Craft Drink Tour of South Dakota

I really didn’t know what to expect from South Dakota in the way of craft drinks, or if I could even expect to find anything. My last time in South Dakota was as a kid, and I wasn’t exactly of drinking age, nor were craft drinks even a thing then. But as I discovered on my recent trip (with Travel Mindset and South Dakota), South Dakota has a thriving craft drink scene, and one that’s unique to the state that you can’t just find anywhere. So naturally, a craft drink tour of South Dakota was only appropriate.

I stayed in Rapid City on my 72-hour South Dakota trip last month, which proved to be a great base for a craft drink tour of South Dakota. I started at the Independent Ale House, which a number of people had recommended to me on Twitter. And it didn’t disappoint. It’d be hard to find a better draft beer selection in the Midwest, since the Ale House has 40 rotating taps, many that you’re probably familiar with, but also a number of South Dakota beers. It doubles as the best pizza restaurant in Rapid City, too. A couple local craft beers and a jalapeno pizza later, and I was a happy camper. Also, I was in a food coma.

Speaking of camping, just a few blocks from Independent Ale House, is Hay Camp Brewing. Hay Camp, interestingly enough, was actually the name of the city before it was Rapid City. The name now lives on with one of South Dakota’s newest breweries, which just opened last year. Hay Camp is a small-batch brewery, with a handful of ales, including a stout, pale ale, and kolsch, of which my favorite was the American pale ale. They also do a bunch of weekly and monthly events, including "Beermaste." That's right, yoga with beer. Best fitness class ever?

From Rapid City, my tour of South Dakota headed north, to Spearfish, where I hiked the nearby Crow Peak, considered one of the best hikes in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Naturally, I had to follow it with beers from Crow Peak Brewing, which was one of South Dakota’s first breweries, and has been making beer for nearly a decade.

While Independent Ale House had Crow Peak on draft, I was holding out to get it straight from the source. And it didn’t disappoint, with a number of beers to choose from, including a cream ale, lager, chile ale, porter, red ale, IPA, summer ale, and a number of others. Though early afternoon, I shared bar space with a number of locals who were starting to trickle in, some of whom even had their own beer mug they kept behind the bar. I could tell that if I lived in South Dakota, that this is where I’d be spending a lot of time.

Just south of Spearfish, I stumbled upon Black Hills Dakota Distillery, located in nearby Sturgis, which is famous for one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. The distillery makes a number of different products, dubbed “Sturgis Shine,” including an apple, rhuberry, amber, and white moonshine, of which the moonshine and amber have recently won awards. What’s unique about Sturgis Shine, compared to most traditional moonshine, is that it uses barley, rather than corn, and also uses local ingredients. Visitors can stop into the humble Black Hills Dakota Distillery on Saturdays for tours and tastings.

Lastly, my drink tour of South Dakota took me to Hill City, conveniently located near Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. While Hill City’s population is less than 1,000 people, I found it to be one of the highest concentrations of craft drink tasting rooms and shops, most notably Prairie Berry Winery, which momentarily made me feel like I was in Napa, and not the Black Hills of South Dakota. I could have easily spent a half-day at Prairie Berry and not been mad about it, as it’s truly a destination for drink lovers.

This first begins in the tasting room, where guests can pick five of Prairie Berry’s wines to taste for free. And there are a lot to choose from. As in more than 30 different wines. Many of them are much more fruity than the common wine drinker is probably used to, such as the Red Ass Rhubarb, the most award-winning wine in all of South Dakota. However, Prairie Berry Winery has a number of more traditional styles of wine, including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Chenin Blanc. Perhaps most unique to Prairie Berry Winery is that the winemaker, Sandi Vojta, is a fifth-generation winemaker, with her family having produced wine in South Dakota for more than a century ever since her great-great grandparents sailed to America and settled in South Dakota.

But that’s not all at Prairie Berry Winery. The latest edition to the property is Miner Brewing, a craft brewery that opened a couple years ago. The brewery is for beer lovers what the winery is for wine lovers, featuring a long list of beers they brew, including a brown ale, pilsner, pale ale, blonde, IPA, and summer ale, just to name a few. Naturally, they also have some fruit-inspired beers, such as the Blue IPA and Mango Cream Ale. With such a wide-variety of beers, I’d recommend what I did, starting with a flight of beer before ordering a pint.

And this concluded the trifecta, and what I look for in every destination, but don’t always find: Good beer, good wine, good booze. Well played South Dakota.

Where have been your favorite craft drink tours?