With family in Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota, we make the trek quite often from Colorado to South Dakota, with stops at Nebraska breweries in between. And what better way to explore all of the states we call home than by stopping at breweries. For us, drinking our way from Colorado to South Dakota is a no-brainer. And there’s an added bonus. It makes Nebraska something to look forward to.
Our Route from Colorado to South Dakota
To get a bit more specific, our route starts in the southwest suburbs of Denver – the little known suburb of Sheridan, to be exact – and ends in farm country just north of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, right outside the tiny farming town of Trent, South Dakota (population 200). One of the more direct routes takes us through the center of Nebraska, which just so happens to be near Kenny’s hometown of Burwell, Nebraska (population 1,200).
Now, with all of these tiny towns greeting us along our route, you might be wondering how we managed to drink our way from Colorado to South Dakota. Of course, there are dive bars along the way – although many of those dive bars have been declining over the years, and have either seen brighter days or are simply no longer in existence – but we are always on the lookout for craft breweries. And going through central Nebraska, you’d probably assume we’d be going through a craft beer desert. We made that assumption, too. Until we really started paying attention. There are many Nebraska breweries along our route.
Nebraska Breweries in the Sandhills Region
Central Nebraska may not be much more than corn, but actually, it is. The Nebraska Sandhills Region stretches 265 miles across central Nebraska creating rolling hills of grasses and grains. And within its 19,300 square miles of sand dunes – some as high as 400 feet – you’ll also come across a Sandhills brewery tour. Who would’ve thunk it?
Ok, so this region doesn’t boast 150 breweries like the Denver Metro area does, but within the Sandhills Region, you’ll find some of the greatest breweries across the state. With many of these towns having a population of 1500 people or less, these Nebraska breweries are also the local hangout. Which, in our opinion is what makes them some of the best. From a farm brewery outside of Taylor, NE (population 150) three miles down a dirt road to a brewery on Main Street in Ord, NE (population 2,100), you’ll find a pint of great craft beer, of course, but more importantly you’ll find a community of hearty folks that are embracing the craft beer community as much as any big city, if not more so.
So, the next time you are heading into Nebraska, or any other state that doesn’t seem to scream craft beer, slow down, think again. Because you might just come across your new favorite brewery in a place you’d never think there would be one.
Kinkaider Brewing Company (Broken Bow, NE)
With four taprooms across the state, Kinkaider Brewing Company might be one of the biggest craft breweries in the state. Yet it still holds onto its small town charm. The Broken Bow location is located in the Sandhills Region and boasts a big beautiful patio to bask in the glow of the warmth that shines across the plains. Its four acres also makes this a grand location as a Harvest Host. To read more about Kinkaider and the history of the region, click here.
What to order: Order what you want, as always. But a couple of our favorites were Herd Law Honey Wheat Ale and Devil’s Gap Jalapeño Ale. As for food, this is a brewpub that does both food and beer well. Order what your mouth says you need in the moment. And the same goes for the beer.
Scratchtown Brewing Company (Ord, NE)
Located on Main Street in Ord, Scratchtown has a local vibe that draws you in and makes you feel like you’ve walked into Cheers. In fact, one of the locals actually mentioned Cheers, saying that she felt like every time she walked in, everyone knew her name. And the same held true for us. Everyone knew our name. Which would make sense, being that Ord is Kenny’s mom’s hometown. And his dad’s hometown of Burwell was just down the street. So, the mere mention of Pishna was like being home again. And in a sense we were. Drinking here, sitting at the bar, laughing and conversing with the locals, well, let’s just say it was as easy as saying hi to a stranger.
What to order: Just ask for the flight. You’ll get a flight of all six beers on tap for $10. Can’t get much better than that. And if you’re hungry, bring in some takeout because this is a brewery only.
Bootleg Brewers (Taylor, NE)
If you’re heading to Bootleg Brewers, you’re not just happening there by accident. Located on a working ranch in the middle of nowhere, three miles down a dirt road, this small town Nebraska brewery is both a destination for travelers as well as a hangout for locals. And the Pishna name is known here, too, as Kenny’s Uncle Charlie used to be the sheriff in town. And while you may not have the Pishna name, Ron and Dodie, the owners and long-time locals, could care less. They just want to say hi and drink beer. Come for a beer, a conversation, or a place to stay (you can rent cabins or stay as a Harvest Host member or pay for an RV site), but make sure you stop by this Sandhills brewery for its unique location amongst the prairie lands of Nebraska.
What to order: You must order the Bloody Ass Blaster, which is their chili beer, the Ass Blaster, combined with Clamato. This is their unique take on a red beer. As for food, as of this writing, the kitchen is closed, but we are hoping they will be back to serving steaks again soon. If you’re in an RV, do what we did. Drink some beer. Make tacos in the RV while drinking more beer. Then head back into Bootleg for a nightcap. You don’t have to drive. Your home is parked at the brewery.
Bolo Beer Company (Valentine, NE) & Brush Creek Brewing Company (Atkinson, NE)
While our travels through central Nebraska on the way to South Dakota didn’t take us to Bolo or Brush Creek this time around, these are breweries along the central Nebraska Sandhills brewery trail that shouldn’t be missed if you’re near north central Nebraska. If you’ve been to either of these places, let us know what you think! For now, we will live vicariously through those that have been there.
What to order: We’ve heard that Bolo’s Watermelon Gose is a pretty good refresher in the summertime. As for food? You better love BBQ! And at Brush Creek, it’s gotta be about their cask ales and in-house tied and baked pub pretzels.
What is Harvest Hosts?
If you have a self-contained vehicle (an RV, for example, you can sign up for an annual membership and then stay at registered breweries, farms, wineries, distilleries, museums, and more, all across the state and into Canada and Mexico. Click here to sign up now and receive 15% off.
Other Breweries Along the Route from Colorado to South Dakota
Since we are claiming that we drank our way from Colorado to South Dakota, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you where to start this journey from. And while you could choose from over 100 breweries in the Denver region (check out our RiNo Brewery Guide), we’re going to tell you to start along the route out of Denver, along I-25.
Strange Craft Beer Company (Denver, CO)
To start drinking your way from Colorado to South Dakota, your first stop should be Strange Craft Beer Company in Denver, right off of I-25. One of the first taprooms in Denver, this OG brewery is also one of the best. With rotating taps perfectly matched with sought after long-standing beers, owner and brewer, Tim, and the rest of the Strange crew know damn well what they are doing, and they do it damn well.
What to order: Order a small pour of their famous Cherry Kriek along with a pizza or whatever is being served at their rotating food trucks. Clocking in at 5% and with food in your belly, you’re well prepared for the four drive ahead of you that brings you to your first Nebraska brewery in North Platte. If you’re here with no place to go later, order whatever you want because it is all great. My personal favorites are any of the farmhouse ales Tim brews.
Pals Brewing Co (North Platte, NE)
Only a four drive from Denver and a Harvest Host, Pals Brewing Company is the perfect place to stop, eat, drink beer, and chill for the night. Located just outside of town, they have an expansive beer garden complete with outdoor games, outdoor seating, and even a grain bin bar. Planning the way we do – we don’t – we were lucky enough to meet Paul, one of the owners who proceeded to give us a behind the scenes tour where we were even luckier. We sampled some beers not yet available to the public. And while you may not get that lucky, just showing up at Pals is lucky enough. With over 15 taps, all of their beers are high quality and spot on. So is their service, their attitude, and their food.
An Added Bonus: Lake Maloney is located just five miles south of this Nebraska brewery, offering an excellent place to bring a SUP and play in the water on a hot summer’s day.
What to Order: We probably sampled everything on the menu, so whatever you order is going to be good, but a few of our favorites were the Jalapeño Cream Ale, the Honey Wheat, and the Java Nilla Cream Ale. As for food, order the pizza. Any pizza. It’s brilliant. We ordered Hog Heaven, I mean, come on! Any pizza that combines pecan smoked bacon and blue cheese? I’m in!
Peg Leg Brewing (North Platte, NE)
We had plans to visit Peg Leg, the other brewery in North Platte, but the rain was coming down so hard it was actually raining sideways and we couldn’t see ten feet in front of us. We decided it would be a better bet to stay put at Pals. So, if any of y’all have been to Peg Leg, tell us what it’s like. We will, again, live vicariously through you. We’ve heard some good things about this small town local brewery.
What to Order: BBQ food trucks seem to be all the rage here. Pair that with a beer, and it’s all gotta be good. There’s a lot of social media love, so I imagine whatever you order is going to bring you joy since you’re sipping on craft beer enjoying BBQ and fun.
Choteau Creek Brewing Company (Wagner, SD)
From Pals we headed into the Nebraska Sandhills Region as mentioned above. But where did we end this small town brewery tour? Since we started our Colorado to South Dakota brewery tour in Colorado, it would make sense to end our Colorado to South Dakota brewery tour in South Dakota. And that we did – at Chateau Creek Brewing Company, a farm brewery that also happens to be a Harvest Host, located just outside of the small farming town of Wagner, SD (population 1,500).
This tiny little brewery serves up homemade pizza and handcrafted artisan ales via a lovely husband and wife team who will welcome you in like family. And that is exactly what they did when we paid them a visit. With family there of their own, we all gathered around the small bar in their cozy taproom (a bit of a chill in the air) and proceeded to drink and talk the night away. But don’t get me wrong, this tiny little taproom is home to an expansive beer garden with yard games and plenty of expansive views across the farmland it so perfectly sits upon.
What to order: They specialize in Belgian beers, so order anything Belgian. Actually, whatever you order will be just fine. Just be sure to order a pizza, too. They are brilliant at crafting those, as well.
Steve’s Bar & Grill (Trent, SD)
Ok, we know! Steve’s is not a brewery, and we said we ended at Choteau Creek, but we can’t not end up at Steve’s, a great small town dive bar with an outdoor grain bin bar. They serve basic burgers and basic beer, but nothing else about this place is basic. It is the place to be on a weekend evening – or any evening for that matter – after a hard day of working the land. This is the quintessential small farming town dive bar matched up beautifully with local trends of all things vintage. It’s where young and old have been coming together since the 80s (1980s but I really wanted you to think 1880s). Still, this is a classic small town bar, and being three miles from our ultimate destination of the DeVaney family farm (April’s family), this is the perfect end point to our brewery tour from Colorado through Nebraska to South Dakota.
What to order: The beer here is your basic dive bar beers, so really order the “water” you want. However, we do still recommend ordering a historic Grain Belt, which in one form or another has been around since 1890 and some say it is now considered craft. As for food, just get the greasy basic cheeseburger and fries. It’s worth it every once in a while to go back to your midwestern roots (even if those aren’t your roots).
Why a Brewery Tour from Colorado to South Dakota (through Nebraska)?
I mean, I’d ask the same question. It doesn’t really sound that intriguing. Until you realize all of the great breweries along this route, that is. But since we have family in all of these states, that’s our reason. You? How about because Living a Stout Life said so.
A brief family history of Ken and April
I (April) was born in Dell Rapids, SD, near Trent and my family’s farm, of which I am now 4th generation. Kenny was born almost dead center Nebraska in Burwell. He ended up in the Denver suburbs by way of his parents back in the 70s. I ended up in those same suburbs about a decade later by way of my Mom who was always seeking a place to belong. (At least that’s what I perceived her travels to be when she would load me and my younger sister and brother into whatever jalopy we had at the time and took to finding a new place for us to live.)
Colorado became home to both of us as we found each other and created a life there as our family began to grow (meaning two boys who are now all grown up – where does the time go?).
And that’s why we have chosen this brewery tour from Colorado to South Dakota by way of Nebraska. It’s a brewery tour of home. If you want to more about us, click here.
The Suggested Route for Your Nebraska Brewery Tour from CO to SD
You can do what you want, but this is what we recommend. We hope you have as much fun drinking your way through these Nebraska breweries from Colorado to South Dakota as we did.
- Strange Craft Beer Company
- Pals Brewing
- Peg Leg Brewing
- Kinkaider Brewing Company
- Scratchtown Brewing Company
- Bootleg Brewers
- Brush Creek Brewing Company
- Bolo Beer Company
- Choteau Creek Brewing Company
- Steve’s Bar & Grill
We took four days for our brewery tour. That’s the joy of road-tripping your way through breweries. When the trip itself is the destination, you can take as little or as long as you’d like. Cheers!
When we first visited the Nebraska Sandhills region in search of breweries, we didn’t plan well and most of them weren’t open yet. But we did get a chance to visit Kinkaider. And we’ve got the scoop.
Dive Bars are Great Options Alongside Craft Breweries
Ok, so maybe you won’t get a lot of craft beer options when visiting dive bars, but you do get to meet the locals and really get to understand the vibe of a small town.
How to Become a Harvest Host
Want to attract more customer to your brewery or place of business? We’ve got the scoop on all things Harvest Host.