Going into their fourth year, Sidetrack Brewing Company owners Dan Herr and Anne O’Neill have one main goal — making their beer even better.
To achieve that goal, they first had to acquire some new equipment, including a 7-barrel fermenter and an expanded walk-in cooler. Coming off a big year in sales, during which, Anne said, they struggled to keep up, these new items will help increase their production.
Since Sidetrack doesn’t currently do any distribution or canning, 100 percent of its sales are out of the taps in house. This led them to expand their tap tower to 10 handles (previously six). In past years, there may have been two or three beers from other breweries flowing from those taps. Moving forward, they want their own beer to be featured. This will continue to include at least one, but usually two, regular cask offerings. Although it is a challenge to do, Anne said she hopes to “make it fun” and add new flavors like fruit to the cask beers.
With not much room to expand beyond their current footprint, Dan and Anne have to get creative with their use of the space by making these adjustments, along with smaller behind-the-scenes changes that most patrons probably won’t ever see or notice. All of the moves are aimed at bringing the brewery up to a more conventional system and improve the overall customer experience.
“We just open the doors and try to make the people who come in happy,” Dan said.
Despite their space limitations, neither of the owners have any aspirations to expand to other locations.
“We know what we want to set our limits at,” Dan said. “It’s comforting to know what you’re doing without having to add all the other things (like additional taprooms).”
He pointed out that a smaller space has its advantages, like the ability to have a smaller staff for a more personal, better all-around experience for the customer.
“And, we have an awesome staff,” Anne added.
That staff came in handy during Sidetrack’s three-year anniversary party on January 26, when there was hardly an open seat inside or out on the back patio.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Dan said. “Every anniversary party we’ve had, we’ve had a great turnout.”
Joining the party was the popular ramen pop-up, Oni Noodles, who plan to be back at Sidetrack this Saturday. Additionally, there will continue to be a food truck parked outside on Friday nights, with the potential for more during the week as the weather warms up.
Now that their anniversary party is over, event-wise Dan and Anne don’t have any big plans. Although they will occasionally have live music, Dan says that it is not necessarily their model. Instead, they are more interested in supporting the local downtown community. They welcome event ideas from their customers, whether it’s to help a charity, or just an idea that’s fun for the neighborhood.
“We absolutely let our customers tell us what we’re supposed to be,” Dan said.
Much of Dan and Anne’s desire to support the community comes from having seen it grow over the past several years. Prior to the brewery’s beginnings, they owned the property with Zendo Coffee Shop as their tenant.
“When we first bought the building, it was not a very nice neighborhood,” Dan said. “(Zendo’s success) made us really realize there was desire for small business like this.”
Since then, the neighborhood has continued to grow, with a new apartment complex, nearby businesses such as the tortilla factory and turquoise museum gaining momentum, and the introduction of events such as the Downtown First Friday Art Walk that have revitalized the community.
Now, Dan said, “People are walking around all the time, (promoting) good, productive activity.”
As owner/operators, Dan and Anne do everything themselves, from sweeping the floors to doing the books, which keeps them pretty busy. I thank both of them for taking the time out of their packed schedules to meet with me and show me their new and improved behind the scenes operations.