French Twist: Colorado’s Outer Range Opens Outpost in Alps

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brewery interior with swiss alps in background
©Kersten Vasey

In 2016, two Army veterans, Lee and Emily Cleghorn, found a new purpose in beer at the heart of the Rockies in Frisco, Colorado.

Eight years later, Outer Range Brewing Co. is renowned for its IPAs and outdoor spirit. It was no surprise when its founders decided to open another brewery—but  choosing to do it 5,000 miles from home, in the French Alps, made quite the impression.

“Lots of breweries are opening second locations in Colorado because the license allows it. But we’re Outer Range—we’re not going to open another place down the street,” Emily says, reminiscing about the time when Frisco was already seen as a bold choice to start their business.

brewery interior with alps framed in the background
©Kersten Vasey

France didn’t happen by accident; it began with friendship. Prior to opening their first brewery, Lee and Emily attended Columbia Business School in 2014 and both graduated with a Master of Business Administration two years later. Kate and Charles Saksik, a French couple, did the same.

brewery owners posing together
©Ali Vagnini

“We moved to New York at the same time and they were the first people we met on orientation day,” remembers Kate. “We realized that we were neighbors and quickly bonded.” With Lee and Emily, Kate and Charles discovered microbreweries, got initiated to homebrewing, and did what close friends sometimes do: make overly ambitious plans.

“From the start, Lee shared with us his plans of opening the brewery that would become Outer Range,” Charles says. “His long-term goal was going international and he said ‘you don’t know it yet but we’re going to do it together and it’s going to be in France.’”

The group of friends entertained the thought of making this idea a reality whenever they met, but with the Cleghorns busy in Colorado and the Saksiks moving to London in 2017, they all thought it would just be a pipe dream.

Yet in November 2023, the couples opened Outer Range French Alps, a brewpub, restaurant, and coffee roaster in Sallanches, a small town in Haute-Savoie close to Italy and Switzerland. Determined to bring the Colorado state of mind with them, Lee and Emily also learned how to embrace the French way of life and blend into the local community.

Mountain Fever

It was on Outer Range’s fifth anniversary that Lee and Emily started to seriously think about what to do next. Their friendship with Charles and Kate and the potential they saw in the French market helped them make the decision.

“Lee and I did our honeymoon in France 13 years ago and ended it in Paris. In cafés you would mainly see wine. Now you pass by the same cafés and see hazy IPAs,” Emily says. “Craft beer has exploded and the IPA segment is leading the market—that’s our thing!”

Their wish list to find the ideal location was simple at first: it had to be in the mountains. Sallanches quickly sounded like the perfect fit. “Sallanches has an authentic mountain life with a real community that lives here all year. It’s not some resort town, which also means it’s a bit more affordable.” 

patrons enjoying brewery
©Kersten Vasey

There, the team got acclimated quickly, according to Wyatt Holwagner, brand manager at both locations. “I was surprised when I first heard about the project [of opening in France] but once I started traveling there, it made sense,” he says. “It feels really alike to Colorado, with a local crowd, families, skiers, and snowboarders.”

Michel Masurel, co-owner with his son of the craft beer shop and bar Bieronomy, also in Haute-Savoie, says that Outer Range didn’t choose the easiest spot to settle in. “A big brewpub with a restaurant and coffee shop is surprising for French people, even more so in the Arve Valley where Sallanches is located,” he says. “Places like that are mostly found in urban areas near Paris or Lyon.”

But the Clerghorns fell in love with Sallanches’ old bowling alley when they visited it, already dreaming about installing a ceiling window to get a view of Mont Blanc directly from the brewhouse. To get to that, they first had to deal with French bureaucracy.

“Finding contractors in a remote location is not easy and everything takes so much time—the timeline is much faster in the U.S.,” the Cleghorns say, recalling that France is pretty much at a standstill during the summer. “There are so many holidays.”

Their blessing was found with Charles and Kate, who dealt with most legal procedures, given their expertise in finance and strategy. “In the U.S., a notary as we know it doesn’t exist in France, so it was another new thing for Lee and Emily,” Charles says. “We also had to pay an interpreter for every meeting, so they would understand every legal detail, which was very costly.”

outer range range french alps interior with employees

Finding funding and convincing the banks wasn’t an easy ride either, and the team had to be on the mayor’s good side to ease things up. “A French mayor has a lot of power and we had to convince him about the project,” Charles recalls. “When he understood that we weren’t planning on opening some big factory but instead a place for the locals to come and have a beer, eat, and work, he helped us a lot.”

Not everything in France is a bureaucratic nightmare. The Cleghorns understood that when it was time to sell their first beers. “We’re already sending beer to Finland and the Netherlands, while in Colorado we can’t sell our cans on a web store, because of the many laws and regulations inherited from Prohibition that challenge brewers to this day,” Lee says.

chef preparing food in kitchen
©Antoine Schmidt

The French Taste

Lee and Emily say they don’t want to pretend to be something they’re not: French. Though they settled in the region full time with their family and are learning to be fluent—the 15 staff members are mostly French—they’re eager to replicate their values and Colorado lifestyle right in Sallanches.

They did that by bringing, in addition to the brewpub, a restaurant serving spicy fried chicken, Chicken Scratch—another bold choice considering how French people lack the palate for spicy food—as well as a coffee roaster, Conflict Coffee. (The project’s goal is to buy coffee beans from places that have been affected by conflict and reinvest the benefits in these same areas.)

The team learned on their opening day that even if French people are now enjoying beer more than ever before, they have different habits from their American counterparts, ranging from when they drink (not many drinkers show up before 7 p.m.) to what they like to drink.

“In Colorado, we’ve reduced the production of our double IPA and our lager program is taking off,” Emily says. “But here in France, people want hazy IPAs and we can’t keep our double IPA in stock!”

outer range france brewery 
©Kersten Vasey

Other adjustments needed to be made when the team started selling four-packs of their Kölsch, Hazy IPA, and West Coast Pale Ale to go. “French people do not want that. They don’t understand. They want single cans,” Emily says, laughing.

The international team now tries to implement what’s best in both countries, starting with glassware. “We found that glassware is very important for French people. Our customers quickly asked for stem glasses at the taproom,” Holwagner says. “Now we also serve certain beer styles in stem glasses in Frisco.”

When it comes to the beer itself, most recipes are the same, brewed in the exact same equipment in Frisco and Sallanches. But Lee wishes to dig deeper into French culture, remembering that the first style he brewed was a French farmhouse.

For Masurel, that sounds like the right path to explore. “Their range is very large already and we know that many people go to them for their IPAs, but what we would expect now would be for them to work more with the terroir from Savoie, the wine, the barrels, and local raw materials,” he says.

As it navigates between two cultures, one can wonder if Outer Ranger French Alps is a French brewery with American ownership or an American brewery that settled in France. Surprisingly, everybody involved has a different answer to that question.

“We’re a little bit of both—we’re Americans who came to be inspired by the French beer market and the community, and we are so far,” Lee and Emily say.

©Kersten Vasey

Thanks to its mostly French team, Holwagner thinks that the brewery has a French approach to beer and brewing, while Charles says it would be disappointing if Outer Range was anything other than American.

Seeing more of a big picture, Kate may have an answer that will please everyone. “Outer Range is a global brand with roots in Colorado and in American craft beer. It’s not purely French but not American anymore. It’s developing its own path.”

Anaïs Lecoq is a French freelance writer and author focusing on the French beer industry, its culture, and history, for French and English-speaking publications. Her first essay published in 2022, "Maltriarcat — quand les femmes ont soif de bière est d'égalité," explores beer, gender and sexism. In 2023, she won first place in the Best Brewery Profile category at the North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards. is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.