Outer Range in Frisco the latest craft brewery to open in Summit County
March 10, 2017
Lee Cleghorn was trying to build a tech company when he had a fateful conversation with an advisor at Columbia University's Business School.
"What does your wife think you should do?" Lee remembers the advisor asking him.
The answer was simple. Lee's wife, Emily Cleghorn, had always hoped he would open a brewery. Now with the help of a third partner, Ryan Chang, the couple has achieved that dream.
Outer Range Brewery, one of Frisco's newest hot spots to grab a cold drink, opened about two months ago. Since then the brewery has produced more than 45 brews, specializing in IPAs and Belgian-style ales, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Ever since the Cleghorns met in 2009 in Manitou Springs, beer has been an important part of their lives.
Coming to Colorado
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Before becoming brewery owners, both Cleghorns served in the military. They lived in Fort Carson, and later moved to Fort Bragg, outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Stationed at Fort Bragg, Lee met their partner, Chang, as they were going through Special Forces training together.
"I met Lee in the Army while we were in North Carolina for about a year and a half," said Chang, adding that they had more in common than their service to country. "I've always been a craft-beer drinker. I grew up in Los Angeles and started enjoying the West Coast IPAs."
The Cleghorns' next move was to Clarksville, Tennessee, just across the state line from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. That's where their daughter was born, and Lee was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after her birth.
At that point, the Cleghorns decided to transition out of the military.
"That's when we decided to go to business school, which led us to New York City," Emily recalled, adding that all that time, they were drafting another blueprint. "We spent that time planning the brewery with the goal of moving back to Colorado."
Learning the hops
Living in New York, Lee interned at the Other Half Brewing Company in Brooklyn under "IPA genius" Sam Richardson. Other Half is known for their IPAs, Lee said, and that's something his new brewery does well, too.
"There is high demand for their beers," Lee said of Richardson's establishment. "It was a cool environment to work in."
To further his beer education, Lee also attended the American Brewers Guild in Salisbury, Vermont, where he received his certification in brewing science and engineering.
While Lee and Emily were living in New York, Chang was a few hours away in Boston. The trio of beer-fanatics stayed in touch during this time, all the while hoping to get a brewing business off the ground.
Caught by the culture
Living in the Fort Carson area, the Cleghorns frequented Summit County to play in the mountains, and when the time came to set up shop, it seemed like a natural choice.
"We were looking at places for the brewery in places where we wanted to live," Chang said. "We looked at the Summit area for its great lifestyle and great craft beer culture."
All three co-owners were familiar with Summit County's mountains and beer culture long before they moved here in June 2016, they said.
"When I was living on the East Coast, I spent my winters in Keystone or Breckenridge," Chang said. "That was my getaway."
The founders' shared love for the mountains is one of the driving forces behind Outer Range Brewery.
"Outer Range is really fitting for the culture out here," Lee said. "No one ends up out here by accident. We all came here to do something different."
Can't miss 'Snow Cap'
Stretching across one wall inside the brewery is a photograph taken by Mark Fox, a longtime Summit Daily News photographer who now lives in Buena Vista.
Fox's photograph is a high-contrast portrait of Jim "Snow Cap" Pasholka, founder of Snow Caps Dog Sledding in Breckenridge in 1984. The lines on Pasholka's weathered face seem to embody the rugged mountain ranges in Summit County, and that's what the new brewery owners were going for when they put it up there.
"We chose the photo because we wanted to pay homage to a local who embraced the mountain lifestyle," Emily said. "We also wanted the photo to be from a local photographer."
But that's not the only piece of the mountains featured at the brewery. Stemming from Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Explorer," the brewery's name itself is a tribute to mountain life.
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges — Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!" a line of the poem reads.
Even the beers' names, like Final Summit, The Long Way Home and, Emily's favorite, Two-Pound Tent, are connected to the outdoors.
"We hangout and drink beer and think about why we love the outdoors and the mountain," said Lee. "Paying homage to that mountain-purist mindset."
45 beers and counting
Outer Range's specialties — IPAs and Belgian-style ales — are a fusion of Lee's favorite beers. Influences from his work in Brooklyn and years living in Belgium can be tasted in his craft brews.
"Belgians are really cool because the yeast does all the work for those beers," said Lee, who's the establishment's sole brewer. "If you make an IPA right, it's all about getting the best ingredients you can find and letting them do the work."
The three co-founders plan to keep their focus on IPAs and Belgian style ales with new batches being created all the time.
"We are just getting started," Lee said. "Those two styles have so much to be done in them."
In the few short months Outer Range has been open for business, it's created more than 45 types of beer, and they said they have only brewed the same beer twice.
Their beers are on tap at Frisco's Nordic Center, Apres, Rocky Mountain Underground, Canteen, Kenosha Steakhouse, Rita's, Empire Burger, Northside Pizza and the Crown. They've also got taps in Vail and Beaver Creek.
"We just booked our first client in Denver," said Emily. "We are super excited."
The brewery's latest project is can designs. By early summer they hope to have canned beer for sale.
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