Residing in Watertown is Dempsey’s Brewery, Restaurant & Pub — the second-oldest brewery in South Dakota — and a local staple and must-see destination when visiting or passing through South Dakota.
In 1999, Bill Dempsey, a native of Watertown, stumbled upon an auction for brewing equipment. Having played around with home-brew kits, he was inspired to open his own brewery. Sean, Bill’s son, said his dad’s motto is “it’s better to ask for forgiveness, rather than permission,” so Bill took out a mortgage on his house to cover the purchase of the equipment.
“My mother was ‘pleasantly’ surprised, to say the least,” said Sean, who now runs Dempsey’s.
Before Sean would take over, he spent a majority of his life working in the food industry. Working at Applebee’s while starting out his college career at South Dakota State University made him realize how much he loved the food industry, but he realized he wanted to be his own boss and have creative license when it came to food and drinks.
“After starting college and working for someone else, I came to the conclusion that A.) I don’t like working for other people, B.) I love college — but I’m pretty sure I want to be an astronaut — so getting a degree with no idea of what I wanted to do didn’t mesh, C.) I was still driving back and forth between Brookings and Watertown and had this moment where I realized that if I didn’t come back on full-time, things were going to go south for the restaurant,” said Sean. “Plus, as a 25-year-old college kid, being away for a while made me miss not having to pay for beer.”
Now, 18 years later, Dempsey’s has won a plethora of national awards and recognition for their pizza, beer, and cocktails. These awards have come from hard work and passion of the industry, constantly perfecting the science of their food and drinks. To name a few awards, Sean finished 10th overall in the Best Traditional Pizza Category nationwide and won the Northwest Division in the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas; was rated number-one on Trip Advisor for Restaurants in Watertown; awarded “People Love Us On Yelp” in 2016 and 2017; and Head Barkeep and Brewmaster Adam Erickson won Best Bartender in South Dakota at Deadwood’s Forks, Corks, and Kegs competition.
No matter the awards, what sets Dempsey’s apart from your typical pub is the heart, soul, and education that has gone into the restaurant. Sean graduated from the International School of Pizza (ISOP) in San Francisco in 2014, awarded with the title of Pizzaiola, which means “pizza maker” in Italian. A prestigious title to have, a Pizzaiola is a craftsman-scientist of pizza.
“I can’t say enough good things about the ISOP,” said Sean. “That place changed everything we do. We’re a scratch-kitchen, and it shows. We change our menu every six months, so we are always changing, always trying something new.”
With eyes on the future, Dempsey’s is just getting started.
“What excites me the most about the pub is the potential,” said Sean. “We’re starting to really take off. I’m expanding brewing operations, and we’re looking for a potential growth in a new market. It’s amazing how many doors building this business has opened for me.”
Dempsey’s thrives in its craftsmanship, with food and drinks curated to be the best in the state.
For more information, visit dempseybrewpub.com.
SEAN’S TOP FOOD & DRINK PICKS
Wiener schinztel & Spätzle
Oversized pork tenderloin, tenderized, seasoned, hand-breaded and pan-fried in unsalted butter, with some small dumpling-like noodles with bacon and red onions. The one we make at Dempsey’s is my Oma’s recipe. And it’s wunderbar (German for wonderful)!
Sweet sicilian Pizza
Tapioca, Prosicutto di Parma, black olives, peppadews, traditional red sauce – it’s the one that started our whole pizza craze.
Black Bear Mocha Stout
is unbelievably good. It’s one of our oldest beers, and definitely one of our best sellers.
is made with Concord Grape Wine. We mix that, a ton of fruit, and add liquors. It makes it an easy, all day sipper to hang out on the deck and watch life travel by with friends.