Support and development of State Brewers Guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association. Acacia Coast, the trade group's State Brewers Association Coordinator, continues to help the BA become more of a resource for existing and fledgling guilds. Acacia has been busy crisscrossing the country attending state brewers association meetings with many of them centered on initial guild formation.
Recently, Acacia provided an update on her trip to South Dakota.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working with Bitter Ester’s Landon Swanson to organize a guild in South Dakota, one of the last four states to form a state guild. After touring through the beautiful Black Hills with Landon to visit three operating breweries and a few breweries-in-planning, I landed in Rapid City to meet with the state’s budding brewing community to share best practices, resources and support for forming the South Dakota Craft Brewers Guild. The group was equally grateful and impressed that nearly every brewery from the state was in attendance for this formational meeting, despite some traveling from six hours away.
“A state of Great Faces and Great Places,” South Dakota is the 5th least populous and the 5th least densely populated of the 50 United States. In 2011, the state was ranked 49th in the US for total number of breweries (with five active breweries) and 29th for breweries per capita. The state’s craft beer scene is maturing, now home to five microbreweries, three brewpubs, seven breweries-in-planning, good beer festivals and increasing enthusiast patronage.
Geographically, the state is bisected vertically by the Missouri River, which residents made very clear, divides South Dakota into two socially distinct halves. Eastern South Dakota lacks in brewery presence, though it hosts most of the state's population, including Pierre, the capitol. Sioux Falls, in the south eastern corner, is South Dakota's largest city, home to 159,000 people, and is still home to only one pub. West of the river, where Rapid City is located, is home to the majority of the state’s breweries.
In my conversations with residents, it appears there is a significant gap in beer laws in South Dakota. With much ambiguity, the regulations are a bit Wild West. Navigating the bureaucracy of opening and operating a brewery is quite nebulous. They are all clear that they do not have self-distribution rights, but growlers and other intricacies are a bit of a grey area. As a result, the state’s brewers are interested in developing a unified voice in order to cultivate the industry themselves and they intend to do this though building their strong state brewers guild.
We efficiently covered the basic start-a-guild agenda, asking and answering questions as a group about why a state guild is vital to their brewery businesses. The brewery owners asked sharp questions–they were prepared and on point. We discussed fundamental structural concepts, including membership management and how the guild can work with the restaurant and tourism associations. I outlined the basic brewers guild structure and shared information on the myriad resources available on the Brewers Association's guild resource pages.
The group organized a steering committee and the meeting date at Monks House of Ale Repute for the next gathering. With the help of sharp tech-wise brewery-in-planning co-owner, Seth Koch of Wooden Legs Brewing Co., they have already set up multiple electronic platforms for social networking and guild marketing. They’ve established a distribution list and have opened up communication in the state, where they are currently dialoguing to draft bylaws, a mission statement and the association basics. Fundraising efforts are underway with the brewers all offering up space and beer to get the initial guild bank fund rolling. A trail map is also in progress, in partnership with the South Dakota Department of Tourism.
South Dakota’s brewers may be coming in at the end of the nation’s guild development, but they are now steadfastly working, with strong wind in their sails, to build the South Dakota craft beer industry.
The next day, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by one of the nation’s most spectacular National Monuments, Mount Rushmore, only 25 mins from Rapid City. After a few tries, with a bit of tourist wrangling to take pictures, I captured a great shot of our founding fathers reading Charlie’s article over my shoulder, “A Dog in the Fight” (New Brewer, Vol 29, No. 5, Sept/Oct 2012), on the importance of craft brewers guilds. For the last three states without a guild- Wyoming, West Virginia and North Dakota, I implore you to check out the article too… and then give me a call.
Find your state guild contact here!