Bankrupt of breweries
Beer has been the buzz of choice for the South Dakota Legislature this session, with a handful of brewery-related bills being dropped. But those bills aren't likely to have any short-term impact on the Mitchell region.
With a bill to increase the annual production cap for microbreweries from 5,000 barrels to 30,000 barrels and another to allow breweries to sell beer directly to stores, craft brewers in the state have received extra attention in 2018. Mitchell, on the other hand, hasn't received much attention from microbrewers.
Mitchell Area Development Corporation Executive Director Bryan Hisel said a pair of Dakota Wesleyan University students once approached the idea of starting a brewpub in Mitchell, but nothing ever came together. He said they even got some of the equipment needed, but it didn't materialize.
Hisel speculated the hefty input costs could scare some away from taking on a brewing endeavor, not to mention the expertise needed to make a quality product. But he said one group of Mitchell residents might be the most likely suitors for a brewpub.
"I think some of the local owners have thought about it from time to time, but it's kind of like there's a thought and then it dissipates," Hisel said, noting businesses with liquor licenses might be at an advantage in moving forward with a brewpub.
Like Hisel, John Foster listed some factors that might dissuade a potential brewmaster from starting up shop in Mitchell. Foster, a part-owner and general manager at The Depot Pub & Grill in Mitchell, said the amount of space needed is part of the problem. The other issue? Investment.
"It's just one of those things that, like I said, you've got to have the right people to invest," Foster said.
And The Depot is able to carry beers local to South Dakota without brewing its own beer. Of the 30 beers on tap, Foster said The Depot features three Sioux Falls-based Fernson Brewing Co. beers.
If someone were to dive into the brewing business, Foster said the input costs would be monumental.
"It's very expensive to get into that kind of thing," Foster said. "You have to really want to spend some money, and I'm talking I would guess probably half a million (dollars)."
Mitchell: The craft beer desert
According to SoDakBeer.com, Mitchell is smack-dab in the middle of one of two massive dead zones for microbrew fans in South Dakota. Breweries are open or opening soon in Pierre, Yankton, Aberdeen, the Sioux Falls region, Watertown and Brookings, according to the website. But the more hops-friendly region in South Dakota might be the Black Hills.
SoDakBeer.com lists Crow Peak Brewing Co., Dakota Shivers Brewing, Firehouse Brewing Co., Hay Camp Brewing Co., Highway 79 Brewing Co., Lost Cabin Beer Co., Miner Brewing Co., Mt. Rushmore Brewing Co., Sick-N-Twisted Brewing Co. and The Knuckle Brewing Co. in the Black Hills alone.
Although Mitchell is sans-brewery at the moment, the bills appearing before the Legislature could entice more entrepreneurs to enter the beer battle. And the economic impact in some parts of South Dakota is notable.
According to the Rushmore Region Economic Development Alliance, breweries added 18 jobs and had a $3.6 million impact in the area.
Until a brewery arrives, Mitchell will miss out on that economic impact — even though brewpubs and microbreweries are permitted in a few different zoning districts in Mitchell.
The Mitchell area — ranging from Murdo down to Wagner and up to Huron — features zero breweries, according to SoDakBeer.com. The only other area so entirely bereft of breweries is northwestern South Dakota.