• Allison van Tilborgh

[Historic Downtown Sanford] A Vegan Guide to Eating at Dees Brothers Brewery

Located across the Historic Wayne Dench theater sits a 100+-year-old warehouse that has been converted into Sanford’s newest brewery: Dees Brothers. Once upon a time, the 6,400 square feet space was home to a Buick dealer and a paint store, miraculously surviving a raging fire fifty years ago. Opening in August 2021, Dees Brothers (also known as Dees Bros) serves on-site beers and a diverse menu in a spacious, relaxed environment, which fosters community and great conversations.


If you are vegan, vegetarian, or plant-curious the one thing you absolutely need to know about Dees Bros is that they value inclusive food options that can cater to you while also being incredibly delicious! We counted a whopped sixteen vegan items to choose from, including a 100% vegan-modifiable dessert menu!


Why all the vegan options? The founders and their wives are not vegan, nor are their close friends. Besides a brief vegetarian stint by Michael, the concept is hard to wrap ones head around. We learned, however, that Dees Brothers purport so many vegan options simply because they believe in inclusive, delicious food and want to serve the growing number of Sanfordites who enjoy a plant-based lifestyle. We can get behind that!


My husband and I visited Dees Bros, met with the two brothers (Ben and Michael) who founded the Brewery, and sampled several of their vegan offerings from their loaded Sloppy Dogg to their Ultimate Warm Brownie Sundae. Join us on our exploration of this brewery’s surprisingly vast number of vegan items!



BEER

It’s no shock that Sanford is home to a thriving beer scene. Though Ben and Michael (the founders of Dees Bros) opened up their brick and mortar location in 2021, they have been producing beer in their garage for just over a decade. Their philosophy: make good, easy-to-go-down beers that people enjoy, and don’t worry about impressing anyone. In Michael’s words, “Nice clean, tasty beer.”


All but one of the beers they had on tap were vegan (with the exception of their Milk Stout). For those wondering--not all beers are vegan because many use bone char (yes, animal bones) in their beer filtering process. Some beers also use milk in their stouts. The more you know!


I asked Michael which beers he recommended, so we tried their Dead on Arrival and Coconut Lime Gose, which were both very delicious in completely different ways.





Dead on Arrival was dark, sultry, and strongly tasted of both coffee and chocolate. I will be the first to admit that I am not a versed beer drinker, but I very much enjoyed this as a post-meal beer. It felt akin to a dessert wine but in the beer world.


The Coconut Lime Gose could not be more different. Pale and tart, this bright citrus beer first hits you with fresh lime flavors and then finishes with a toasty coconut aftertaste which is very pleasant. I would recommend this beer with some of their lighter dishes, such as their salads.


MUNCHIES

From their munchies section on the menu, we ordered their Swedish Cucumbers (aka Pressgurka). Michael told us that his wife, who was extremely pivotal in their choice to include vegan food options, suggested adding the Swedish Cucumbers as an homage to her grandmother who would always make these growing up. The dish is made with thinly sliced cucumbers in vinegar and spices.





The Swedish Cucumbers were cold and tangy, refreshing beside some of the heavier foods we were eating. You can also try the Swedish Cucumbers as a side/garnish with several of their other items, such as their hot dogs which I will review below.


SALADS

Because of my husband’s love of avocado on salads, we decided to enjoy the vegan version of the Orchard Dreams salad which included sliced apples, juicy purple grapes, Swedish cucumbers, vegan bacon, and of course avocado, all on a bed of spring mix. It came with a delicious, tart fuji apple dressing.





In a word, I would describe this salad as “fresh”. As a vegan, I know not all salads are made equal. Some salads are soggy, while others are dry. But I enjoyed this one. Each bite was crunchy and full of tart apple flavor, balanced out with the smokey vegan bacon bits spread throughout.


PREMIUM SIDES

Now onto the two real kickers on the Dees Bros menu: the Plant-Based Chorizo Chili and Vegan Mac n’ Cheese.


From what we’ve heard, the Plant-Based Chorizo Chili is one of the most popular items on the menu and is certainly the item that Michael, one of the two brothers, recommends the most.


Upon first bite, the chili is warm, flavorful, and even a bit spicy. It’s full of texture and quite filling for its modest size upon first glance. When you order this item fully vegan, they will even put on vegan sour cream and cheese, which perfectly balances out any harsh spice you might experience from the bowl. My husband and I can attest: this chili lives up to the hype! We would come back just for this dish!





The Vegan Mac n’ Cheese is a penne pasta drenched in hot, steamy, stretchy vegan cheese. It’s pleasantly peppery and decadent, with tempting ripples of oily vegan cheese throughout. For vegans who miss Mac n’ Cheese, this is definitely a good one to try.




PUPPERS

Everyone loves a good hot dog. It’s part of the American experience. Making a vegan hot dog at home is usually not too difficult (vegan hot dog options grow each day) but finding a delicious pupper that can be served to you at a restaurant continues to be a struggle.


We elected to try the vegan version of the Sloppy Dog which game with Dees Bros’s famous vegan chili, vegan cheese, vegan bacon, roasted peppers, and onions. Talk about YUM! If you reminisce about chili-cheese dogs, you may have just found your match.





Our hot dog was served with sea salt chips (not pictured) which were, by default, vegan. They also gave us a small side of the Swedish Cucumbers.


SWEETS

Dees Brothers Brewery is the only non-vegan restaurant I can think of that has a 100% vegan-modifiable dessert menu.


When I say vegan-modifiable dessert menu, I don’t mean that you can swap dairy ice cream for non-dairy ice cream, I really just mean you need to request vegan whipped cream instead of dairy whipped cream. That’s right, their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Gooey Brownie, Ice Cream Scoops, and Ultimate Warm Brownie Sunday are ALL vegan, with the exception of the whipped cream!


Although we were DYING to try all their vegan desserts, our stomachs could only handle so much after trying so many delicious meals. So we tried the Ultimate Warm Brownie Sundae!





My first reaction to this brownie when holding the plate in my hands was “warm”. They do not kid when they tell you they will serve this baby warm, with coconut ice cream slowly melting on their gooey chocolatey brownie.


I do not exaggerate when I say that eating this brownie sundae was a euphoric experience. I’ve tried a LOT of vegan ice cream sundaes in my day, but I think this one may just take the cake (or I suppose the “brownie” in this case). The contrast between their warm, indulgent brownie with the icy-cold, smooth vanilla ice cream and pillowy soft whipped cream, and dark, liquidy syrup was everything I could have wanted out of a dessert!


I will be back for you, Ultimate Warm Brownie Sundae.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

As mentioned, Dees Bros has sixteen vegan food menu items and (hopefully) counting. We were only able to try six of them, but I thought I’d include honorable mentions for dishes we hope to try on our next visit:

  • Roasted Garlic Hummus w/ House Toast Points, Chips, and Fresh Cut Veggies

  • Savory Dees Nuts with a Blend of Herbs, Garlic, and Spices

  • Spent Grain Pretzel w/ Spent Grain from Brewing Beer

  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

  • The Gatherer Sandwich (goat cheese subbed for hummus)

NOTES

Please make sure if you visit Dees Brothers Brewery to always mention you are vegan. Many of their veganizable dishes use dairy cheese or sour cream by default, so just mention that you are vegan and would like their non-dairy whipped cream, sour cream, cheese, or bacon.


Also, their menu has gone through several iterations, some including clearly defined vegan symbols, and some omitting these--but all you must do is ask the friendly staff if you are confused. They have so many options and want to serve you as best as they can!


CONCLUSION

We very much enjoyed speaking with Ben and Michael, the founders of Dees Brothers Brewery, and are very ecstatic that they have made vegan menu options a priority for their establishments. Sanford is on the rise and with it, many vegans, vegetarians, or plant-curious folks have flocked to our city to reside or visit on the weekends. Moves like this help us all!


Please consider visiting Dees Brothers Brewery in the near future and enjoy their vegan beers, chili, and desserts! You won’t regret it!


Originally published on Historic Downtown Sanford (2022).

Original link: https://www.historicdowntownsanford.com/dees-brothers-brewery-vegan-friendly/?fbclid=IwAR0moQDTSav6MDvaqKktsECKxFpvbhmMPV6xrF_mA8c4ttMjnLZ7AEJuJ2U

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