Amid Beer Boom, A Hard Cider Taproom Comes To Mpls

Amid Beer Boom, A Hard Cider Taproom Comes To Mpls

Sociable Cider Werks hopes to open a taproom and begin selling its hard cider products commercially by late December.

Since the passage of the so-called “Surly Bill,” taprooms have been popping up around the Twin Cities, where local brewers can now sell their beer directly to thirsty consumers.

The fast-paced growth has led some to question whether the industry could near a saturation point, but two local entrepreneurs believe they’ve actually found an untapped niche in the market: hard cider.

Wade Thompson and Jim Watkins are gearing up to launch Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood, a stone’s throw from 612 Brew and Indeed Brewing Company.

The men, longtime friends who met at Carleton College in Northfield, both went on to work in the financial services industry in New York but decided a few years ago to return to the Twin Cities, where they began making hard cider in a garage.

Now, they’re planning to commercialize their products. With Sociable Cider Werks, they plan to sell both traditional hard ciders and “apple graffs”—which are made using both apple cider and malt adjunct that is typically used in the beer-making process. Basically, it’s a blend that is comparable to fruit beers, but Thompson said Sociable Cider Werks’ products are less sweet than many fruit beers that are currently on the market.

The company’s more traditional hard ciders, meanwhile, will not be sweetened using juice concentrate like some competitors use, Thompson added. It’s sourcing its apples from an orchard in Lake City called Pepin Heights.

Due to its use of brewing processes in creating apple graffs, Sociable Cider Werks is actually licensed as a brewery, which Thompson said is advantageous, as it allows the company to take advantage of the new taproom license.

The company is renovating an existing building in Northeast Minneapolis to house its taproom, where in addition to its cider products, it will sell some house-made beer. Its flagship products include a “dry apple graff” called Freewheeler and a “stout apple graff” called Broken Spoke.

Sociable Cider Werks is planning a soft launch in November and is hoping to open its taproom and begin selling its products commercially in mid- to late December. (In addition to selling its products at its taproom, the company hopes to sell its ciders at local bars and restaurants and eventually put them in 16-ounce cans.)

The company’s website indicates that the taproom will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, once it's up and running.

The graff products will contain about 6.5 percent alcohol, while the more traditional ciders will be in the 7 percent to 7.5 percent range, Thompson said.

“We think the Midwest is lagging behind a little bit in hard cider production,” Thompson said. (Crispin Cider was founded in Minnesota and was acquired last year by beer giant MillerCoors; meanwhile, there are also Minnesota orchards that produce their own ciders.)

“When we looked at the growth in craft beer and also taprooms, being able to take part in that, it was a now-or-never thing,” Thompson said, adding that he believes Sociable Cider Werks will be the first hard cider taproom in the Midwest.