Mountain West Beer Fest brings local exposure to craft beer

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Beer enthusiasts were in paradise Saturday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center for the first Mountain West Beer Fest.

Visitors to the event had an opportunity to sample more than 200 craft beers from across the region and from as far away as Alaska. In addition to beer sampling, there were games such as human foosball and beer yoga, food carts, and live music.

Organizers expected about 1,500 visitors to the Beer Fest, but turnout quickly exceeded expectations, with more than a couple thousand attendees by mid-afternoon.

Admission was $50, which included a 5-ounce glass to sample the beverages on offer. Organizers hoped that the event would give many craft beers more public exposure.

“The goal of the event is to have craft breweries, a lot of local ones and regional craft breweries,” said Craig Baltzer, executive director of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. “We have breweries here form Sioux Falls and Denver and Montana as well. But, the whole idea is to get their products in front of people and let them try it. It’s fun for everybody.”

Beermaking, however, is not just a job, but an art for these craft brewers, and their work is a source of local pride.

“I tell you we just have a lot of fun brewing our beer,” said Jeremiah Simunek, owner of the Highway 79 Scratch Kitchen and Brewery in Hot Springs. “We have a really great crew doing it.” We want to use as many local ingredients as we can. We’re working harder on that right now with some of our beers.

“It’s very important to us because I feel that South Dakota is a tight-knit state altogether, and the more we can do locally, the better,” Simunek continued.

Designated drivers were admitted to the Beer Fest at half-price, and event organizers offered safe rides home to the attendees.

Organizers plan to make the Beer Fest and annual event, and in the future move it to a larger location in the Civic Center.

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