Mike and Daniel Anderson are a father and son team fulfilling a dream. As the soft opening of Wichita Falls’ first brewery draws near I spoke with Daniel and some of the staff of Sidecar Brewing about this historic event.
Mike is a Gulf War Army veteran and spent eight years in the Air Force which landed him at Sheppard A.F.B. here in Wichita Falls, where he decided to call home. According to Daniel, his father has always appreciated different types of beer and the brewing process. He can remember as a kid that wherever the Army stationed him and his family, Mike would find and visit the local breweries.
When Daniel turned 21, he says, and began drinking beer, he understood the appreciation his father had for the process and the product.
One day, amid hearing that some people were saying that our town doesn’t have any cool stuff around, Mike asked Daniel, “What do you think about starting a brewery? There aren’t any cool things if nobody takes the initiative to make cool things, so why not start a brewery?” The answer to that leads us up to the soft opening of Sidecar Brewing on Friday.
It has been a long and tedious process finding out what it takes to start a brewery, starting with the local TABC, who has never processed a brewery license here before, so no one knew right off the bat what it would take. So it took a lot of research on what the state would require, what the city would require, etc. Breweries are licensed by the TABC and the ATF. Daniel says that 2 new breweries open every day, and the ATF knew exactly what to do, but it is still a long process with the permitting and such.
He also said that this location is the third one they considered for the brewery. Not admitting that it is fate, but the building is a unique, iconic, and nostalgic building, and what could be a better place for Wichita Falls’ first brewery? The building itself, as well as the equipment used to brew, is galvanized steel, and the two seemed to marry perfectly with each other. It is unique from the moment you pull into the parking lot. It was built in 2005 as the Pumpjack Diner, which explains the oil derrick in the parking lot. It is constructed with two Jerry O’Mahoney diner cars, one of which had been completely restored and documented on a History Channel show. O’Mahoney built about 2000 diner cars between 1917 and 1952, and only about 20 are still in existence.
Joe Hayes, the Master Brewer, has spent the last 13 years as a brewer in Long Island, New York. He started home brewing around 1991 in California, where he grew up. He said, “I was lucky enough to get a job in the tasting room of a local winery who had started adding beer to their wares. I got to talk beer to the people who came in for the beer side of it”. He was eventually moved into the head brewer position there. At that time California had the only brewing school in America, widely known for it’s study of wine and beer. It was there that he got his degree in food science microbiology. This enabled him to take the brewing classes, and take the Brew Masters exam which is administered by a group in London. Part of his career choice was to do something that would allow him to travel around and he wanted to experience the east coast, so he was looking around Boston and New York for a position and he landed on Long Island as a Master Brewer. While he cherished his time there, he says that he stayed longer than he had expected. He still wanted to experience other places and knew his tenure there was coming to an end. He found a job listing for Master Brewer on a website that Mike and Daniel had posted so he flew out to meet them last June and was taken in on how cool and mellow everybody was. After spending a couple of days with them his decision was made. “Sign me up,” he said.
Each craft beer that Joe brews will be named after a Texas town. Of the 10 taps at the bar, four beers will be permanent while the other six will be rotating. When one beer runs out, another will replace it. Joe has a lot of brew/pub experience, which is what he enjoys, and is excited to be working closely with CJ Tate, the new Chef of Sidecar, because the food menu will change along with the beers. Not only incorporating what food and beers match together at the table, but incorporate some of the ingredients into his recipes, which will showcase the beers that way.
CJ has been the Head Chef of some family owned restaurants, as well as Olive Garden, and is excited to be a part of the Sidecar team. He said that quality is the focus of his menu. Ingredients will be local and fresh including locally purchased me and Farmer’s Market vegetables. Nothing will be frozen and he is looking forward to creating new recipes to marry up with Joe’s beers.
Chris Welborn took me on a guided tour of the building, and the ambiance of the 1950’s diner car just surrounds you. As soon as you walk through the front door you are greeted by the large stainless steel fermenting vats behind a glass wall, witnessing the brewing process. The stamped metal walls, the base of the bar, and the cooler behind the counter are all original items. The experience of having your favorite beer/food combination, or trying the new craft beer/food combination that will be regularly rotating is a new concept for Wichita Falls and is sure to please the palate.
The soft opening of Sidecar Brewing is Friday, May 5 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. They will continue those hours each weekend until their grand opening.
The grand opening is pending the construction of the kitchen, and CJ is having it custom built to his specification and is shooting for early June completion. ~
For more information about their soft opening event visit: