. "Lafayette is a really cool beer community, and we had already intended to be a part of it. So now we can still be a part of it, but in a different way."
Westbound first opened in 2015 next to the historic Buffalo Restaurant & Bar, then expanded three years later with a small barrel cellar in Denver, which it shares with Amalgam Brewing. Both breweries make barrel-aged wild and sour ales there. In October, Westbound won two Great American Beer Festival awards, along with the Midsize Brewpub of the Year award, which helped propel its already stellar reputation even further.
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In January, the brewery opened a small shop next to the pub in Idaho Springs and began canning a few beers — signing on with Culture Beverage as its local distributor. With those changes, Westbound grew from a volume of 1,000 barrels produced in 2019 to a pace for 1,600 barrels in 2020. If things go as planned in Lafayette, the brewery could get up to 3,500 barrels by the end of 2021.
To help, Westbound has also hired Derek Goodman, who has been the head brewer at River North Brewery for the past eight years. Goodman has extensive experience with production brewing and packaging.
Once the production space and taproom are up and running — hopefully sometime this winter — Westbound plans to add food service to create a brewpub experience similar to the one in Idaho Springs.
With the addition of the Endo space, Westbound's plan to build its own location is "on hold," Schmidt says. In addition, the brewery is "walking away" from previous plans to open a taproom on Santa Fe Drive in Denver.