Food Scene: Zorba Proteau brews with passion at Grand Junction’s Rockslide
MEET BRIAN OLIVER
As previous general manager for Naggy NcGee’s, Boston’s, Old Chicago, and Ale House, Brian Oliver takes on a new adventure as the general manager for Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant. A Grand Junction resident, he has been running restaurants for more than 20 years.
According to Oliver, he worked for an airline prior to running restaurants, but having three daughters meant he wanted to stay closer to home.
“I’m bringing back what the restaurant was like in the early years,” Oliver said of Rockslide. “We are focusing on hand-crafted food using locally grown products.”
Rockslide’s kitchen plans to add antibiotic-free chicken to the menu, as well as gluten-free items. Additional menu items include a few of Oliver’s favorites, like the calamari, fish tacos, and beet salad.
“We are aiming for upper casual food with flair,” Oliver said. “We hope to be part of the conversation for better places to go in Grand Junction.”
With close to 70 employees, Oliver and his crew have a “passion to please.”
Food is served daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the bar is open until 2 a.m.
For more information, visit www.rockslidebrewpub.com.
WHAT: Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant
WHEN: Daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., bar open until 2 a.m.
WHERE: 401 Main St., Grand Junction
Editor’s note: If you’re part of Grand Valley’s burgeoning food and drink scene and want to talk shop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
if you want to get a word in edgewise with Zorba Proteau, it may be best to talk about something other than craft brews. The head brewer at downtown Grand Junction’s Rockslide Brewery and Restaurant (401 Main St.) mixes together passion, knowledge and hops to create a variety of original beers. And he loves to talk shop.
“It’s such a wide-open market for flavor that drew me to brewing,” Proteau said. “It’s like cooking.”
According to Proteau, his career in craft brewing started seven years ago while working at Kannah Creek Brewing Company and Peach Street Distillers. He previously earned a degree in biology, and it was the science behind brewing that captured his attention. In 2009, he attended an American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering course in Vermont, which is considered an industry standard. Then he acquired the head brewer job at Rockslide three years ago.
“It’s a brilliant occupation being tucked away and dreaming up new recipes and trying new things,” he said. “It’s really fun. I hope to be in this industry the rest of my life.”
Although he is not a master brewer yet, Proteau hopes to achieve the goal one day soon.
“With every batch I make I look forward to the end result,” he explained. “It’s an evolutionary thing, and it improves every time. There is always something I can do better each time I do it.”
Proteau likes all beer styles from around the world, he added, and he strives to learn from others in the industry.
“There is so much variability in the practice,” he said. “Brewers couldn’t do it without each other’s techniques.”
Plus, Proteau strives to produce a variety of beers for Rockslide spanning many styles. From two-percent session beers to the darkest stouts, he will aim to make them himself.
“Zorba has done a wonderful job the past three years,” said Brian Oliver, Rockslide’s general manager.
TRENDS IN BEER
Though all beer is made from grains, hops, yeast and water, Proteau is always amazed at how those basic ingredients can make so many different or unique beers. Trends in brewing he’s seen recently include sour beers and wild beers. Breweries are also venturing into culinary-style brews, like adding ginger or squash.
When he’s not tasting his own beer, Proteau enjoys many libations as well. Two favorites are brews from California — Sierra Nevada’s Nooner and Firestone Walker’s Union Jack. He enjoys Colorado’s Trinity Brewing Company and California’s Ballast Point as well.
“Firestone Walker is one of the most awarded breweries in the United States, and it’s one of my idols,” Proteau said.
As far as new Rockslide brews, the downtown hot spot plans to release “Vintage” for his summer brew. It is considered an American-style Pilsner.
“It’s drinkable and crisp,” Proteau said.
To learn more about Rockslide Brewery, visit http://www.rockslidebrewpub.com.
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