The craftsman is expanding into a Vail Valley brewery with the help of the Outer Range

When Chris Schmidt began considering leaving his job as head chef at Vail’s Sweet Basil in 2016, his first instinct was to open a brewery. A restaurant worker since the age of fifteen and a respected Colorado chef in the previous decade, he was a little burned by cooking – but very focused on the half-barrel home brewing system he had built in his garage.

“I love creating things with my hands and the science behind it,” says Schmidt, who has spent time in the kitchens at Squeaky Bean and Fruition in Denver and at Mountain Standard in Vail. “Because of that, I fell in love with the process of brewing before the beer itself.”

Eventually, Schmidt and his wife, Janelle, received the blessing and support of their former employer and opened Craftsman, a transcendent sandwich shop in Edwards that has garnered a regional following since 2017 and the attention of food lovers and food critics across the state.

click to enlarge The craftsman is already very focused on beer.  THE CRAFTSMAN

The craftsman is already very focused on beer.

The craftsman

But he has always kept an eye on beer, first with the carefully compiled list of mostly local craft brews, which he keeps on tap at Craftsman and then by opening a Thai-style chicken concept, Bird art, inde Outer Range Brewing and Frisco.

Next summer, he’s going to follow both of his dreams as he moves the artisan across the street from its current location to the former Gore Range Brewery, which closed in late October after 24 years at Edwards. The large space can accommodate twice as many people as the current Craftsman. It also comes with a seven-barrel brewing system, which will be staffed by a brewer from the Outer Range, a brewery that has gained its own state-wide affiliation since opening in 2016.

“That place has mocked me over the years and thought about its potential,” Schmidt says of the Gore Range Brewery area, which is on the edge of the city’s commercial district. Although the Gore Range had a dedicated local following, it was often easy for customers.

click to enlarge Gore Range Brewery closed in October.  - GORE RANGE BREWERY FACEBOOK PAGE

Gore Range Brewery closed in October.

Gore Range Brewery Facebook page

Schmidt says he will keep most of his current menu, which includes artisanal sandwiches like Green Chile Philly, Wild Mushroom Pastrami and Nashville Hot Chicken, while building on his small plate menu and adding a wood-fired oven. The menu will be varied… But still very familiar and very artisan. Sandwiches will still be the core. ”

On the beer side, Schmidt will turn control over to the Outer Range. “I trust they brew great beer and put the right people in place and do what they do,” he notes.

But since Craftsman will regularly keep a few beers from the Outer Range – known for its hazy, New England-style IPAs – on tap and in cans, brewers can pour into other styles for the restaurant’s house beers, including lagers, stouts and more. traditional U.S. IPAs. “We want to have fun and we want to keep things fresh,” Schmidt says.

click to enlarge Emily and Lee Cleghorn from Outer Range Brewing.  OUTER AREA BREWING

Emily and Lee Cleghorn from Outer Range Brewing.

Outer Range Brewing

“It will not be Outer Range beer. It will be a different look and it will be really fun for our team,” adds Lee Cleghorn, who owns the brewery with his wife, Emily. Cleghorn wants to brew beer that supports the food supply in the same way that the Outer Range made a beer at Frisco to combine with Schmidt’s Birdcraft menu.

The two met the first week the Outer Range opened when Schmidt and some of his crew from Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard drove across the Vail Pass to check it out. “He’s brilliant at what he does … And he loves to focus on combining good food with great beer,” says Cleghorn.

In addition to the beers from Craftsman and from the Outer Range, Schmidt plans to continue serving specialty beers from other Colorado breweries with which he has developed relationships, including New Image Brewing, 4 Noses Brewing and Bierstadt Lagerhaus.

And when the move is complete – hopefully early next summer – Schmidt plans to open a new restaurant in the old space, an exclusive pizza place called In Bloom. Cut specialty pizzas along with oysters, small plates and a wine and spritzer-driven bar program, it will be “light and airy, less concrete and wood,” Schmidt explains. “It will be edgy, sexy … Vail Valley will be pumped.”


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