It feels like it’s about 120 degrees with at least 80 percent humidity in the room as head brewer Preston Thoeny begins to boil the first IPA at Westward Brewing Co.
Sweat is inevitable, and the pungent, sour smell of hops and oats floods the increasingly hard-to-breathe air. Stepping out into Phoenix’s 95-degree May weather feels refreshing.
But there’s an excitement buzzing throughout Westward’s three-building complex during the second day of brewing. The first porter is already fermenting in one of the brewery’s tanks, and it and several other beers should be ready for the brewery’s opening in about four weeks.
Drew Pool, one of Westward’s co-founders, is adamant when he says Westward is a brewery before anything else as he stands in the beautifully renovated 1920s house that will act as the brewery’s tasting room. The brewery's main goal will be to sell their beers to local restaurants, but they'll welcome the general public to sample their beers inside the updated historic home in Central Phoenix.
A wooden community table with a cluster of Edison bulbs hanging over it fills a majority of the open space in what used to be the main room of the house. Pool says the table came from the bakery of an old Bashas’ grocery store and smelled like doughnuts before the team refinished it.
A double-sided though out-of-commission fireplace displays a framed version of Westward’s poster and marks where the back wall, separating the main house and the back patio, used to stand.
An L-shaped bar with white subway tile finishes and wooden top made from the old floorboards of a PBR factory will eventually hold about twelve taps, which will serve only Westward brews. They plan to open with as few as four beers on tap, though they're aiming for six. Pool says they'll also serve some snacks, such as local Old Heidelberg Bakery’s pretzels, but the main focus will be on the beer.
“We want it to have a beer town vibe like Portland,” Pool says. “We’re trying to bring that to Phoenix.”
Out back are two additional buildings, the first the two-story brewhouse, which used to be a shed added on to the house in the ‘70s, and second being the cold storage building, which housed the previous tenant’s bakery.
Pool says they’ve already had requests from other businesses to use part of the huge cold storage building. Right now, Westward’s 120 kegs only take up one corner of the massive refrigerator.
Westward keeps the high-quality ingredients they’ll use in their beers in the storage facility too, including wheat from Pima Indian Reservation or hand-picked wild rice from Minnesota.
“We just like to use really good ingredients,” Pool says.
Actually, good, unusual, and local ingredients, for the most part. Westward plans to use locally sourced dates, spices, honey, and citrus in some of their beers. Pool says Westward is also going to partner with Press Coffee to serve the coffee roaster's cold brew on draft and create a coffee porter using Press beans.
There was also mention of a German chocolate cake beer that would include cherries and vanilla while Pool and Thoeny talked about the specialty brews they’d like to make down the line.
During the opening and possibly on the weekends or special occasions, Pool says Westward will feature some firkins – small batches of brew infused with specific ingredients directly in the keg. But these batches won’t last long, only one night or so.
“One time only, and then they’re gone,” Pool says.
Eventually, Thoeny, Pool, and third partner Bill Hammond, will have seven or eight beers on tap with the other available taps holding things like coffee or house-made root beer.
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They plan to keep the tasting room supply relatively small so they have plenty of brews to send to restaurants around the Valley. The tentative hours for the tasting room will be Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to midnight, and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
Westward Brewing Co. is located at 2125 North 24th Street. Keep an eye on the brewery’s website for more information, including a possible opening date.
See more photos of Westward Brewing Co.'s tasting room below.
Editor's Note: This post has been changed from its original version.