Valley Bounty: Skyline Trading Co
By JACOB NELSON, For the Recorder, May 5, 2021
Every day, to the delight of customers and restaurateurs alike, more and more local restaurants are bringing back outdoor dining.
“People are itching to get out and be outside right now,” said Lisa Lafreniere, co-owner of Skyline Trading Co. in Westfield. “The weather was nice last Tuesday night, and we had record numbers — for a Tuesday.”
Skyline is a brewpub and homebrew supply shop run by three longtime friends: Lafreniere, head chef Daniel Osella and lead brewer Dana Bishop.
“I’ve known Lisa for over 20 years, and Dana I’ve known since high school,” Osella said. “It made it easier to trust each other.”
Lafreniere says the business was a natural fit for them.
“ A lot of the reason we got into the industry was because we like throwing parties for our friends, where everyone would eat and drink and have a blast,” she said. “Now when I see people enjoying Dan’s food and our beer and enjoying the Skyline vibe — for us and the customers it’s just fun. … The music is good, the beer is good, the food is good, and you just hear roaring laughter. There are no TVs, and people don’t tend to be on their phones a lot. It’s about being with people and enjoying that moment.”
Osella expands on the development of the current operation: “When Lisa and I started the business in 2014, our plan from day one was to have our own brewery,” he said. “We actually started in Southwick at Westfield River Brewing Company selling food — pretzels, grilled cheese, hot dogs and whatnot — and that was when we first set up the homebrew supply shop, too. In 2016 we rented a spot in downtown Westfield where we could open our own little brewpub, expand the menu, sell local craft beer, and grow the business.”
“We were there three years, and that place was packed to the gills every night,” Lafreniere recalled. “The food was always a draw, but we’d also do fun events like karaoke nights, beer releases and ‘tap takeovers’ featuring other local breweries.”
Finally, in 2019, they purchased their own place in Westfield with a commanding view of the surrounding hills.
“This is our forever home, we love it here,” Lafreniere said. “It’s 5 acres on what used to be Fowler Farms.”
Those 5 acres provided ample room to grow. They now have a large brewery space, indoor dining, two outdoor dining areas, and space to host bigger events elsewhere on the land.
Extra space has been very helpful during COVID-19. For safety, “Our indoor taproom is fairly limited,” Lafreniere said. “We used to pack about 85 people in here with family-style tables, seating strangers next to each other.”
Now, depending on party size, seating is less than half that. Outdoors, they’ve built a dining patio that showcases their view and location.
A beer garden area adds more outdoor seating, Osella notes: “If you don’t get a seat on the patio, there’s still room in the beer garden to be outside,” he said. Lafreniere and Osella seem to constantly look for ways to make gatherings special, and for them all these spaces are canvases for the next great event. “We’ve been doing some really nice sit-down meals like brunches, beer dinners, whiskey dinners,” Osella said. “ And we have a huge lot we can use for bigger events like block parties, once COVID will let us.”
Warmer weather brings pop-up patio days, and each weeknight has its own theme with changing specials — taco and tequila Tuesday, burger night on Wednesday, deep dish pizza on Thursday, and Sunday funday brunch specials.
Most of their menu is designed to go good with a beer. Osella says they’re known for their pretzels, a staple creation of his since their days at Westfield Brewing Co. They also serve up wings, pizza, burgers, salads and other comfort food and seasonal dishes with locally sourced ingredients when possible.
“In the summer we have a farm share with Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, and I supplement that with produce from Ray’s Family Farm and Blossoming Acres, which are even closer to us in Southwick,” Osella said. “That drives a lot of our menu, and I’ll have specials each week based on what I get from the farms.”
“We have a greenhouse on the property that we’ll be resurrecting to grow our own produce, too,” Lafreniere added.
“On the beer side we do a lot of different styles without focusing on one in particular, and that sets us apart,” Lafreniere said. “We do a lot of traditional German styles, New England and West Coast IPAs, pale ales, and we do a lot of sours and fruited beers, too.
“We keep our favorite ones coming back, but there’s always something new,” she said.
Coming up, “We’ll have a sit-down Mother’s Day brunch that people can make reservations for,” Osella said, “and on Father’s Day we’ll be having a ticketed whiskey dinner with our resident ‘Whiskey Pirate’ Jay Cole, who describes the history and whiskey-making process.”
Tickets are available on their website, at skylinebeerco.com. To learn more about other local restaurants opening back up for outdoor dining, check out CISA’s searchable online guide at buylocalfood.org/ find-it-locally.
Jacob Nelson is the communications coordinator at Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA).