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Mitchell swept up in craft beer trend

Craft beer is displayed at Porter Distribution Company in Mitchell during the eighth annual American Craft Beer Week, which began Monday. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)

Five years ago, there were no craft beers on tap at The Depot in Mitchell. Today, 20 of the pub and grill's 26 beers are of the craft variety.

"The trend came later here," said John Foster, a general manager and owner of The Depot.

But the trend has arrived, according to beer drinkers and sellers across Mitchell. That's especially apparent during American Craft Beer Week, which began Monday and is in its eighth year. Craft beers are created in smaller breweries that produce fewer than 6 million barrels of beer per year, according to the Brewers Association. When a beer is seasonal, or if the brewer only produces one batch, it is also considered a craft beer. The association recognizes 15 craft beer breweries in South Dakota, eight of which are on the east side of the state, and another planned for Sioux Falls.

Locally, not all drinkers have shown an interest in craft beers.

"Craft beers are made more to enjoy," Foster said. "They aren't to get someone overfull with a malt beverage."

Across the country, though, enough people are choosing craft beer to drive its domestic production from 11.467 million barrels in 2011 to 13.236 million barrels in 2012. A barrel of beer is approximately 31 gallons.

Todd Dikoff, of Mitchell, owns The Brig Steakhouse and Lounge and hosted a Beer Dinner on April 19. About 80 people attend the dinner, which included a six-course meal with a different beer for each course. The beers were from Odell Brewing Co. of Colorado and included a chocolate pretzel stout cheesecake paired with Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout beer.

Although the Brig does not currently sell any craft beers, Dikoff said he has seen an increased interest in them. Dikoff attributes the interest to younger drinkers who are more open to new experiences.

"People like to try the local things," Dikoff said. "They want to try something different."

Nikki Porter, of Mitchell, whose family owns Porter Beer Distribution, said she has seen craft beer grow in popularity among younger people who don't want to drink the same beer as their parents.

"It's a huge wave coming in from both coasts," Porter said. "On the coast, I've seen menus that will describe a beer and say what it goes with." Craft beers tend to be costlier than their mass-produced counterparts, but with a much larger selection, Dikoff said. "There are so many craft beers, it's like asking for a certain kind of pop. We get different crowds asking for different ones."

It's not just that the brewers are creating more seasonal beers and creating more small, specialty batches, but the number of breweries has increased as well. According to the Brewers Association, in 2012 there was an 18 percent increase in the number of craft beer breweries in the United States.

Troy Helleloid, of Mitchell, a general manager for Porter Beer Distribution, estimates 10 percent of orders he receives are for craft beers, up from 5 percent five years ago.

"It's not so much that they want regional beers," Helleloid said. "It's that they want something new."

Helleloid said the taste of regional craft beers can be created by techniques such as adding fruit, whiskey or dry hopping, which is when hops are added late in the brewing process.

"A lot of craft brewers get 'hoppy,'" Helleloid said.

Despite an increased demand for craft beers, Helleloid said it can be a challenge finding craft beers on tap in the area.

"It's hard to get the area to venture out and get new beers," Helleloid said.