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Monday, October 12, 2009

Be a Yokel, Buy Local... Beer!

My teetotalitarianism has kept me from recognizing a golden opportunity for local businesses. South Dakotans have been building factories to brew alcohol for our cars; why haven't we recognized a bubbling market and invested in brewing local alcohol for our bellies?

Jeff Drumm, a San Diego emigré* now of Spearfish, saw that opportunity. He now runs Crow Peak Brewing Company, which gets a great write-up in the Mitchell Daily Republic from Seth Tupper. (Another advantage of being a professional journalist: every now and then, you can get paid for making a beer run to the Black Hills.)

Wholesalers have been slurping up Drumm's brew faster than he can make it, so he's expanding, as are craft breweries across the country. This is actually a return to the days before a few big out-of-state corporations cornered the keg market:

...about 30 commercial breweries that operated in South Dakota following the repeal of Prohibition. The last one in operation was Dakota Brewing in Huron, which closed 67 years ago.

The reason for commercial brewing’s failure in South Dakota was simple, [state archivist Ken] Stewart said. Bigger, out-of-state companies with bigger customer bases expanded their sales and their advertising budgets until South Dakota’s smaller brewers were pushed out of business.

“Competition was intense,” Stewart said. “It was the old thing of the whale, the big fish, swallowing the smaller fish” [Seth Tupper, "Spearfish Couple Revive Commercial Brewing in South Dakota," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2009.10.10].

Drumm and his wife and co-owner Carolyn Ferrell support local commerce beyond his own chosen product. They beat the drum for the local farmers market, which sets up shop right next to the Crow Peak brewery.

I'll still forswear Drumm's finest, even if it has cool names like Spearbeer and Pile O' Dirt. But Crow Peak is showing that South Dakota doesn't have to rely on big out-of-state corporations for everything. If you've got to have beer, why not buy local?

*p.s.: Is there a trend here of San Diego folks moving to South Dakota to start successful local businesses?

1 comment:

  1. If only I had been allowed to go to the Black Hills for that story. Actually, I did it all by phone. We hired a former employee of ours who now lives in Sturgis to take the photo.

    Thanks for reading the story. It was fun to write.


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