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Our Story

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3 guys, 1 grand idea...

What do you get when a Chemist, Physician and Engineer team up? A unique experience located in Clear Lake, Iowa. 

Born as a concept during the year we would all like to forget, 173° Craft Distillery is a salute to life and the joys we can share with family, friends, and even strangers through the science (and art) of distilling and extracting. 

Midwest natives Uncle John and Nephew Doug, both trained chemists, were inspired by the patriarch of the family, Darrell Summerfield. Darrell lived the American Dream eventually raising a family and teaching Chemistry to thousands of high schoolers. Using knowledge passed along through three generations of Chemists they have combined the science of distilling with the art of blending to bring you a unique take on spirits. 

 

So sit back, relax, and take in the views of the lake from the rooftop lounge and enjoy the wonders and science of what happens when ethanol reaches 173 degrees!

Meet the Team

John Summerfield

John
The Chemist

Between my father being a high school chemistry and physics teacher to always experimenting with different compounds growing up, I guess you could say I was destined to be a chemist. I might have started a few fires and explosions in our garage as a kid but those stories can't be substantiated.

 

I have always had an interest in the biology and chemistry of making alcoholic drinks. What can seem like a pretty simple process, gets complicated fairly quickly, there is a lot of science and art in making an excellent drink. For all of the reasons above, the distilling business is a perfect fit for me to be in as a retirement gig.

 

I have a beautiful wife, Lori and three amazing kids that are now out of the house, two still in college. I am ordained and have performed 3 weddings including my son's, so we now have 3 daughters. We enjoy being outdoors as much as possible.

Doug Summerfield

Doug
The Physician

Doctor Doug loves life! He also thinks anything is possible while living in Clear Lake, Iowa the area he calls home. When not living lake life, he can been seen flying overhead in his 1959 Cessna-172 or pursuing his interests in medicine in extreme environments. Whether participating in expeditions to Mt Everest, the arctic, or simply Woodford Island in Clear Lake with his kids, he views life as an adventure.

Doug feels the aging process of spirits is a direct link to the past. For him recalling the events of years when a spirit was created is part of the mystique of sipping on an aged liquor or cocktail. Even younger drinks such as rums, his favorite spirit, bring back simpler times of campfires or wake surfing on Clear Lake. Mixing this spirit with ginger beer to create a good “Dark and Stormy” conjures up his memories of sailing catamarans through the Virgin Islands. The more refined Mojito will recall cigars and trips to Miami with his Cuban exile in-laws. 

 

His desire is for 173 Craft Distillery to create the perfect drink for you to sip on while you enjoy the views of Clear Lake and City Park. Whether surrounded by friends, family, or soon to be friends, let the tastes, views, and sounds take you back to bygone times of fun and adventure. . .

Gary Schmit

Gary
The Engineer

I grew up as a farm kid near Waterloo (Go Don Bosco!) and somehow entered the world of construction. Stranger yet, I now find myself in the ice cream and spirit business. I never saw that coming!

 

My wife, Anne, and I have a blended family of 4 children and 2 grandchildren. I enjoy all things lake-related, a good mystery novel, and going to Iowa State football games. 

 

My go-to drink depends on the season, in the summertime it would be Gin + Tonic and wintertime would be Whiskey Smash. Gotta mix it up!