3760 Quaker Rd., Gasport, NY 14067
Web: Becker Farms
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"We tried the $5 flight of all four Becker beers, and were surprised to like them all: the caramel-hinted Oktoberfest was the memorably cool one of the bunch."
Rarely do we visit a place so surprisingly interesting and worthwhile that we can't imagine how we missed it in the past, but Becker Farms is one of those places. Loyal Buffalo Chow readers may recall that we weren't enthusiastic about Becker's Vizcarra Vineyards-branded wines earlier this year, and we really didn't know what else we'd find at the Farms when we decided to drive out there this weekend to check out its "Pumpkin Fiesta" and fruit-picking orchards. What we discovered was something akin to the old Field of Dreams scenario, a "build it and they will come" farm with several separate buildings offering food and drinks, intriguing enough that we were even willing to give the company's wines another shot on site.
One big surprise up front: we were seriously impressed by the Becker Brewing Company, an on-site brewhouse and bar that was serving four varieties of beer - Local Lager, Frank's Oktoberfest, Pumpkin, and Rooster Red - in pints, growlers, and flights. We tried the $5 flight of all four Becker beers, and were surprised to like them all: the caramel-hinted Oktoberfest was the memorably cool one of the bunch, with the gold-colored, light Local Lager making a good impression, the spicy, stronger Rooster Red following suit, and the Pumpkin neither grabbing nor turning us off. There are apparently four other beers offered there, three only seasonally, and we're now curious to see whether they're as good as the others. Based on what it was offering in mid-October, the Brewing Company building was pretty close to packed on an early Sunday afternoon, and customers were asking the bartenders how early and late they were open so that they could plan to return with friends. We understood why.
This isn't to say that all the alcohol on the premises was good. In addition to the beers, we tried five of the Vizcarra wines at a $2 tasting, and felt pretty much the same as we had before: the fruit wines such as the blueberry Becker Blue and Spiced Apple were below par given some of the good to great alternatives produced around here, and that opinion's apparently not just ours - we overheard someone next to us saying "the fruit wines are not good here" as they finished a tasting. Similarly, the other wines we sampled - Barrelled Over Niagara and Erie Canal Catawba - wouldn't rate our attention again given Niagara and Catawba grape wines we've enjoyed at other local wineries. That having been said, the lines of people at the Vizcarra section of the Apple Barn, a large building with picked apples and produce on one side and numerous wine tasting and selling counters elsewhere, suggested that there's a great synergy between Becker's varied fruit, vegetable, beer, and wine offerings. You can show up at the Farms expecting one thing, and discover three or four others.
The Cider Barn was one of them. Small and with a long, out-the-door line, this converted barn has a donut-making room on its left, a fridge full of cider on its right, and a sales counter in the middle. Freshly made donuts were selling for 80 cents each or $7.25 per dozen, with cider going for $4.50 per gallon. We tried the cider - nice enough - but came for the donuts, which someone in line claimed had been made with cider. This was exciting but inaccurate, said the lady at the counter, but we grabbed originals, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice donuts anyway, all thick with dough and sugary without a hint of glossy glaze - handmade in looks and fact. They were like eating ring-shaped churros with varying degrees of spice, the originals barely any, the pumpkin spice only mildly flecked with spice and pumpkin, and the cinnamon one plenty. Great, no, but interestingly old-fashioned and filling, yes.
There was more. In another building was a pie and muffin nook that was low on pies and less than enthralling in the muffin department; yet another housed a restaurant with some simple hot foods and another long line for those who were hungry for lunch. And of course, there were the farm attractions - for free, you get access to some goats and picturesque places to snap shots of tractors, pumpkins, and the like; we were so taken with everything described above that we never wound up trying to pick the apples we'd talked about on the way over. Come next June, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries will become available, with blueberries and peaches following in July and August.
But September and October seem to be good times to visit. During those months, and assuming that you're willing to pay an admission fee, there's a Pumpkin Fiesta complete with a maze, pony and hay rides, pig races, and a bounce house. It's all just… nice. Charming, in a way. And worthy of another visit. The Pumpkin Fiesta lasts for only one more weekend as of the date of this article, but if Becker Brewing Company keeps making those good beers, we'd imagine that bar will have a shot at staying busy year-round. If nothing else, we'll be back for the fresh fruit next summer, for sure.