Take a tour of Outer Range Brewing Co.’s new taproom

Bird Craft’s fried chicken sandwich sits in front of Outer Range Brewing Co.’s new bar. The brewery expanded into the old home of neighboring Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant and houses two other businesses to serve food and beverages.
Jefferson Geiger /

FRISCO — The wait is over. Outer Range Brewing Co. is ready to welcome customers to its finished, expanded taproom.

The Frisco brewery at 182 Lusher Court took over neighboring Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant’s space in October and has been hard at work remodeling throughout the winter and spring. With it comes an additional 5,400 square feet, a total capacity of more than 300 people — once health restrictions loosen — and more food and beverage options.

While the coronavirus pandemic set back the opening timeline — the taproom had a soft opening the same weekend resorts shut down in March — the extra months have been used to fine tune operations. The landscaping has been redone, lounge and patio furniture has been added and touches of greenery are now sprinkled throughout.

“Since we couldn’t have customers in the taproom, we’ve been using this time to do all these things that we had hoped to do before really opening,” co-owner Emily Cleghorn said. “If we had customers there every day, there would be no way we could have ripped all that out and put the new turf in and lodgepole walkways.”

The draft lines, which go up to 29 total beer taps — six upstairs and 23 downstairs — and two wine taps, have been modified for temperature control. Lagers, Pilsners and saisons will be served at 34 degrees, India pale ales around 44-45 degrees and darker beers like stouts at 55 degrees. The white wine also will be served at 55 degrees with red at room temperature.

The rotating wine options, sourced from wineries like Hess Collection and J. Lohr, can be purchased by the bottle, too, though no other liquor will be added to the menu.

“We wanted for those customers who maybe have a gluten allergy or just prefer wine — but they’re coming along with a friend who is super into beer and tagging along for their sake — to just have an option,” Emily Cleghorn said. “But we didn’t do a full-scale bar because we want people to know that they’re at a brewery.”

The old bar has been transformed entirely to production. Outer Range can now produce about 5,000 barrels of beer annually, up from roughly 3,000. A carbon dioxide recapture system also has been implemented. It reduces the brewery’s carbon footprint by allowing the gas given off during fermentation to be reused in the tap lines rather than purchasing it commercially elsewhere.

“It’s the same as reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1,500 trees planted a year,” Emily Cleghorn said.

Another brewer is being hired to keep up with the increased output so Outer Range still can supply 150-200 cases of beer a week to distribution accounts the brewery acquired during the pandemic. Though the Frisco taproom remains their focus, cans still will be found in liquor stores through Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder and Eagle and Grand counties as a thanks to the customers who helped support Outer Range during the shutdown.

In addition to coffee, Mountain Dweller Coffee Roasters sells Belgian waffles and other food inside of Outer Range Brewing Co.
Jefferson Geiger /

Joining the brewery under the same roof are Mountain Dweller Coffee Roasters and Bird Craft in a setup similar to a food hall. The coffee roasters have been a longtime collaborator with Outer Range, serving hot and cold brews at events and working together on coffee beers. Yet this will be the first time patrons can sip on cappuccinos, lattes and other drinks beyond their signature nitro cold brew.

In addition to tea, kombucha and a pour-over bar, there are pastries, Belgian waffles and buttermilk biscuits homemade with Colorado ingredients. The roasts will be seasonal depending on the country’s harvest, as owner and Head Roaster Joshua Johnson wants to emphasize the single origin of the beans.

“It’s a whole new opportunity,” Johnson said. “We’re emerging from being the home roaster to a legitimate brick-and-mortar roastery and coffee bar.”

Johnson is roasting with a 12-kilogram commercial roaster, up from the 2-kilo capacity he had at home, and is eager to eventually host educational events such as cuppings. In the meantime, customers can scan QR codes to learn how the beans traveled from mountainous farms across the world to the mountains of Summit County.

A green papaya salad is one of the eclectic options from Bird Craft, a new restaurant at Outer Range Brewing Co. The concept comes from Christopher Schmidt, who is the chef of Craftsman in Edwards.
Jefferson Geiger /

Likewise, the folks behind Bird Craft aren’t strangers to the Cleghorns. After working at Vail’s Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard, Chef Christopher Schmidt opened his restaurant Craftsman in Edwards the same year as Outer Range. He developed a relationship with Head Brewer Lee Cleghorn and always has one of their India pale ales on tap.

Schmidt’s new concept Bird Craft taps into his Southern heritage and passion of elevating casual food. It focuses on Thai-style fried chicken along with pigtail fried rice, poke, soups and salads. The chicken can be ordered at the counter as a quarter-, half- or full-bird or in a sandwich as a nod to Craftsman and served with various Asian sauces as well as fresh herbs.

“It’s not just a brewery anymore,” Johnson said. “It’s a space for everyone, local or not, to be safe and hang out with friends and family and just enjoy each other’s company.”

To celebrate the opening, the brewery has a jasmine rice lager that pairs perfectly with Bird Craft’s Thai-inspired food. Another Mountain Dweller coffee stout collaboration also is planned.

Outer Range Brewing Co. made the Pluck Pluck Pluck Rice Lager to pair with Bird Craft’s Thai fried chicken. The beer was brewed with jasmine rice and lime.
Courtesy Outer Range Brewing Co.

Currently, Outer Range is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Mountain Dweller is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Bird Craft will serve from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Once seated by a host, parties of eight or fewer can follow the guidelines on the floor to order the desired menu items at their respective counters, with Bird Craft texting when food is ready for pickup. 

Masks are required in the common areas, and leashed pets are limited to the outside patio on the ground floor — which will be the rule going forward with animals regardless of the pandemic due to the addition of Bird Craft. Outside food is no longer permitted because of the kitchen on-site.

Additionally, those six taps upstairs will remain turned off for now. When the second floor fully reopens, that smaller bar will mainly be used for private parties or serve popular pours when the lower bar is overcrowded. 

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