How do we discern a life well-lived? Is it only at the end when we are permitted to reflect that we are able to quantify what one has done for others in order to verify a significance? Or can our quality-of-being be evaluated in a moment?
Red Cypress Brewery, a prominent member of the Winter Garden community, has shut its doors after just four short years of providing inventive, carefully nuanced craft beers to its loving supporters. And with the craft beer community being so tightly knit, seeing a member drop out of the race for thirst-quenching infamy is a real heartbreaker.
Although opening a bar might always seem like a risky endeavor, microbrewing has proven to be much more than a fad and Floridians have shown up time and again in gleeful anticipation of the next space-restricted hobbyists to start utilizing their garages to house their cars instead of their passions, and an untimely end seems to come as more of a shock than if it were "just a bar."
And still, with craft beer on an unparalleled rise, some of the mighty may fall before we’re quite ready to say goodbye. Soon, we won’t be seeing Spook Hill or Devil’s Chair at our local grocery stores and we’ll wonder what happened to that matte-finished, boldly-colored, sometimes subtly-Floridian artwork that used to be a welcome break from the otherwise indistinct quilt of humdrum can designs.
But is this creative corner of our collective subconscious dying for good? Or is there yet a way for us to enlighten our senses in much of the same way? Although—at least for the time being (we don't know the full story just yet)—you may not be able to enjoy some of Red Cypress’s fine selections anymore, Central Florida still has a strong foothold in one of today’s finest art forms. Craft brewing is a giant with a ceaseless appetite and as Floridans, we are delighted to keep the decades-old industry well-fed.
So if you were truly one of Red Cypress’s die-hard fans, then I am here to offer you one practical solution to a very adult problem: Sideward Brewing.
Sideward Brewing was founded by brothers Garrett and Austin Ward, as well as former Redlight Redlight manager, Mandy Protheroe. An ever-prevalent dream for the trio, it was only a matter of time before Sideward became the reality that they’d always wanted and opening the brewery has certainly been a dream come true.
“But what does all this have to do with the closing of Red Cypress?” You might ask. Well, that answer comes in the form of Sideward’s head brewer, Garrett Ward. Closing in on a decade of brewing experience, Ward has gained insight from the likes of Ron Raike (a seasoned veteren in the craft beer community) as his former apprentice, been the head brewer for Cask and Larder, and (most notably for the sake of this article) was the original head brewer for Red Cypress Brewery.
And although the two companies are entirely separate entities, you might find it promising that someone who brought a cherished line of unique beers to Winter Springs, is creating some of his best work yet in Orlando’s Milk District.
Debuting with their flagship IPA, Space Camp, Sideward Brewing has already grasped the attention of a community that was longing for a fresh, young craft brew hub. The Milk District was no slouch in the craft beer world before Sideward showed up—just a half-block away is the always steady crowd favorite: Sportstown, offering craft beer at an incredible price, alongside billiards, darts, ping-pong, and more. Down Bumby is Barley & Vine Biergarten, with a very unique selection of beers in a traditional beer garden atmosphere, and around the corner is the new Whippoorwill Beer House & Package Store, which features an extremely well-priced bottle shop and an extensive, rotating draft list in a very relaxed environment.
Add Sideward to that mix, as well as some great eateries like the new Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market—which offers fresh cold-cut sandwiches, imported Italian groceries, and traditional, homemade Italian fare—as well as one of Orlando’s favorite assemble-as-you-go Mexican restaurants, Gringos Locos, and the Milk District is defining walkability in Orlando.
But what makes Sideward different? Well, I spoke with Mandy Protheroe and I gathered that the short answer is: mentality. “We are always asking ourselves how to be better,” she said. And she didn’t just mean in terms of beer. “Ultimately, we want to provide (our guests with)...the whole package. Everything from the environment to the excellent food to the drinks...and not just beer, but our house-made cidres and wine selection as well.” We spoke for a while and I saw passion in Protheroe that clearly trickled down to the rest of the team.
And in my experience, the hospitality was a major component as well. I felt so welcomed in a place that is so much less about churning out product than it is about welcoming in friends.
The enthusiasm goes both ways. “Seeing people excited about the brand...is a testament to the beer community,” said Protheroe. She, and the Sideward team are just as excited about the future as are the regular patrons. “I’m excited to see what Garrett comes up with next," she finished, as curious as I was.
So how do we discern a life well-lived? For all of you Sandlot fans out there, is Red Cypress a hero, or a legend?
Perhaps we never know for sure, and Red Cypress may be both. Perhaps some of us will remember the good times we had on those glossy, crimson floors up in Winter Garden and not need any further closure. And perhaps this isn’t the end, but something of a transition into a different version of the future then we might have expected. Or, perhaps, the legacy might never die and Sideward might take up some of Red Cypress’s core beers under their own label. We really don’t know at this point.
But what we do know is that the determined, ingenuitive new brewery is finding a welcome place in one of Orlando’s most creative communities. We know that the team at Sideward is as excited as we are to see what this next chapter in Florida’s craft beer story has in store for us.
And we know that there is still so much life in this great industry. Openings and closings are just hellos and goodbyes as we travel throughout the world, asking our closest companions to share a drink and a thought. And so with that, I implore you to gather your friends at Sideward, for it is in good company that we’ll find that our lives are well-lived.