Passions for the Black Hills and unpretentious, great-tasting beer inspired Last Mile Brewery, the newest addition to Rapid City’s microbrewery scene.
Last Mile Brewery opened its tasting room to the public on Friday while working to get its brews onto the menus of restaurants and bars in the region, co-owner Kent Bradley said. The brewery is a dream come true for Bradley, his wife, Angela, and their business partner and brewmaster Kyle Schaible.
Last Mile will initially offer a select assortment — American Wheat, German Amber Ale, Gold Lager, American Pale Ale, Stout, British Pale Ale, Belgian Wheat, Blueberry Cream Ale, and Honey Kölsch made with honey from Lame Johnny Ranch in Custer County.
“We believe that most beer drinkers prefer easily approachable, familiar styles,” Bradley said. “Scientific analysis is not a required prerequisite to enjoying a good brew. We plan to focus on establishing a core lineup of beers that appeal to broad groups of people and create a reputation for delivering consistency and excellence.”
Though the Bradleys and Schaible ultimately hope to open a destination brewery, they’re starting small with a part-time tasting room open to the public and a 24/7 wholesale business. Their location at 635 Creek Drive will focus on manufacturing and production, merchandise, plus the tasting room and growlers.
“We’re a small mom-and-pop business,” Kent Bradley said. “With COVID-19, we didn’t want to launch a full-blown brewery or bar. … Our business is you can come in and sample everything, and our big push is to get into all the local businesses and people can try it there.”
He anticipates Last Mile’s tasting room will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with peak hours later in the day when people are getting off work and want to stop by and pick up a growler of beer to take home.
“What sets us apart is we’re not like a bar. You can buy a growler of anything we have to offer,” he said.
Last Mile’s brews are developed by Schaible, a microbiologist who’s been brewing beer for nearly 30 years. Kent Bradley and Schaible talked about starting a brewery for more than two decades.
“He’s a wizard. He’s very, very good at what he does,” Bradley said of his longtime friend. “He’s meticulous in the process. He specializes in fermentation. Where most (breweries) buy pre-made batch kits, that’s an ace in our pocket. It’s neat to see how passionate he is, and you can tell when you taste the end product.”
“He’s definitely perfected his craft,” Bradley said. “That’s one thing that will set us apart is the level of product we’re bringing to the table.”
Last Mile Brewery’s initial assortment of beers are made with tried-and-tested recipes, though the Bradleys and Schaible also want to create new flavors and put their own unique twist on classic, Old World-style beers.
“Well-made beer always has a market,” Schaible said.
While Schaible serves as Last Mile’s head brewer, the Bradleys will handle sales, licensing, marketing, brand management, product development, social media assets, website management and customer relations.
After a 20-year corporate career in Colorado, Rapid City native Bradley said returning to the Black Hills and becoming part of the business community is another dream come true. The Bradleys and their five children moved back to South Dakota, where they are closer to extended family. Bradley also launched and runs ad agency Performance Business Media in Rapid City.
“There’s nothing like returning to your roots, and for us, the Black Hills are home,” Bradley said. “West River is a special place to us, and the people here have always been great about supporting local businesses. … Here you feel like you’re part of the community in a place where you’re surrounded by family and friends. I don’t think there’s anything better.”
Last Mile already has plans to give back to the community, Bradley said, by developing a tribute beer in honor of a friend’s daughter who died of cancer. A portion of proceeds will benefit children’s cancer research.
“We love Rapid City, the Black Hills and this community and starting a new beer-making business here among family and friends is the ultimate dream,” Bradley said.
For more information about Last Mile Brewery, go to lastmilebeer.com.