By Denise DePaolo
Images: Elizabeth Lucille Photography and Emily Swan Photography
South Dakotans love beer. Really, they do. According to a 2014 study from Beer Marketer’s Insights published in USA Today, we consume the fourth-most beer per capita (after North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Montana). And that burning passion is showing no signs of waning. At the time of the study, 10 breweries were in operation in the Mount Rushmore State – with only two in Sioux Falls. Today, that number has multiplied statewide, and more are set to open in the coming months. Drinking local beer has never been easier, but for microbreweries that can’t compete with the advertising budgets of national brands, connecting at the grassroots level remains crucial.
“I don’t mind that Budweiser’s there and people enjoy it. There’s certain things, however, that can be frustrating for guys like us – like getting into downtown events where they have control over what beers get in,” explained Hydra Beer Company co-owner Nick Murphy. “I hope over time people will start to demand local. ‘Why don’t you have Hydra or Fernson or WoodGrain? If you only have these other beers, I’m not going to have one.’ In other communities, that does take place.”
Derek Fernholz, co-owner of Fernson Brewing Company calls the craft beer community “a big family” and says that he loves the collaborative nature of the trade. “I think in general, as craft brewers we’re trying to get people to drink more products made here. Whether it’s here in Sioux Falls or here in the state or here in the region, just something other than the domestic three. That’s what we’re all aiming for here is taking that market share, not us versus WoodGrain or us versus Hydra, there’s no animosity there.”
In fact, at the cover shoot for this story, the owners of Sioux Falls three newest taprooms sat down for a pint like old friends, discussing their latest late winter releases. The prevailing attitude among the group is that the high tide raises all ships, and there’s more than enough market share to take from Big Beer.
“This beer culture is expanding, because all of the breweries in the area are working together. And we help each other. We play well together,” said WoodGrain Brewing Co. co-owner Jason Currie-Olson, who added with a smile, “There’s competition. Someone makes a good IPA, I’m going to make a better IPA. The best thing about that is you drink better beer.”
Collaborations between the brewers are already taking place, with Hydra and WoodGrain just finishing a run of their joint effort, BeeHeaded (which used local honey from Luverne, Minnesota). And according to those involved, this is just the beginning. Already in 2016, Sioux Falls’ exploding beer culture has spawned a couple of formal (and dozens of informal) brewery tours. So, in the spirit of spring break, we decided see what sets Hydra, Fernson, and WoodGrain apart, and planned a beer-related holiday of our own.
Read the full article in the March issue of 605 Magazine or click here.