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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