Have you noticed that there are a lot of microbreweries popping up lately? Just in the downtown area there’s Orlando Brewing, which is sort of the granddaddy of local beer makers at this point, newcomer Rockpit Brewing in Sodo, Ocean Sun Brewing on Curry Ford West, where Hourglass Brewing will soon open, Ten10 Brewing Company in Mills 50, and downtown’s Orange County Brewers, which can’t seem to hold on to a partner food provider.
Now comes Sideward Brewing to the Milk District, taking over the backend of the building at the corner of Bumby Avenue and Robinson Street that also holds Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market. Sideward is not the biggest local brewer when compared with some of the others mentioned above. But it has two things the others don’t.
One is a license to produce cider on the property as well as beer. (Cider production requires a winemaking license, for some reason.)
The other thing Sideward has to its advantage is some pretty good food to go along with the beers.
Sideward is owned by Garrett Ward, who serves as the head brewer; Mandy Protheroe, general manager; and Ward’s brother Austin, who oversees the kitchen.
Sideward has done something astute with its food menu: it has kept it small. That’s not just smart because the facility itself isn’t very big but also because the focus is on the beverages. Too many bars get tripped up by trying to offer too much. It’s better to focus on a few items and do them very well. And that’s what Sideward’s kitchen does.
At least with the sandwiches I sampled on one of my two visits there.
The Roast Beef sandwich was served on buttered sourdough bread with plenty of thinly sliced medium-rare beef, a swab of pimento cheese and a bit of horseradish infused mayonnaise. It also had chopped onions, tomatoes and arugula. The arugula, lightly dressed, added a peppery note that played well with the sourdough.
I would have dinged the kitchen on the Cubano Sandwich it offered as a special if it, too, hadn’t been so good. I was initially appalled that it was served on a pretzel roll. I happen to like pretzel rolls but they really have no business being part of a Cuban sandwich. Also, instead traditional yellow mustard the sandwich had whole grain mustard. The rest of the sandwich was traditional, with ham, pork and cheese plus the necessary pickles.
Then only item I didn’t much care for was the Hummus, mainly because it didn’t have much flavor. It had a nice drizzle of olive oil and was served with pita triangles and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, celery, bell peppers). But it was just bland.
The sandwiches came with a choice of sides. I liked the red cabbage slaw in a vinaigrette. And then there’s Gram’s potato salad.
Potato salads are culinary landmines, especially ones named after a family member. The problem is that just about everyone’s mother made a potato salad, and you’d be hard pressed to find two alike.
But Gram’s potato salad had me wondering: Could I possibly be related to the Ward’s grandmother? It tasted like my mom’s own. Big hunks of potatoes with eggs tossed in mayonnaise. It darn near brought tears to my eyes.
Besides those two sandwiches, Sideward offers a BLT, a turkey and a veggie version.
As for the beer, I enjoyed sipping on Sideward’s Yacht Money IPA while I waited for my food. Very hoppy with an edge, and a bit of a citrus note without being cloying.
Sideward has a bar that looks into the brewing facility and a row of communal picnic tables that look out to the patio area and the parking lot beyond.
Now, about Sideward’s logo. It’s a bit odd, a demonic looking steer with multiple horns and a third eye in the middle of its forehead (in some iterations, on the sign out front, for instance, it’s only the extra eye that you see). Garrett Ward told me that the cow image was a nod to the Milk District but with a more punk, heavy metal aesthetic. OK. I would just counsel others thinking about opening a microbrewery to have a logo design meeting before sampling the entire line of beers.
I asked Ward if he wasn’t concerned that Orlando would become oversaturated with brewpubs. He said such a point was a very long way off. “Orlando is a little bit behind the curve” in terms of microbreweries, he said. “I think there’s just an explosion in general in Orlando, and we’re just demanding attention.”
Sideward Brewing is at 210 N. Bumby Ave., Orlando. It is open late afternoon and evenings Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-866-2195.