Beer over Water

M ilford’s new Dockside Brewery had planned a March opening, right when the lockdowns began. It opened in May instead, and today, planning is often required just to get a table. 

General manager Kevin Fitzsimmons gives much of the credit for Dockside’s instant popularity to its situation on the Housatonic River, where a series of terraced, mostly outdoor dining areas offer generously spaced tables for patrons to spread out and relax. But Dockside has much more to recommend it, including nine beers of its own and a “Guest Beers” menu of 21 more, 17 of which hail from Connecticut.

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To get acquainted with Dockside’s in-house brews, my husband and I started with a four-pour flight that included Freddo, a German-style pilsner; Califragilistic, an American IPA; Feelin’ Juicy, a popular New England IPA; and Beachcomber, a “tiki beer.” That last description ought to have warned us. Beachcomber was what my husband called a “stunt beer”—too fruity and frivolous, at least for our tastes. But the other three were terrific. Freddo was crisp, easy and restorative on a hot day. The two IPAs demonstrated a nice range, from the hoppy Califragilistic with a tart grapefruit note to the slightly sweeter, more mild Feelin’ Juicy, which the menu accurately describes as having an aroma of coconut. We followed the flight with a shared pint of Dockside’s Mad Mollye Brut IPA. Our waitress summarized it as an “IPA for non-IPA drinkers,” but these IPA drinkers enjoyed it, too, as a lighter, fresher choice than its more assertive cousins.

The substantial food menu at Dockside was originally conceived on a much smaller scale, Fitzsimmons says, focused on snacking rather than dining. But the pandemic caused a pivot. Dockside expanded its food focus and also hired more waiters (we found the restaurant to be impressively well-staffed) in order to deliver a more complete experience. We tried a Pulled Pork Sandwich ($14), a saucy sandwich with lots of meat and a generous topping of crunchy coleslaw with thinly sliced green pepper. It was served on a big, puffy bun that would have benefited from being cut in half, but the whole package was still delicious. Lucy’s Tinga Tacos ($15) were three flour tacos filled with “pulled” chicken, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce and a dollop of Mexican crema. There was a touch of hot sauce in the mix, but while the individual ingredients tasted fresh, they were a bit bland in combination. Both meals were served with a tasty side of fries, lightly salted, that held up through the meal and served as great palate cleansers between beer tastings.

Dockside’s menu also includes Pizza ($14-$22), Bowls ($16-$23), Burgers ($14-$16) and a wide range of Snacks, Shareables, Hand-Helds, Soups and Salads. In addition to beer on tap, the restaurant serves cocktails, wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Patrons under 21 are welcome with a parent or guardian.

For those who would rather not eat in, Dockside is also open for curbside pickup. But eating in is part of the appeal, especially if you want to feel as if you’re part of the party. The casual dining areas are furnished mostly with picnic tables and umbrellas. The lowest level, dubbed Juicy Beach—a.k.a. the “Beach Bar” in the online reservation system—is closest to the water but farthest from the action, and the food and drink menu there is more limited. A cooling view of water, boats and sky, visible from every level, is intersected in the distance by the I-95 bridge and a smaller railroad trestle bridge beyond. It’s hard to imagine a day when a breeze wouldn’t be blowing up from the river, keeping the air moving.

We sat just inside the restaurant on the upper level, where folding glass doors were opened wide to the outdoors but the temperature was cooler. Inside, the decor picks up on the marina below, with antique outboard motors lining the room divider and wooden propellers serving as ceiling fans. Beer is served in glasses indoors, plastic cups outdoors, Fitzsimmons says, and the china originally intended for serving snacks is “all in the basement,” set aside in favor of biodegradable cardboard boxes. The result isn’t fancy, but it’s fun. Special events capitalize on the atmosphere: Monday night is movie night, Wednesdays are for trivia and Sunday mornings bring yoga onto the deck.

Reservations, which carry a two-hour time limit, are a must at Dockside. The place was busy even at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon, and parking is at a premium. It got so much “buzz” at its May opening, Fitzsimmons says, that the town of Milford required a reservation system to be put in place to avoid big groups standing in line. Even so, we waited about 10 minutes for our table, and a few other people were waiting as well.

This warm September weather and the ease of eating outdoors isn’t going to last much longer, but it looks like Dockside will.

Dockside Brewery
40 Bridgeport Ave, Milford (map)
Sun-Thurs 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11:30pm
(203) 693-3900
www.docksidebrewery.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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