There’s gold in that thar brewery!

by Enrico Villamaino

Historic Lead, SD was founded in 1876, shortly after prospectors struck substantial veins of gold. A small but vibrant mining town rapidly sprung up in Lead, located in the heart of the Black Hills Mountain Range, as those caught up in the excitement of the gold rush relocated to the edges of the map to seek their fortunes. By the first half of the 20th century, after the gold supply had been exhausted, Lead became another of the many ghost towns scattered across the openness of the American West.

In 1974, over 400 buildings and 580 acres within Lead was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Now, history repeats itself again as people have begun to return to Lead in search of something golden and intoxicating. That golden goal comes ice cold and in a glass, and should you reach for some you’ll be far less likely to get your hands dirty.

Dakota Shivers Brewing, established in 2015, now operates out of the building that served as the general store during the gold mining boom of the 1870s. Founded by Steve and Linda Shivers, both natives of Hood River, OR, the brewery is fast becoming the must-see stop on anyone’s tour of the historic district.

Having been homebrewers for over 20 years, the couple wanted to try their hand at opening their own brewery when they decided they would be staying in South Dakota. “I’m a federal employee working for the U.S. Geological Survey,” Steve explained. “We’ve moved about quite a bit. From Oregon to Alaska to Washington, D.C., and finally here to South Dakota.”

Located in the old general store of a gold town turned ghost town, Dakota Shivers Brewing will still get you something golden, but it’ll come ice cold and in a glass – after its been brewed, of course. Photos courtesy of Dakota Shivers

“You couldn’t pry us away from here!” Linda added.

With the certainty that South Dakota would remain their home, and with Steve’s retirement fast approaching, the Shivers decided to purchase the old general store and Dakota Shivers Brewing was born.

Describing themselves as a “nano brewery,” the Shivers are quick to point out that they are a very small operation, and that’s exactly how they want it.

“We produce our batches two and a quarter barrels at a time,” said Linda. “The fact that we’re so small gives us a bit of flexibility on what we’re able to brew. We’re not locked into making huge amounts of anything, so we’re able to play around a bit with our ingredients and experiment.” She pointed to a recent batch of beer flavored with thimble berry, a local fruit, as an example.

“We now have four people on staff,” Steve said. “We have eight beers on tap, and we don’t distribute our beers. You can only get them at our location, and we like it that way. It makes coming in to get one of our beers feel like something special.”

Primarily focusing on ales, Dakota Shivers does feature one lager. Their best received ale, Dakota Shivers 5280 Pale Ale, is named in recognition of their location’s mile high altitude.

Their clientele is varied and comes from all over. Tourists visiting Lead stop by, as Dakota Shivers is located right next to the Old Lead Opera House. The popular mining ghost town Deadwood is located close by, about three miles northwest of Lead, so that also draws people to Dakota Shivers to gulp some liquid gold.

Linda Shivers wears her brewing boots as she is “always knee deep in something” while brewing in the back of Dakota Shivers.

In addition, the Sanford Underground Research Facility, the deepest underground laboratory in the United States, is located in (or more specifically underneath) Lead. Run by the federal government, it houses multiple physics experiments in areas such as dark matter and neutrino research. “We get a lot of researchers and scientists in our bar,” said Linda. They’ve even named a beer in their honor.

“We call it our Dark Matter RyePA,” Steve said.

Local rallies have also provided the Shivers with an even greater number of people with whom they can share their beers. “We’ve taken part in the Forks, Corks and Kegs Wine and Food Festival in Deadwood.” Steve explained. “Also, Stockman’s Day Beer Fest in Rapid City, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That last event draws in over 500,000 people in just 13 days.”

In finding a home that they love and founding a brewery that is their passion, the Shivers seem to have struck gold themselves. “We’re very lucky!” they both agree.