Heavy metal and South Dakota: a pair of terms not commonly linked with one another.
Nick Murphy and Chad Petit had similar thoughts when brainstorming the idea for Hydra Beer Company in Petit’s garage, just four years ago.
“It was a wild idea to start a heavy metal themed brewery in South Dakota,” said Murphy. “Though the community has been very supportive of us.”
Three years later, this ‘out-of-the-box’ idea has become a successful business venture for Murphy and Petit, co-owning one of the top breweries in Sioux Falls, heavy metal themed and all.
Mile High Discovery
Before brewing his own beer, there was a time when Murphy’s palette did not care for the craft beverage.
“I used to be strictly a light beer drinker,” Murphy admits. “I was that guy in college that would show up to a party with a 30-rack of Keystones.”
However, a trip to Denver changed that. After tasting a Fat Tire (a belgian style ale based out of Colorado), Murphy’s palette did a complete 180.
“It was around then I discovered there was more to beer than just getting hammered on the light stuff,” said Murphy. “I developed a taste for hops and really got into the craft scene after that.”
Shortly following this new-found love affair for hops, a new passion arose in Murphy’s life: brewing his own beer.
Like many great ideas, the initial plan for Hydra began in a garage.
“I went over to Chad’s garage to pick something up and have a drink,” said Murphy, who was working in wheelchair maintenance at the time. “We were looking at our beers and somehow from there, Chad brought up this idea of starting our own brewery.”
Being that Murphy now had experience brewing his own beer at home, this idea slowly started to form into a reality.
“This continued in conversation through a series of a million texts,” said Murphy. “From there, we devised a plan and got the ball rolling.”
That plan was to create a full-fledged, badass, heavy metal themed brewery in the heart of Sioux Falls.
Metal and Mythology
One aspect of the brewery that took no convincing was its theme.
Walking into Hydra, you will immediately notice its rustic setting, metal and mythology decor, as well as a deer skull hanging above an epic, Game of Thrones esque chair (photo ops highly encouraged).
“Chad and I were in metal bands for sixteen years, so we knew that was going to be our theme,” said Murphy. “Our workers don’t have to be fans of the music, but they better be able to tolerate it, because it’s playing in the background nonstop.”
The brewery’s soundtrack delves into each genre of heavy metal, which only enhances the atmosphere of the venue. Drinking a pint and playing Mario Kart is a lot more exciting with the accompaniment of Judas Priest in the background.
Nearly the entirety of Hydra is metal related. Everything from the artwork on the walls, to the beer can designs, to the Metallica pinball machine in the back. You will be hard-pressed to find something not associated with the culture.
Despite its layout, however, Hydra is not particularly flooded with headbangers.
In fact, Murphy says the older crowd are the patrons that keep the brewery in steady business.
“Originally, we thought there would be more younger metalheads hanging out in the taproom,” said Murphy. “The older you get, the more financially secure you become. Craft beer costs more to make and costs more to buy, so that may be one reason.”
Likewise, Murphy says that the older generation (metal fans or not) seem to have a greater appreciation for the craft itself and process that goes into making a delicious beer.
Regardless of who shows up at Hydra, Murphy says the key hook bringing people back is customer service.
“We pride ourselves in that,” said Murphy. “The main reason we have the traffic we do is because of our customer service.”
Though primarily located in Sioux Falls, Murphy has plans to slowly start venturing out of the Rushmore State.
At the moment, Hydra’s beer extends as far west as the Black Hills and east as (strangely enough) Philadelphia.
But why would a local Sioux Falls brewery have business in the City of Brotherly Love? Ironically, it was metal which linked the two together.
“We went out to Philadelphia for a music festival Metal Decibel puts on,” said Murphy. “We got this temporary distribution license so we could sell our beer at it. The distributor liked what we had to offer, so we kept in touch.”
Before you know it, Murphy and Petit delivered 80 kegs out to Philadelphia and have been in business ever since.
While expanding Hydra is the goal for the future, Murphy says that he does not want to act on it too quickly.
“It’s hard to go too fast, because you don’t want to sell to someone and have any leftover beer,” Murphy explained. “You also don’t want to oversell and not be able to provide the company with enough beer. So we’re slowly trying to expand out.”
Recently, Hydra collaborated with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson on a sweet stout infused with Ellefson Coffee Company, called Urban Legend.
Additionally, Murphy plans to sponsor more local concerts and continue to showcase live music at Hydra’s downtown location.
Whether Hydra branches out or stays in Sioux Falls, for the moment, Murphy just wants to continue being synonymous with music and making great beer.
“We’re going to try to produce the best beer we can and get it to reach as far as we can.”