In case you haven’t noticed, the current craft beer boom we are all enjoying isn’t just contained to Buffalo and Western New York, it also extends far south, to the Southern Tier of the state. Case in point—Westfield’s Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing, New York’s first brewery/distillery/winery hybrid.
For our extensive tour, we were led by Tasting Room and Café Manager Steve Armstrong, and later joined by current Head Brewer/Distiller Joe Nelson (he will transition back to distilling full time once their new head brewer arrives in a few months). Located at 8398 West Main Road in Westfield, Five & 20’s setting is bucolic to say the least. They feature a massive tasting room, which offers not only samplings of beer but also spirits and wine; a rustic and cozy space which bleeds into a good size patio with ample seating with magnificent views of rolling farmlands.
From the tasting room, Armstrong took us into the warehouse and malt house, before we ended up in their massive barrel room, which features racks upon racks of barrels filled with rum, rye whiskey, brandy, sherry, bourbon and red wine, where the conversation quickly turned towards barrel aging beer, something Five & 20 is aggressively diving into head first.
“With all the different barrel stuff that we do, we have our own barrels to barrel age our beer,” Armstrong said. “The first one we took a flier on was, we took some rum barrels and have some stout aging in them. We are also definitely going to do a rye whiskey barrel aged rye pale ale.” He also said that they currently have a batch of American Wheat beer and are planning to age it in red wine barrels, adding brettanomyces and [possibly] fresh sweet cherries.
They also offer a Barrel Adoption program (rye whiskey or bourbon barrels available). For a fee, you can adopt a barrel, taste the spirit throughout the aging process and then take home two bottles of the spirit along with the barrel itself. Those interested can currently adopt a 10, 15, 25, 30 or 53 gallon barrel.
From the barrel room (which we didn’t want to leave), we were whisked into the brew house and finally the distillery. We circled back around into the tasting room to partake in the fruits of Five & 20’s brewing labor.
Five & 20 currently offers four different beers, a pale ale (5.4%), cream ale (4.9%), stout (6%) and a rye pale ale (6.2%). The pale is easy drinking and offers a bready malt sweetness and a clean hop character; the cream ale is the definition of a lawnmower beer, or as Nelson puts it, ‘a beer flavored beer;’ the stout was approachable and on the lighter side with roasted, nutty notes and the rye pale ale was sweeter than it was spicy. While no definite plans are in the works, Five & 20 said they plan on releasing seasonal beers throughout the year.
After sampling all four beers, as well as some bourbon and bierschnapps, we retired to the patio with pints of pale ale in hand to take in those aforementioned views of endless, rolling farmland.
“We’ve been brewing for about three months, but actually just released our beer around two months ago,” Armstrong said. As far as the ingredients that go into the beer, Armstrong said “we try to get as much local stuff as we can. We try to grow our own stuff. We grow our own rye, corn and also tried growing red wheat.” He added that they are conditioning the land out front of their building to grow barley in the future.
“I’ve been bugging the masses about getting into the brewing industry for years now,” Nelson added. “The real thing is, we finally moved into a facility that gave us the space to do so.” They have been in their current location for around two years after moving operations from Mayville.
Five & 20 brew on a hybrid system because they have to do whiskey mashes and beer at the same time. One spirit they produce, Afterburner Bierschnapps, is of particular interest to beer drinkers, because it’s a grain-based spirit created by distilling a finished barleywine. Bottles run $25 in the tasting room.
“We can’t even keep up with demand right now, which is a good problem to have,” Nelson said. He added that the brewery will be getting a bottling line in the near future. They are also already expanding with a new warehouse planned.
Five & 20 is open Monday—Saturday, 10am—8pm and Sunday, 11am—6pm (July—August) and Monday—Saturday, 10am—6pm, Sunday, 11am—5pm (September— June).