Another day, another Midwest adventure. Every city in our region holds great stops for beer, food, and over consumption. I recently visited a sometimes-forgotten-about-state, Minnesota, and found the same delight. The area in particular? The Twin Cities, Minneapolis & Saint Paul.
On my recent visit there, I explored a few local watering holes and a cider house, Sociable Cider. During my trip, I stayed in an old hotel known as the Normandy Inn in downtown Minneapolis for my sleeping quarters. This historic hotel has been around since the 1920’s and was bought out by the Best Western company. Not only does it have an Eastern European vibe, their restaurant next door, The Normandy Kitchen, opened in the 1940’s has some of the best food in that part of town. These accommodations were wonderful and affordable while their staff was very helpful in aligning me with the locations I needed to hit the most, those that sold cider.
From these recommendations and my own trusty know-how, I fell upon some great locations in the region. I will highlight the spots that I enjoyed the most and will throw in some honorable mentions worth checking out. Each location has its own strengths that everyone should know about! My first and most interesting location of choice was the only cider house in the Minneapolis area, Sociable Cider Werks.
I reached out to one of the owners of the company and was able to connect with him before sitting down over a few ciders to discuss their journey in the cider world. Their location and building were very comfortable, having a good mix of people for the early evening time. Their cider offerings were a bit different. Since they have a brewing licensed, their ciders have a touch of beer and beer making brought into the mix. This does not mean they aren’t conscious of the gluten-free community! Their products are mostly gluten-free or have the gluten removed from their products. An enzymatic process that other breweries use can remove the gluten, opening the experience for gluten-intolerance customers. Below is a full list of ciders that they currently had on tap.
Freewheeler Dry Apple | 6.4% abv | Gluten Free
Hop-A-Wheelie Hopped Apple | 6.5% abv | Gluten Free
Spoke Wrench Cacao Apple | 6.8% abv | Gluten Removed
Training Wheels Scrumpy Apple | 6.3% abv | Gluten Free
Road Rash Shandy Apple | 6.6% abv | Gluten Free
Burnout Cucumber-Habanero | 6.4% abv | Gluten Free
Rhubarb Freewheeler Freewheeler Infusion | 6.4% abv | Gluten Free
Gin Botanical Freewheeler Freewheeler Infusion | 6.4% abv | Gluten Free
Wit Graff Beer-Cider Graff | 6.4% abv | Gluten Free
Blueberry Apple-Berliner Weisse Soured Beer-Cider Graff | 5.3% abv
The ciders I will highlight are the Spoke Wrench and the Burnout as they were the most unique ciders. The Spoke Wrench was one of the first cacao-based ciders that I found intriguing with notes of coffee that were not overpowering in the experience. It reminded me of a stout beer but with a desirable sweetness from the apples that left a balance on the palate. The Burnout was another cider with a cool and spicy profile. This starts with their standard Freewheeler Dry Apple then you get the slight heat of the habanero peppers with the freshness of cucumbers to finish. It really did work well in tandem, balancing the flavors like trained acrobats.
While I was sampling the ciders, Jim and I spoke in more detail about their place and their products. They were the first cider house on the scene and have grown and developed vastly. The owners, Jim & Wade, were from the area and left for other ventures before coming back home from various jobs, including banking and teaching. As they worked they got into home brewing. After some time, they took the leap from home brewing in the garage to launching their own business. Now, they keg and can ciders from apples sourced from Minnesota as long as the season goes on. Once this supply runs out, they need to source apples. These apples come from Michigan and Wisconsin. We discussed future growth and their plans to possibly have a test orchard outside to run cider experiments on. I think this type of experimentation and pushing of the boundaries is where Sociable really is one of a kind. They are trying to not only push flavor boundaries and experiment but also work with breweries and learn different techniques that will bring new depths to their ciders. At the end of the day, they want the customer to come into their inviting tap room and pull up a chair with their product and interact. It’s more than a cider house, it is a social experience. Their experimental and exciting ciders, as well as the words of their creators, speak to experience and I was thoroughly impressed.
Another great spot which was suggested to me was Republic. If you have ever read Draft Magazine, this was on the list for top 100 beer bars in 2013-present, so you know it is a good place. The old school bar interior feels like a bar of yesteryear but with the modern infusion of craft beers and Minnesota cider. You can see the menu above highlighting the ciders coming from Minnesota as a whole and I sampled on the Sweetland Orchards Northern Spy. I could tell these were ciders made by an orchard the apple taste was forward and the quality was great.
The next quick stop I had was at another Hopcat location that recently opened in downtown Minneapolis. This is mainly a beer drinkers dream and not so much for cider but, luckily, they have Sociable Cider on tap! This great spot will usually have a cider from Minneapolis circulating through since they focus on local flavors and brands.
Most cideries in Minnesota are in or around the Minneapolis area and are within driving distance. Luckily for the Minneapolis folks, Minnesota Cider Co. and Milk and Honey Cider, are opening new taproom locations in the near future. Below are some of the cider locales that you should be visiting in the area. If you are looking for some other great places to get some cider, I also suggest Town Hall Brewery, Yard House, and Valley Tap House.