Plenty of beer and fun was on tap at Saturday’s second annual Bierborse at Main Street Square.
More than 60 beers were served under a big tasting tent, where patrons with a tiny mug could sample endless beers for the price of a ticket.
Eight free beer samples were also available from the Ale Riders Homebrew Club, bratwursts and sodas were free with a donation to the KOTA Care & Share food drive from Family Thrift Center and Prairie Market, a beer garden run was held by the Mount Rushmore German Club, and all took place to the soundtrack of polka music from Marv and the Moonlighters.
“This day is very exciting for Main Street Square,” its executive director, Megan Karbowski, said. “Not only is it our first 'second annual' event that we’ve done, but it's also the anniversary weekend of the plaza.”
Karbowski said she expected a larger crowd this year, and to accommodate the growth, the tasting area was expanded. She said last year's attendance was about 4,000, and she expected about 5,000 this year. Last year, the tasting area sold 400 tickets, and while the count was not final, the tickets were capped at 600.
“I think it's a great opportunity for people here who are part of the German culture or enjoy the German culture and have German food, German music, and German beer,” Karbowski said.
The Ale Riders, which has about 140 members, brewed more than 70 gallons of beer for the occasion. The club used an informal bean voting process for their winning brewer to gain bragging rights as the crowd favorite.
“We are educating the public on the fermentation process,” LaDonna Hamre, the club's treasurer, said. The club has been around since 1995. “That was before it was cool to home brew,” she said.
“In the last last five years, it has exploded," club member Eric Klocko agreed. "It’s now wildly popular.” Klocko said the most common question from bierborse attendees was how to get started in home brewing and what, exactly, goes into beer.
“This is a great value to the novice brewer, and it’s fun. It’s family-oriented," Ale Riders vice president Bob Cronin said. “We have things that you can take your kids to. It’s about quality over quantity. It’s about enjoying a handcrafted product and not guzzling a factory beer,” he said.
The newest brewery in the Black Hills, Sick N Twisted Brewing Co. in Hill City, was represented in the tasting tent by brewer Gary Anderson, who served a hoppy red ale and a porter. Anderson said the brewery, which opened in August and is affiliated with the Naked Winery, received a positive response from the crowd. “We’re here just to have a little fun,” he said.
“I think this is a good idea because people walk into a store and they’re not sure what they’re going to like, and this way they can try a little of everything,” said Nicole Gerlach, who was serving beer and helping her husband, Rob, who works for Fisher Beverage.
Crow Peak Brewing Co. garnered a lot of attention and had a steady crowd hovering near its table for quick refills. “The response is very good,” founder and president Jeff Drumm said. “We have four brews on tap, and our chili beer is brewed with fresh, locally grown chilis and is what everyone wants to try right now,” he said. Crow Peak also served a German style lager, an India pale ale, and Easy Living, an English summer ale.
Many attendees were excited to see the festival grow. “This is my second year in a row," Mitch Linster of Rapid City said. "We had a blast last year, so we had to come do it again."
Linster’s friend Eric Krause said he enjoyed the variety the most. “It’s stuff you’ve seen but never actually tried before, so getting a chance to try it makes it worth it, Krause said.
A self-described beer connoisseur, John Schneider of Rapid City said he couldn’t wait for this year’s festival. “I went to last year's, and I really enjoy beer. I haven’t had them all yet, so it's tough to say what my favorite beer was,” he said. “I try to support the local breweries any time possible. There are so many different flavors of beer. It's like wine when you use different grapes: You use different hops or different malts to get a different flavors. It's a mixing technique, and there is always something intriguing,” he said.