Two years ago Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson set out to bring craft cider to the Twin Cities. This was a risk due to the heavy dose of “alcopops” we’ve been served for years here in the midwest. “It’s [cider industry] been driven by The Boston Beer Company. That’s a totally different product” says Watkins.
Education was the first order of business for the duo. “We just wanted to teach Minneapolis about good cider, and we wanted to do something a little more authentic” according to Watkins. They began with using real apples from Pepin Heights Orchards located in Lake City, Minnesota and began brewing up some recipes. On opening night Jim and Wade both remember having to pour ciders right off the fermenters because the ciders weren't quite ready. They had a couple of their beers available but they were scrambling to get ready for the taproom opening.
In two years Sociable has weathered a couple changes in their brewing staff including Mike Willaford who has since gone out west to continue his brewing career. Now John Kirkman is in charge of brewing operations and he’s been experimenting quite a bit with their beer program as well. One such experiment was the Coffee Stout which featured no coffee at all. “You don’t get that caffeine buzz you’d get with coffee” says Kirkland.
Going forward they plan on utilizing some bourbon barrels from Breckenridge Distillery to age some of both their beer and cider. “Cider is a great vehicle for barrel flavors” according to Kirkland. “It picks up vanilla flavors in less than two months.” Some of the other fun things they’ve tried are a Japanese cider which was made with a sake yeast and honey from Northeast Minneapolis, and a smoke cider which was a bit heavy on the smoked peat character for me. It reminded me of Scotch.
Going forward the plan is to make a lot more seasonal batches which will probably include a mulled cider which will be served both warm and cold. Jim also stated that he thinks that cider pairs well with food and if far more than just a seasonal product.
Whatever the plan is, rest assured that Sociable Cider Werks has thus far been a success story. A story born in the Twin Cities craft beer boom and destined to put quality cider on the map here in the midwest. “It’s been successful for two years, and we currently have a waiting list [accounts] for our cider. It was a risk but we’re excited to be the pioneers” said Watkins.