TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Charlie Rife and Clayton Kilgore were sitting out on Rife’s porch last July when Kilgore had an idea. The two, self-described as “semi-retired,” were drinking hefeweizen — wheat beer — that Rife had brewed himself.
Kilgore had turned to Rife and said, “We could sell this.” Rife’s wife agreed, and the two decided to go into business together, Rife taking care of the beer and Kilgore taking care of the paperwork.
Almost immediately, Kilgore applied for a federal brewing permit and the pair began looking for somewhere to set-up shop.
“We were looking for a place to brew,” Kilgore said. “We were thinking maybe in the basement of another establishment and start out small, but as we got into it we felt really confident that the town of Torrington needed a micro-brew.”
They were already friends with the Leithead family, which owned 1930 Main in downtown Torrington and was, at that time, part of Leithead’s Appliance Center.
“They liked the idea of what a micro-brewery might bring to Main Street Torrington,” Rife said, “and how it might bring people into town or maybe get them to stay downtown a little longer.”
The Lietheads sold the building to Rife and Kilgore, who are now in the process of converting it into the home of the Open Barrel Brewing Company.
Their intention is to remain small: they’ll install a two-barrel brewing system, which will produce about 60 gallons of beer in a batch. “The goal is to sell all the beer we produce,” Rife said. “I don’t know if we’ve got it in us to expand too much beyond that.”
Rife has over 35 years experience brewing, which he picked up as a hobby from his grandmother. He plans to have eight varieties of beer available at any one time.
“We’ll have the standards: we’re going to have to have an IPA (India pale ale) on tap, a hefeweizen, a porter; a good range,” he said. The other beers will change throughout the year. “We’ll put some seasonal beers on tap.”
Most of the beers OBBC will sell are based on recipes that Rife has developed. Making a new beer, he said, is a trial-and-error process.
“A lot of it is past experience,” he said. “Knowing which malts go well together and guessing that a little bit of this malt and a little bit of that malt and a lot of this will turn out into a certain style of beer. You brew out a batch, and then change things. Maybe a little less hops or a little more hops or a different flavor of hops. I play around a lot.”
Kilgore said they plan to serve some bar food, but they have no real intention of starting a restaurant.
“We are right in the middle of downtown here,” Kilgore said. “There’s Mexican food right across the street and a full-service restaurant next door to us. We feel like we want to concentrate on the beer first.”
So far, the two have installed a cooler in the building and are remodeling the rest of the rooms. The front store-space will be used as a lounge area while the back will be the brewing room.
Rife said the two hope the brewery is open by Oct. 1. “We’ve been at it since the middle of June and we’re making some pretty decent progress,” he said.