CRAFT NOTES HIGHLIGHTS ESSENTIAL LOCAL CRAFTSMEN FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO MINNESOTA CULTURE.
When Sociable Cider owners Jim & Wade had corporate gigs, they wanted nothing more than to ditch the ties and work in a fun industry. I spoke with Jim Watkins about how they made their dream come true, the transition and how they’ve carved a very unique niche here in NE Minneapolis and MN’s Craft Beer industry.
SOCIABLE’S DECIDEDLY DIFFERENT TAKE ON CIDER
Sociable uses Midwestern apples, hops and grains including sorghum and roasted malt to offer a dry, crisp cider.
Sociable’s ciders are distinctly drier than your average cider, and they get unique flavors by incorporating fresh pressed juices and other ingredients, using more traditional beer-making techniques.
PUTTING TOGETHER A CIDERY…
About 10 years ago just after college Wade and Jim got excited about brewing beer. They were following the trends like most brewers of that time, experimenting with various hops, dry-hoping, making their own mash…
However, it was Wade’s father that turned them on to cider. He’d been brewing it for the family since Wade was born, and was happy to share this honed recipe with his son (and adapted to the Freewheeler).
The biggest upgrade to owning a cidery? “Not having to wear a tie every day is a big perk” Co-owner Jim Watkins chuckled.
MAKING WHAT THEY LIKE TO DRINK
Eventually, as with many of today’s brewers, the duo started to really get in to Sour beers and clean refreshing lagers.
Jim & Wade started to brew ciders; stuff these old craft beer lovers loved to drink! Really capturing trying to make products that paired well with food and had some of the same taste profiles as some of their favorite beers.
They’d bring the cider to friends’ weddings and share at friend-bbq’s. The response was overwhelming. And although the ciders they were making were completely unique and different to a ‘traditional’ cider, their friends were going bonkers at how good it was.
When they saw the Cider Trend on the West Coast, they decided to quit their jobs and move back to MN.
At the time, Jim was kite-boarding, tutoring, and taking a year to put together the business plan. And after a good amount of work, they were able to open their NE Taproom.
It was a ‘soft opening’ tweeted out for Black Friday. They had no staff. It was just Jim & Wade working behind the bar, when as soon as the doors opened, they had to call in their wives to help slang pints.
In fact, they had to run bare bones for a whole year, eventually bringing on their 1st employee, an old friend from college, Nico Tonks, who had moved back to MN from TX to help start Fair State Brewing.
He helped them take smaller-sized cider batches and convert them to large scale; enough so that Sociable was able to supply about 25 Tap accounts around the Twin Cities.
WINERY VS. BREWERY
MN has some funny laws. While the Surly Bill was resulting in Tap Rooms springing up all over the place, “Ciders” were still defined, by law, as “Wineries” (which cannot operate Tap Rooms).
However, when Sociable started filling out the paperwork, they realized that their processes, so closely matched to a brewery (making a mash instead of just fermenting juice), that they were able to legally classify their product as “brewing” and
Jim offered me a little education on the craft of cider-making…
“‘Craft’ is about making something by hand. Producing the highest-quality product that is unique and special…” – Jim Watkins.
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Most of the cideries you know; your Angry Orchards or Woodchuck use a juice concentrate. This allows them to make a “macro-like” product that is consistently the same every time.
Concentrates are cheap, easy to store, and consistent. During production, they get broken down to just the sugars, giving off much of the apple-essence (which coincidentally ends up in Jolly Ranchers).
Sociable Cider, however, is committed to using Fresh-Pressed, Midwestern Apples. Because of this, they are always delivering a “decidedly different” batch of hand-made cider each and every time.
A big West Coast trend is “dry-hopping” ciders to give them the “grassy” dry flavor reminiscent of an IPA. Socialble’s Hop-A-Wheelie is the owner’s favorite and recommended!
Another thing, besides just being an overall fun industry and “not having to wear a tie,” is the collaboration.
Maybe because it’s part of the name, ‘Sociable,’ but they seem to be leading the charge in barrel-trading. That is, working with various other breweries and distilleries to make more aged products, storing them in the barrels to bring out new flavors. (Read more about barrel-aging at The Growler).
SOCIABLE CIDER WERKS
1500 Fillmore Street NE | 612-758-0105