What is Hay Camp?

To walk into the rustic-sleek brewery and taproom downtown Rapid City, to see the reclaimed wood, the antique mining equipment, the commanding bison skull hanging above the row of gleaming taps, is to see an establishment looking beyond simply offering a solid product in a well-designed location. It’s a place nodding respectfully to the history and culture that defines the surrounding area, a place recognizing the value of hard work and disciplined craft. The name itself is a salute to the modest beginnings of the town—its original moniker when founded in the late 1800’s, a small settlement along Rapid Creek supplying goods to the various mining communities around the Black Hills. Over time, in small and measured steps, the city has grown and developed, and continues to do so; it’s an interesting parallel to the drawn-out but determined beer-making process.
After years of homebrewing through school and amidst their respective scientific pursuits, Karl Koth and Sam Papendick officially founded Hay Camp Brewing Company in 2012, and opened their tavern in 2014. Still full-time in work and academia, the two spent whatever free time possible establishing themselves and fine-tuning their beer. Inevitably, the operation eventually outgrew its tiny space east of downtown Rapid City, and in the early spring of 2017 the company moved into the spacious Kansas City St location, at one time the city’s Cadillac dealership, and most recently an industrial laundry facility.
The two had always desired a balanced, strongly artistic space, a different expression than seen anywhere else in the area—a space that would resonate with the community and boast  hometown pride, but most importantly play an integral part of the all-sense-engaging beer-drinking experience. A place for a wide and varied demographic of people to gather, connect and communicate over that great unifier, beer.
The building’s design shows this attention (and at times, obsession) to detail: tall, rugged beams of lumber reclaimed from the depths of nearby Homestake Gold Mine running around the curves of the walls; handsome bison hide leather stretched over the booth seats; the rich, dark mahogany bar winding its way through the taproom.
Gaze over the tavern’s architecture and it eventually draws your eyes to the row of taps, which of course is not an accident; for these two, everything circles back to the main attraction, the beer itself. From the very beginning, Karl and Sam set out to craft beer that showcases the subtleties of flavor; an honest approach of coaxing out the complexities and personalities of quality base ingredients in each stage of brewing. Such intention is necessary to achieve depth and balance in anything, and craft beer is no exception.
To fully optimize the finished product’s enjoyment, Hay Camp offers what they call the “Better Beer Experience,” serving their beer in German crystal Spiegelau glasses instead of the standard cocktail shaker-pint glasses, poured with a prominent head to provide a more luxurious mouthfeel and enlivened aroma. There are no televisions and the music is kept at a comfortable level, so one is better able to direct their senses toward the beer, to concentrate on flavor and hopefully foster conversation with those nearby. There is joy in a well-crafted beer, but slowing down to share that joy with others around you yields a deeper appreciation and a necessary tempering to the frantic, busy lives we find ourselves living.
All that celebration of the past and deliberate focus on the moment, however, doesn’t mean that Hay Camp isn’t looking forward, too. Western South Dakota is rich in culture and artistry, and Sam and Karl are intent on not only appreciating this fact, but doing their part to foster the growth. In addition to the skilled woodwork and design, on any given day you’ll see the work of local visual artists displayed in the Mothership Commons room and on the tavern walls. Through Ursa Major, the 3,400-square foot venue adjacent to the taproom, come a variety of musicians and artists of all medium from around the area and country that might not have before. The goal with Ursa Major, and really, every other aspect of Hay Camp, is to show how much our state has to offer, and provide a venue for artists to feel safe and welcome to express themselves.
So by all means stop in to taste your way through the varied menu of well-balanced beer; stay for the discussion with other craft brew fans or the all-Cicerone-certified bar staff, to admire the architecture, or see an up-and-coming or long-established artist hone their craft. Whatever your reason, you’re bound to find something to like here.

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