As Minnesota's craft-beer landscape grows faster than your holiday-season waistline, the local hard cider scene has stayed undesirably thin. However, Wade Thompson and Jim Watkins are throwing their hats into the bushel with Sociable Cider Werks, a new cidery in brewery-fertile northeast Minneapolis.
"Being in the neighborhood that we are, there are a lot of great breweries around, so we're bringing something different to the experience," Thompson said last month.
While the duo's hard ciders and apple graffs (a mixture of beer wort and cider) aren't quite finished, they quietly opened their 1,100-square-foot taproom on Black Friday, offering nano-batch beers brewed on a two-barrel system. Until Sociable's ciders are officially ready in late December or early January, Thompson said it's more of a soft opening.
Once the Northeast cider house is fully functioning, the plan is to have six to eight taps with a selection of two or three graffs, plus a few small-run, taproom-only beers. Sociable's core flavors will be a dry apple graff called Freewheeler, and Broken Spoke, an apple graff/milk stout mash-up. "Nobody's really been doing graffs before, so there's a lot of different directions you can take this stuff, and we're pretty excited to explore it," Thompson said.
Thompson said graffs usually take about two months to produce, with a secondary aging process that lasts four to six weeks. He hopes to add a canning line in late January and distribute apple-based blends.
Located at 1500 NE. Fillmore St., just blocks from 612Brew and Indeed Brewing, it stands to reason that Sociable Cider Werks, with its 900-square-foot patio and bocce court, could become a regular stop on the popular northeast Minneapolis taproom tour. From the sounds of it, both Thompson and Watkins have been making microbrew excursions themselves. "Jim and I have been living in Northeast for the past three, four years, so we've been hitting up all those places since they've been opening," Thompson said.
Bent beers launched
After making its beerfest debut this summer, Bent Brewstillery is bringing its beer to market with two release parties this weekend, where owner Bartley Blume will unleash his Star Wars-riffing Dark Fatha (an "emperial" stout) and his Nordic Blonde ale. The first is at Grumpy's Roseville (4-8 p.m. Fri., 2801 N. Snelling Av., Roseville, 651-379-1180), not far from where he contract brews at Pour Decisions while searching for his own hybrid brewery/distillery (Blume is vetting options in Roseville and St. Paul). Stout's Pub hosts the second (3-8 p.m. Sat., 1611 W. Larpenteur Av., Falcon Heights, 651-789-8888) with the same beers for sampling, and merch giveaways.
Uptown vodka bar
Hammer & Sickle, a new Uptown vodka bar from Lyndale Tap House owner Gene Suh, has pegged a Dec. 16 grand opening date. The bar and lounge is moving into the 2,500-square-foot space formerly home to Kinsen. General manager Dustin House said they will offer more than 60 types of vodkas, including six house-infused varieties. About as surprising as a Vladimir Putin power grab, Hammer & Sickle will offer Motherland- and Eastern European-inspired food to help soak up those spirits.
1300 Lagoon Av., Mpls., 612-367-4035, www.hammerandsicklempls.com.
Holy water & tonic
While the atheistic Soviet Union may not have been cool with a spiritually branded neutral grain spirit, a local company recently introduced one. Last week Twin Cities businessman Marc Grossfield, founder of Tzfat Spirits of Israel, christened his new vodka brand, Aviv 613, with a private launch party at Aria. Grossfield has teamed up with fourth-generation master distiller Yossi Gold, who makes the premium vodka in Tzfat, Israel, using water from Lake Kinneret — the biblical Sea of Galilee — before shipping it stateside. Aviv 613 is currently available at select retailers.
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars, beer and nightlife.