City’s original brew pub throws party
It seems like only yesterday venerable Grand Junction restaurateur Scott Howard decided to open the city’s original microbrewery, but Rockslide Brew Pub, 401 Main Street, marks 20 years by tapping a keg of platinum blonde ale today.
Downtown Development Authority honors the restaurant and microbrewery for its success at a 20th Anniversary Celebration and Keg Tapping Party starting at 4 p.m., said Harry Weiss, authority executive director.
Part of the fun includes a throwback menu with items customers ordered two decades ago, washed down with 94 cent pints.
“Rockslide helped send downtown in a new direction in terms of the vibe,” Weiss said. “It’s great to have that kind of a restaurant here. They are really great community supporters.”
Howard, owner of Dos Hombres since 1977, said he got the idea for the pub while visiting an unrelated business in Salt Lake City.
“It was called Squatters,” Howard said. “It was just the coolest place I’d ever seen so I decided, well, that’s what I want to do.”
It took two years and more than $1 million to realize the vision. Howard and his wife, Mo, toured every brewery they could find to get a sense of the business they wanted to create downtown, he said.
“My wife and I traveled the nation to learn about microbreweries,” he said.
They visited spots in Denver, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere. Wynkoop Brewery at the intersection of 18th and Wynkoop streets in Denver and Rock Bottom Brewery on Denver’s 16th Street Mall influenced their thinking.
“We kind of wanted the warehouse look, but I don’t know if we pulled that off,” Howard said.
After two separate remodels, the place enjoys a more sophisticated look, with plenty of wood paneling and most recently, a new bar.
“When we first opened, it was pretty bare, so it was kind of warehousy. We’ve remodeled it twice and it’s not like that anymore,” Howard said.
The restaurant’s location was also key.
“That was our vision. It had to be downtown on Main Street. That was the cool thing about it,” he said.
“In 1993, downtown was pretty not so good,” Howard said. “Where Rockslide is now, in its heyday, it was a clothing store. By the time we bought it, it was a pile of junk.”
The floor in the east part of the building had to be replaced as did the ceiling on the west side. The basement was gutted, he said.
“We had a backhoe in there for days,” Howard said.
He and his partners spent about $1.1 million in 1994 to get the brew pub and restaurant open.
The menu has changed many times since then, but the chef who designs it has not. Executive Chef Ted Garcia is stepping down after 20 years for health reasons and a new chef from Texas will be putting together the menu starting in about a month, Howard said.
“When it came down to it, Mo and I noticed the beers at these pubs (around the nation) were good, but the food was just OK,” Howard said. “You can’t just make it on beer. In the end, it’s about the beer, but it’s also about the food. You’ve got to have both.”
Fortunately Rockslide master brewer Zorba Proteau, only the third brewer to work at the Rockslide, has the high-quality brewing covered.
“He’s a good young guy,” Howard said. “He’s exciting — they’re just passionate about it. These guys live and die beer. He’s crazy about cleanliness. He’s crazy about the beers he puts out.”
Proteau created a special brew for the occasion, Platinum Blonde Ale, a “lively beer that is thirst-quenching and flavorful, not bitter, with a 4.9 percent alcohol content,” a news release said.
“There will be more specials all year for the celebration,” said Sean Howard, assistant manager of the restaurant. “Can you believe it’s been 20 years for Grand Junction’s original brew pub?”
“Our focus now is on food and drink — freshness and quality,” Howard said. “We always upgrade our menu and keep up with trends. We strive to hire and keep the best staff.”
“We have tried to make a nice safe place for people to come late at night,” he said.
Bret Brouse, a Rockslide mug club member since 2001, said he has seen many positive improvements since the place opened, but that the value has always been there.
“As far as the mug club, to me, it’s just gotten better,” Brouse said. “We always get a happy hour price on drinks, coupons for free drinks and half-price meals every Wednesday.
“I’m one of the regulars. I’m probably there too often, but the location is great and they always seem to have good food, good drinks and good atmosphere,” he said.
“Community support has been the big reason behind our success,” Scott Howard said. “We want to thank our community members, area business leaders, and fellow downtown business owners for supporting us over the last two decades.”