Two new companies solidify the Black Hills as a craft beer destination.
Dakota Point Brewing in Rapid City and Mount Rushmore Brewing Co. in Custer both opened their doors earlier this year, tapping into community locals and visitors alike.
“We’re not in the beer business, we’re in the people business,” said Dave Eddy, founder and head brewer at Dakota Point. “Breweries are a great place to meet old and new friends, to come and hang out. That’s the atmosphere we’re going for.”
Eddy opened the Rapid City brewery back in June with two friends, Neal Schlottman and Jim Boulter. Though none of the three had ever owned a brewery before, their separate skillsets came together to create Dakota Point’s relaxed, pub-like atmosphere.
“I did home brewing while I was living in Denver, and these two guys have been in construction and business,” said Eddy. “But we all love beer. I can’t think of a better thing to base a brewery off of than that.”
According to Eddy, Boulter serves as the hype man in the taproom while Schlottman takes care of the business end at Dakota Point. Eddy’s sweet spot is in the brewing.
Everything on the menu is made on site using a seven-barrel brewing system, with a focus on English, Irish, Scottish, and American ales.
I saw a lot of this kind of craft beer style in those Denver pubs,” said Eddy. “I wanted to bring that up here. I’m glad I got to do that.”
Dakota Point doesn’t currently distribute any of its beer outside the brewery, but Eddy says plans are in the works to sell Dakota Point kegs to restaurants—the kegs are even purchased, sitting ready to be filled—but the brewery isn’t looking to can or bottle their beer.
“We just want to be part of the craft beer scene here,” said Eddy. “We’re going to grow, but right now being a great place for people to hang out and bring their kids or their dog, is a big part of what we do. We enjoy making people happy with a beer.”
Making people happy with a beer is a sentiment Hanje Ehrlich, manager and master brewer at Mount Rushmore Brewing Co., shares as well.
An avid craft beer lover who’s dabbled in home brewing, Ehrlich says she immediately knew she wanted to work at Mount Rushmore Brewing after it opened this past Memorial Day.
“It’s going really well,” said Ehrlich. “It was kind of a slow and confusing start, but we really have an incredible staff. It’s hard to believe it’s already Fall.”
As the only brewery in Custer, Ehrlich says she wasn’t sure what to expect as far as who would show up to drink their beer. And so in not focusing on just one demographic, Mount Rushmore Brewing was able to attract them all.
“We knew the type of clientele we wanted to have—people with kids, dogs, families,” said Ehrlich. “But we really have something for everyone here—beer, but also wine and liquor— and I think people can see that.”
Ehrlich says Mount Rushmore Brewing works to make their beer more sessionable, or easier to drink, than a typical brewery. This means their beers go down smoothly and have a clean finish.
“We want it to be easy for people to transition from what they typically drink to our beer, or from beer to beer,” said Ehrlich, “to try things and be surprised by how they like it.”
As for the more adventurous craft beer drinkers out there, Mount Rushmore Brewing has them covered too. Just check out their seasonal menu. A raspberry sage pale ale is the brewery’s feature for the Fall, while a lavender and lemon verbena wheat was on tap this Summer.
“We try to make things as locally as possible,” said Ehrlich. “We really don’t want a reputation, other than to make more interesting things.”
In addition to drinks, Mount Rushmore Brewing also boasts an event space and a soon-to-be full-scale restaurant.
The Pounding Fathers restaurant will open in the brewery’s second floor next year, featuring 24 taplines with exclusively South Dakota beers. The event space will also be converted into a more formal event center able to host banquets and receptions.
For her part, Ehrlich said she’s tired but happy, looking back on her first few months at the forefront of Mount Rushmore Brewing.
“It’s a lot of work to open a business and be successful in your first year,” she said. “But it all pays off when you see how happy people are. I don’t think I could be happier with where we’re at.”