The central personalities responsible for Rock Bottom’s rapid expansion during the 1990s first met in 1973, roughly 20 years before they joined forces to create a chain of combination restaurant-breweries. One of the pair, and the junior of the two, was Thomas A. Moxcey, who was working in Boulder, Colorado, as a waiter at a restaurant named Cork & Keg during the early 1970s. Moxcey proved to be in the right place at the right time because in 1973 he was recruited by a restaurateur named Frank Day, who was putting his academic training as a Harvard MBA to the test.
Day was opening his first restaurant, an establishment called The Walrus, and hired Moxcey to help him run the Boulder-based business. Day and Moxcey spent two years working together, then went their separate ways, beginning a 15-year period that saw Day continue as an entrepreneur and Moxcey embark on a career in restaurant management.
Day opened a restaurant named Old Chicago in 1976 and developed it into a small chain, while Moxcey climbed the managerial ranks at two restaurant chains, Cork & Cleaver and Village Inn. When Day and Moxcey reunited in 1990, they brought together their experience to launch a new concept in the food service industry, one designed to appeal to the interest in microbrewed beer. The result of their efforts would become known as Rock Bottom Restaurants, Inc.
By February 1995, Day and Moxcey had opened eight new restaurants during the previous 12 months, giving them a total of five Rock Bottom Breweries and 16 Old Chicago restaurants. On the heels of this ambitious effort, they continued to stick to their plans for opening four Rock Bottom Breweries and eight Old Chicago restaurants in the coming year.
Rock Bottom was taken private in an August 1999 buyout by Day and company co-founders Bob Greenlee, Arthur Wong, and David Lux.
Rock Bottom’s downtown Denver location is the oldest Rock Bottom Restaurant in the country and is unique among the half-dozen outlets in Colorado. While its siblings are situated in suburban shopping and entertainment complexes, the Denver facility is in the heart of the city, on the high-traffic 16th Street walking mall. Given its urban environs, the brewpub attracts a broad cross section of patrons, and emanates a more upbeat, vibrant atmosphere than you’ll encounter in the suburban mall locations.
The restaurant is huge, with a half-dozen separate eating and drinking spaces, including a sprawling outdoor patio affording great people-watching along the 16th Street Mall. The brewhouse resides within a glassed-in island near the front of the building, across from the main bar. A large chalkboard mounted on the wall lists the names and detailed specifications of the many house beers. A second bar in the back of the building contains several pool tables and a photo booth.
Longtime head brewer John McClure began his brewing career at Boulder’s Walnut Brewery in 1997. When he moved to the Denver brewpub two years later, he discovered that the volume of beer being quaffed in downtown Denver in a week equaled what was consumed at the Walnut in a month. He also discovered that the logistics of brewing in the city presented certain unfamiliar challenges: in order to access the downstairs grain mill, he has to leave the restaurant and go through a parking garage.
Passionate about pints. Maniacal for malts. Rock Bottom always has been and always will be about the beer. Every tank we tap represents hours of planning, experimentation, ingenuity and precision by your local Rock Bottom Brewmaster. While we pride ourselves on the remarkably consistent quality of our beers, we’re just as dedicated to letting the personality, experience and particular expertise of each Brewmaster shine through. When you hit Rock Bottom, you’ll not only enjoy these handcrafted brews and our made-from-scratch food, but you’ll feel a connection to the locals and the location that just doesn’t happen at many other restaurants. We like to say that life begins when “You’ve Hit Rock Bottom®”.