Sonder, Truro’s Craft Beer Bar

The exterior of Sonder after dark.

How had we not heard about Sonder, a six-month-old craft beer bar with, 12 keg taps in Cornwall’s county town?

We did know about Newquay’s craft beer venue, No. 5 Brew­house, but our plan to vis­it that was foiled by its clo­sure for a pri­vate par­ty. Son­der, mean­while, we mere­ly wan­dered past on our way to Truro bus sta­tion.

It caught our eye because it gives off all the cor­rect sig­nals as pre­scribed in the Crafton­ian man­i­festo: dark paint­work, neon, mod­ern typog­ra­phy and, of course, lib­er­al use of the phrase CRAFT BEER on the frontage. Inside we found more of the same. Edi­son bulbs? Check. Recy­cled pal­let wood? Every­where. Staff in black T‑shirts? Sev­er­al. ‘Street food’? A menu full of it.

Pallet wood seating.

Based on stop­ping for two drinks, one on Fri­day after­noon, anoth­er on Sat­ur­day evening, we can’t pre­sume to pro­nounce judge­ment, but our first impres­sions are good. Like a lot of would-be craft beer bars out­side big cities (Truro is tech­ni­cal­ly a city but, well…) it has an endear­ing­ly un-hip microp­ub qual­i­ty, with cus­tomers of all ages and types chat­ting around the bar.

Edison bulbs.

The beer list is unusu­al with few of the usu­al sus­pects, sug­gest­ing direct sup­ply rather than mid­dle­men, and is dis­played on elec­tron­ic screens behind the bar. Turnover seems brisk with sev­er­al beers on the list hav­ing changed between our vis­its. Tasters are pos­i­tive­ly pushed, too, which makes up for the obscu­ri­ty of some of the beers on offer. On our first call, Bux­ton Axe Edge and Chorl­ton Mulled Lager were clas­si­cal and fas­ci­nat­ing respec­tive­ly, the for­mer crys­talline, the lat­ter hazy. On take two we had Pil­sner Urquell served in a cute, chunky brand­ed mug, and an IPA whose name we for­got to write down from a brew­ery we’d nev­er heard of. (We’ve only been doing this for a decade – cut us some slack.) They were served weird­ly with­out any head but we man­aged to whip some foam up with a plas­tic straw once we’d cleared an inch or two.

The bar at Sonder.

We men­tion that last point part­ly for the sake of hon­esty, and part­ly to under­line that this isn’t a super-slick oper­a­tion – the phrase ‘labour of love’ crops up on the Face­book page, and that’s what comes across. It sim­ply feels like a hap­py place to be, if not yet quite com­fort­able in its own clothes. We remem­ber, though, when Cask at Pim­li­co, the first pub in the Craft Beer Co chain, felt much the same, and look how that turned out.

It’s good, final­ly, to have an at least ten­ta­tive answer to a ques­tion we get asked fair­ly fre­quent­ly – where’s good for craft beer in Truro? – hav­ing nev­er been able to back The Hub whole­heart­ed­ly. We’ll cer­tain­ly be adding Son­der to our own reg­u­lar and slight­ly eccen­tric Truro crawl along with The Old Ale House* and The Rail­way Tav­ern, a for­mer work­ing men’s club next to the sta­tion which we like for rea­sons oth­er than its beer.

* We popped into The Old Ale House on Sat­ur­day but left after one – how is it pos­si­ble for what is meant to be Skin­ner’s flag­ship pub, a venue with lots to com­mend it oth­er­wise, to be serv­ing beer that tastes so tired? Exas­per­at­ing.

6 thoughts on “Sonder, Truro’s Craft Beer Bar”

  1. Inter­est­ing com­ment about the Old Ale House. I won­der what you had to drink as this is not what we do! Of course, the last pint from a cask can be flat, of pour taste through oxi­di­s­a­tion, or even cloudy, but if it’s clar­i­ty is good, it is very dif­fi­cult to spot by the staff with­out some cus­tomer feed­back. Did you men­tion any­thing being wrong with the ale that you had at the time? Our turnover is good so the ales are fresh and we clean every line when every cask runs out. Full stop. This is to ensure the best pos­si­ble con­di­tion of the fan­tas­tic Skin­ner’s range. CAMRA rate what we do here and in the last month, we have been award­ed full marks by Cask Mar­que. Cheers!

    1. Robin – no, we did­n’t men­tion it to any­one, part­ly because the staff seemed rushed off their feet with Christ­mas par­ties but most­ly because of the old prob­lem that the beer was­n’t *off*, it just was­n’t *great*. In the­o­ry, yes, we should be able to take a beer back and say, ‘This does­n’t taste as good as it has on pre­vi­ous occa­sions – it’s a bit tired’, but in prac­tice that does­n’t tend to go down well, espe­cial­ly if the bar is busy. We will try it next time if we find the same issue and let you know how it goes. It was­n’t just one beer, BTW – nei­ther Sev­en Hop (which we’ve raved about before) nor Porth­leven (which we gen­er­al­ly rate) tast­ed pleas­ant on this occa­sion.

  2. Hi Alec,

    I’m the own­er, builder and clean­er of Son­der. I orig­i­nal­ly had a dif­fer­ent name but after dis­cus­sion the boss­es (wife and daugh­ter) decid­ed it sent the wrong mes­sage. Our daugh­ter is study­ing phi­los­o­phy and was aware of a blog called The Dic­tio­nary Of Obscure Sor­rows. The author comes up with Eng­lish words to describe feel­ings and sit­u­a­tions. The full meain­ing is writ­ten on our floor and also on the blog.
    My sum­marised ver­sion is ‘the real­i­sa­tion that every­body is lead­ing an equal­ly com­plex and chaot­ic life’.
    We aimed to make Son­der a place that every­one was wel­come and got along. There were also the busi­ness rea­sons around the avail­abil­i­ty of domains, use of the name else­where and it’s innof­fen­sive nature.

    Boak and Bai­ley,

    Many thanks for the blog entry. Say hi next time you are in. We get a lot of our beer sug­ges­tions and ideas from cus­tomers so sug­ges­tions and feed­back is always wel­come.
    We have been amazed at the accep­tance in Truro from peo­ple of all ages and walks of life for some­thing so dif­fer­ent to any­where else local­ly and long may it con­tin­ue.

  3. Huh, the uni­verse is a strange place – I found the Dic­tio­nary Of Obscure Sor­rows this morn­ing and spent the day think­ing about anec­doche* as a per­fect exam­ple of most inter­net com­ment threads. And then here I find it name checked again in less than 24 hours on a blog unre­lat­ed to this morn­ing’s activ­i­ties. Spooky. Coin­ci­dence. Mean­ing­less? Per­haps.

    *n. a con­ver­sa­tion in which every­one is talk­ing but nobody is lis­ten­ing, sim­ply over­lay­ing dis­con­nect­ed words like a game of Scrab­ble, with each play­er bor­row­ing bits of oth­er anec­dotes as a way to increase their own score, until we all run out of things to say.

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