Sociable Cider Werks on beer, a bocce ball court, and when they'll be open

Building is still a "werk" in progress, but Sociable will be brewing soon
Building is still a "werk" in progress, but Sociable will be brewing soon
Courtesy Sociable Cider Werks
Craft beer is still a booming business in the Twin Cities, but with our reputation for producing America's most popular apple varieties, like Honeycrisp, Zestar, and SweeTango, it's also a natural fit for a craft cider house. 

"For whatever reason, craft cider is big on the coasts," explains Jim Watkins, co-owner of the upcoming Sociable Cider Werks."But for the most part if you want to buy a cider here, you're buying it from a macro brewery whether you know it or not." 

Watkins and co-owner Wade Thompson are aiming to change that by opening Minnesota's very first hard cider brewery and taproom. The Hot Dish caught up with Watkins to learn more about what makes their cider so appealing to beer drinkers, the beauty of keeping things small, and when they plan to get brewing.

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The Hot Dish: Where exactly are you setting up shop and what will the taproom space be like?
Jim Watkins:  We will be in Northeast Minneapolis right near Dangerous Man Brewing. The building is from the 1920s. We heard through the grapevine that it has been a printing house, a place where people built boats, and apparently the building next door used to be stables for police horses. All told it's just shy of 6,000 square feet. About 1,000 square feet of that will make up the taproom and have capacity for about 60 customers at a time. We are looking to keep things smallish so we can keep an eye on the quality of the product. There will also be an outdoor area with a bocce ball court. 

HD: What makes your ciders different? 
JW: Wade's homemade Haralson apple hard ciders are totally different than what you get in the store. We think that cider needs to get a different reputation, not just as a beer alternative. We like to think of it as another style on the beer spectrum where the range is from a heavy, robust stout to light, crisp, champagne-like cider.

The biggest difference with our ciders is that they are all actually apple graffs, a malty, slightly hopped cider. We use some beer brewing ingredients in each, so malt, hops, and sorghum for our fully gluten-free products. When you talk to beer drinkers they tend to think ciders are too sweet so we are hoping to entice them with those different characteristics. For people who already like cider, this is something a little different.

HD: What products will you be launching with? 
JW:We will start with a traditional cider called Freewheeler that is quite dry and effervescent. We add cane sorghum and some hops for body and bitterness. Then we will do our Broken Spoke, which is a blend of milk stout and cider. It's really interesting because the two on their own are so different and once you blend them they are very complementary. We arent expecting that one to be a best seller, but it does showcase all the different things cider can be.

HD: Will you be using Minnesota apples to make your cider? 
JW: Even though the apple culture in Minnesota is so great, we aren't necessarily the biggest producers. We are mostly trying to use apples out of Pepin Heights orchard in Lake City but sourcing some from elsewhere in the Midwest.

HD: What's your opening schedule looking like?
JW: The best answer I can give right now is that it depends on city licensing. We know we will be well into the process of making ciders by November 1, but production cycle is about eight weeks long. We will be doing a few of our own beers, too, and those might be ready first. So I think we will be looking at late November opening for now. 

Sociable Cider Werks
1500 Fillmore St. NE., Minneapolis

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