Breweries, and the lack thereof, in South Dakota

The South Dakota State Historical Society recently delivered a presentation at the Cultural Heritage Center titled “Got Beer? – Beers and Breweries in South Dakota." An advance news release said the presentation would "offer some history and images of the 30 breweries in the state from roughly 1861 to 1990."

I didn’t get to see the presentation, but the description hit on something I’ve always wondered about: Why aren’t there any breweries in South Dakota anymore?

I guess I shouldn’t say "any." There are some restaurants and bars in the state that brew their own beer. They include Firehouse Brewing in Rapid City, Granite City Food and Brewery in Sioux Falls, Mount Rushmore Brewing Co. in Hill City, and Dempsey’s Brewery, Pub and Restaurant in Watertown.

When I started to write this post, I wasn’t aware of any "real" breweries in the state — places devoted strictly to the brewing and selling of beer. In doing some Web searching, I stumbled across Crow Peak Brewing Co. in Spearfish. The "About us" portion of the company’s Web site confirms that Crow Peak is the exception to the rule in South Dakota:

Owners Jeff Drumm and Carolyn Ferrell decided that life in the big city of San Diego was too hectic and transplanted themselves and their two daughters to Spearfish. The one drawback to living in Western South Dakota was the paucity of craft breweries and a relatively narrow selection of bottled microbrew beers. Jeff and Carolyn felt that this was a niche they could fill …

I love beers brewed by small breweries. I’m especially prone to love beers brewed close to home, and that’s why I’ve always been disappointed that there are so few breweries in South Dakota.

I have no idea why the state has such a dearth of breweries (equally inexplicable is the state’s abundance of wineries). Over in Minnesota, the brewing industry is an embarrassment of riches. Quality, homegrown beers by brewers such as Schell’s, Cold Spring and Summit are easy to find. But make the short drive across the border, and it’s a completely different story.

If somebody has an explanation for the near-total lack of breweries here in South Dakota, I’d love to hear it. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for a Crow Peak beer and will hold out hope that some other South Dakotans get the urge to follow that brewery’s example.

Categories: General News

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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