By McKenna Horsley,
When West Sixth Brewing began in 2012, Ben Self had no idea that the company he helped found would eventually own a farm.
West Sixth opened the West Sixth Farm to the public on June 9, but the brewery purchased the land two years prior. It’s a unique venture for West Sixth, let alone the brewing industry, Self said.
The farm is 120 acres and is at 4495 Shadrick Ferry Lane. Self said the property was a family farm and then a private hunting ground before the brewery bought it. West Sixth is based in Lexington but distributes beer throughout the state. Brady Barlow, Robin Sither and Joe Kuosman are also owners of West Sixth Brewery.
The farm is home to two cows, a flock of chickens, bees and numerous plants. Self said the farm is a small-scale version of what it takes to run West Sixth. He said the brewery still buys some extra ingredients. For instance, West Sixth buys over 40,000 pounds of grains about every two weeks.
Self said that some people do not realize that brewers have to adjust the recipe for each batch of beer they brew. Since the grain grows differently as weather conditions change, the amount of flavoring and other ingredients going into the beer varies as well.
“The challenging part about beer is getting it to taste the same over and over again when you are dealing with living things that change depending on where in the world they come from or what weather they are supposed to be in,” Self said.
Being environmentally friendly and sustainable is important to the farm. West Sixth started to think about opening a farm in order to show how beer is an agricultural product. Self said people often think of beer as being manufactured in stainless steel tanks, but really the process of making beer starts in a field of grains.
In the brewing process, some byproducts are leftover, but they still have nutritional value. At the West Sixth farm, the cattle and chickens get to eat the products. Many of the plants grown at the farm are harvested and used to flavor the different types of beer that West Sixth sells.
One such plant is hop, a green, cone-shaped flower that is used to counter the sweetness of beer. The West Sixth farm has about five rows of these.
Self said West Sixth is figuring out the right combination for growing. The farm has about 100 apple trees of 20 different varieties that can be used in making hard cider. Self said some of the trees are not being grown anywhere else in Kentucky. West Sixth is trying put the apples, which are different from dessert or eating apples, together to make an “interesting farm apple cider,” like a more traditional old world cider, Self said.
In between the trees, blackberry and raspberry brambles grow. Self said West Sixth uses fruits and berries in wild and sour beers
Self said two people work at the farm regularly. Birch Bragg is the farm manager and Tracey Doyle is a part-time farm hand.
The farm is open only on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m for now. Self said the farm is still deciding if it will open on Sundays as the Franklin County Fiscal Court will allow Sunday alcohol sales starting in July.
As the farm grows, Self envisions it as a space for special events, like business retreats or weddings. Tours and classes are also in its future. Right now, West Sixth is still developing what is going on the farm. Self said most features of the farm are on 20 to 30 acres. The farm will grow over the next several years.
Self said West Sixth sees the farm as a space people can use as they wish, like the Lexington taproom, which hosts yoga classes, game nights, a running club and a biking club.
The farm has four miles of biking and hiking trails. West Sixth created the trails with the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association
The farm has only had guests for a few days, but Self said the visitors are a mix of Frankfort residents and others from out of town.
Kentucky Capital Development Corporation CEO and President Terri Bradshaw said the West Sixth Farm allows locals a place to gather and participate in new, unique events, something that many have wanted to see. The farm could also attract new residents and bring in tourists, she said.
“Because it is so different, it will be a draw from surrounding counties and other places because they don’t have something like this,” Bradshaw said.
Beer is only a small part of what West Sixth offers, Bradshaw said. The farm is a great place for families to go and do something together.
She said the farm fits in with the local brewery market and will help it further succeed because similar businesses are more successful in groups.