South Dakota Brewers Guild Re-energizes

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Just ahead of the 76th annual Sturgis bike rally, I had the opportunity to visit the brewers of South Dakota and attend a South Dakota Brewers Guild meeting.

This meeting garnered the largest group of SD brewery representatives to ever come together. Fifteen breweries and breweries-in-planning met at Firehouse Brewing Co in Rapid City to make progress on developing their association, building relationships and working towards a unified voice for the state’s beer industry.

South Dakota has sixteen operating breweries now, more than doubling from my first visit in 2012 when there were seven operating breweries. In a state relatively expansive in area, this ranks South Dakota 44th in the nation for craft breweries (and 46th for total US population). There’s plenty of thirsty potential here, and I think this may be one of the states with strongest opportunities for growth in the craft beerscape.


Trade practice violations are rising, festival event issues are raising red flags, and restricted brewers access to market are all major concerns for this community. Unfortunately, these are challenging to address until the guild has been soundly organized. Previously, there was a group that originally organized in 2012, but the association has been largely inactive. Re-organizing has become paramount. The community agreed to meet more regularly. Standing up a board of directors is top of the list for the group’s first action steps.

In order to work through basic organizational governance, the group discussed and set strategic goals to address all the steps needed to raise the framework of their guild: forming committees, reviewing bylaws, developing membership structure, exploring marketing and guild brand development, flushing out fundraising opportunities, setting future meetings, and securing legal support for their nonprofit considerations.

Like 21 other nonprofit state brewers guilds in the U.S., the SD Brewers Guild doesn’t have staff to support the association yet, so the community of ultra-busy brewery owners are tasked with all necessary efforts for this initial period. This leads to slow-going progress, but these entrepreneurs recognize the connection between advocating for the state’s industry with a unified voice, and the bottom line of their brewery’s success.

Working with the various newly established committees, and tapping into BA’s organizational development resources for the state brewers guilds, the South Dakota Craft Brewers Guild aims to elevate their association’s operational maturity. Over the coming months, the goal to build the guild brand and foster the state’s beer industry will, in the future years, make significant impact on South Dakota’s craft beer scene.