The drive from the Colorado Front Range to Grand Junction is a marathon trip, but one well worth taking. You can get a pretty good impression of the high country by just driving the I-70 corridor, even though it’s just a taste of what could be in store for you off the interstate. The major benefits of taking that route though are numerous, but the key reasons are that it’s direct, and there are many fine examples of Colorado craft beer along the way, as well as at your destination.
As was related in our post on Palisade Brewing, business required a trip to Grand Junction with a coworker in the Fall of 2010. Since it was for business, the drive up wasn’t as laid back as most of our trips to the mountains, and as such we made good time with stops only for gas and restroom pit stops. Having left early that morning, we were both famished and thirsty by the time we pulled into downtown Grand Junction.
Most of the architecture is left over from the early part of the twentieth century, making it feel more like a small town main street than the center of the western metropolis it is now. The wide sidewalks and numerous trees provide a relaxed atmosphere that contrasts with the business conducted in buildings lining Main Street, terminating in the convention complex at the western end.
Rockslide Brewery sits amid this idyllic scene of main street America, both metaphorically and literally since it rests on the corner of 4th Street and Main. Entering, you have the choice of sitting in a dining section on one side or the separate bar area opposite; we of course sat in the bar. We had arrived on the tail end of the lunch hour on a Thursday afternoon and found both sections of the brew pub near capacity; it apparently was a favorite of the locals, comprised of both downtown office workers and families out for the afternoon.
Because of the large lunch crowd, it was tough gauging the bar to table ratio since there was the inevitable overflow into the bar from those not able to get a table. Our initial beers quenched our thirst quite well as we perused the menu made up of the typical bar fare of burgers, pizzas, and sandwiches, but also includes a number of salad options. Our Cold Shivers Pale Ales were typical of many Western Slope IPAs, hoppier than a traditional IPA, but not the hop bombs of some the better Colorado breweries. All of their beers are great accompaniments to the pub food, not overwhelmingly tasteful, but well brewed sessionable sippers. Since we had work to do, a single pint had to do us for the time being, my friend and I both agreed to come back after our business was complete that day.
And we did go back later that afternoon when our tasks were completed, but we made it a point to explore some of the shops that lined the main drag before we did. An mix of eclectic clothing stores, gift shops, and small mom and pop shops, you could while away the day just window shopping if you were so inclined. The street lends itself perfectly to just strolling, which was what the doctor ordered after the long drive and afternoon of work. By the time we ambled back in to Rockslide, the crowd had thinned out substantially, with most of the patrons hanging out in the bar. At this time of day, the bar to table ratio gave a more favorable impression, the clientele being locals in for after work beers. Since that visit I’ve had conversations with people who had lived in the area, and nearly all have related that Rockslide, along with Kannah Creek, is a cornerstone in the local craft beer community. Brent Scheiwe of Denver Brews Cruise has told me that it was key to his appreciation of craft beer when he was growing up in Grand Junction; it was very apparent that day when we came in that it was a treasured meeting spot by the residents.
Eventually we moved to the patio out back for our remaining beers, the pleasant evening outside a great salve to being cooped up in a car and office all day. The lazy conversation and drinks taking off the edge of a busy day lulled us, and had we not needed to drive down the road a bit to check into our hotel for the night, we may have spent the evening there. As it was, we both carried away great memories of a cherished local gem, one that the Wife and I will make a point of visiting this Summer on our Great Western Slope Brew Trek.