April 16, 2016
Sociable opened in late 2013 in NE Minneapolis, driven by the vision that “Cider should be much more than the lightly-alcoholic, made-from-concentrate, sweet apple juice boxes that currently dominate the shelf space. Sociable ciders are well carbonated, dry and always made from real apples. Simply put, they should be enjoyed like great draught beer. Sociable is not just hard cider, we’re much more.”
They’ve taken a bit of a different approach to ciders than many producers. Brewers Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson found themselves unimpressed with the body and bitterness of brews made with the most widely-available cider apples, so they use grains and hops to provide those qualities. Some of their ciders are naturally gluten free (by using gluten-free grains such as sorghum), while others are produced using grains that have undergone an enzymatic process to remove gluten. They utilize a combination of sweet and sharp apple varieties produced in the Upper Midwest by Pepin Heights Orchards.
Sociable Cider Werks
1500 Fillmore St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Beer (Variety, Self Brew/Local, Taste)
IDK: I admit that I don’t know nearly as much about cider as I do about beer. Luckily, Sociable has both. I had tried their flagship Freewheeler before and enjoyed it, and their fresh hop Hop-A-Wheelie was one of the best ciders I’ve ever had. They had 5 ciders (2 of which were their base cider with infusions) and 4 beers on tap during our visit. Sadly, no Hop-A-Wheelie. They offer flights with 4 tasters, my favorite format, and I split my flight between ciders and beers.
- Freewheeler Dry Cider (3.5 out of 5): Light, crisp, and refreshing. Perfect for a warm, sunny spring day.
- Saison (3.25): Flavor wasn’t bad, but it had less of the distinctive saison yeast flavor and more malt character than I would have expected.
- New Zealand IPA (2.75): The taste was fine–mostly tropical hoppiness–but it didn’t have any aroma, which was pretty disappointing in an IPA.
- Lavender Botanical Infused Freewheeler (2): This just didn’t work for me–I liked the idea, but the lavender was overwhelming and I couldn’t finish it. I tried Dan’s bitter lemon Freewheeler infusion, and while I didn’t like it as much as the regular version, it was much better than this.
Overall score: 3 out of 5 (rounding up because I know their score would have been higher with Hop-A-Wheelie available)
DHM: Something that I’ve come to love in the summer is a nice, crisp, not overly-sweet cider on a hot day. Saturday – was going to be a perfect opportunity to get out into the Minneapolis spring air and have some delicious cider. I chose all of the cider choices in my flight. The Freewheeler, The Freewheeler Lavender, The Coffee Cart, The Fat Bike Mulled Cider, and later I had the Bitter Lemon infused Freewheeler.
Now – to be fair (similar to Ian) I am a big fan of Freewheeler, Hop-a-wheelie, and the Spoke Wrench Stout. Aside from The Freewheeler – none of these were available. The ones available were pale in comparison. I’m at a bit of a loss on how to describe my feelings on the the three flavored options. They weren’t… Bad. They were just… Underwhelming. Ever drink Freewheeler with potpourri in your nose? That’s kind of how the Lavendar one tasted. Ever put too much Apple-flavored syrup in your coffee? That’s how the Coffee Cart tasted. The Fat Bike Mulled Cider was good. Hard to go wrong with a tried and tested recipe. Except Mulled Cider (for me) is a hot drink. This seemed strange.
The Bitter Lemon was my final drink. That was a pleasant surprise both in dryness and in bitterness. However, in the end, I believe it was just another infusion. Since I know Sociable makes some great ciders – I’ll round up like Ian; but preface that you should check their tap list online before you go. 3 of 5.
Aggregate Score: 3 of 5.
Environment (Noise, Service, General Ambiance)
IDK: Since it was a lovely spring day they had the doors open to their patio, which meant plenty of room for kids, dogs, and adults. Without the patio space, it might have been a little too crowded for strollers. We started at a table indoors, then went outside and let the little ones roll around on a blanket in the grass. “Dog” (or something approximating it) is by far my son’s favorite word, and he had ample opportunity to practice it in the outdoor space.
Noise was not an issue, and service was fast and friendly at the bar. It would have been nice to have some sort of shaded area on the patio–we had to cover the babies in sunscreen and hats, which wasn’t a big deal, but we might have stayed longer if there had been shade. We didn’t see any other infants during our visit, but there were some older kids. 3.5 of 5.
DHM: Agreeing whole-heartedly with Ian here. Plenty of space, indoors and out. Nice grassy area, but did need some shaded space. There was a food truck and they’d walk food over to you so you didn’t have to wait holding a baby. 4 of 5
Aggregate Score: 3.75 of 5
Facilities (Changing tables in bathrooms, kid “area”)
IDK: Things started to go downhill pretty quickly in this department. I had been lucky to avoid diaper changing emergencies in our blog outings thus far, but as soon as we ordered our flights I realized I had a situation to deal with. I took my son to the men’s room and, in the absence of a changing table, had to choose between using his changing mat on the floor or the counter. I chose the counter.
My options were A) between the two sinks, which I was afraid would get in the way of both sinks; or B) to the side of one of the sinks. I chose “B,” but wish I hadn’t. The counter wasn’t very deep, which gave him extra room to flail his legs around while I tried to clean him up and get the new diaper on. On his left was an automatic soap dispenser, which he repeatedly waved his arm under, soaking him and his monkey toy in foam soap.
On his right was an open electrical outlet, which proved a very tempting target for his tiny little fingers. The main waste receptacle was for compostable items only–the trash can had a lid that required manual opening, which was no easy task while holding a squirmy baby, a diaper bag, and a dirty diaper. The baby was no worse for the wear–he thought the cascade of foaming soap was hilarious–but by that time I desperately needed a drink.
No high chairs in the taproom, which is not a deal-breaker, but they’re nice to have. As nice as the outdoor area is, there is a stone ledge between it and the parking lot that could be pretty dangerous for more mobile kids. 0 of 5.
DHM: Pretty much what Ian said. We did notice the rock wall ledge that separates the elevated patio area and the parking lot. There wasn’t a railing which isn’t necessarily good for babies or drunk adults. (I mean, they’re basically the same thing anyway…)
I was lucky enough to avoid the dreaded diaper change – but having been to a few places that do have changing tables and well thought out designs – this one was lacking. Understandable as it is a bar not made for babies – but still would be nice to allow it for parents that would like to bring kids with. We did not check the women’s room, so out of sheer negligence on our part I’ll give it a 1 of 5.
Aggregate Score: 1 of 5
IDK: I don’t recall what their non-alcoholic options are, and we were without the services of Daniel, our resident teetotaler. We had a request to make note of beverages that would appeal to older kids, and we will be sure to do so next time. N/A
DHM: Again with the negligence on our part – however I’m assuming any food truck that shows up at a brewery will have at least some soda (pop). N/A
PatP Final Say
The overall ambience was pleasant and there were some hits with the beer/cider, but also some misses. I believe it is the only cider-focused taproom in the Cities (until Urban Forage opens), so it could be worth a stop for cider lovers, but you might be happier leaving the kids with a sitter. There are better options if you’re planning to bring your kids along.