Small independent craft beer breweries make up a $9 billion industry and some 750,000 people home brew; making beer in their basements and garages to enjoy with family and friends. And all of those enthusiasts need yeast to brew their beer.
It's not uncommon to find a biochemist at the microscope; but what is unusual is what Wyatt Bordewyk is looking at: cultures of yeast for brewing beer.
"I'm a home brewer myself and I noticed that liquid yeast was fairly expensive here in Sioux Falls and after talking to a few people who provide it, [I] decided it was mostly logistical problems that caused it to be so expensive here," Bordewyk said.
There are currently just two companies on the West Coast that grow the yeast for small beer and wine makers. Shipping the product alone can run more than $100. So Bordewyk decided to fill the need for a growing group of brewers.
"I feel like it's going to take off even further and I'd like to capture some of that market, especially in the Midwest," Bordewyk said.
"Having guys locally do this; fresher yeast, cuts down on shipping rates; and a far better product; plus it's South Dakota grown," Steins and Vines owner Russ Olson said.
Olson says he's seen a huge increase in the three years since he's opened the shop of people wanting to brew their own beer.
"It makes better beer at a lower cost. It's kind of an old tradition," Olson sad.
And he prefers the liquid yeast over dry yeast. And Bordewyk's Union Labs yeast will be ready for sale in a couple of weeks locally.
"At first we'll stick around here but hopefully we'll be able to ship to Omaha, Minneapolis, Rapid City, Fargo, all around the immediate region," Bordewyk said.
Another thing that will make beer brewers happy is that Union Labs will charge a dollar or two less per container of liquid yeast, compared to other companies in the country. And being able to take advantage of the South Dakota Technology Business Center to start up the business has also cut down on overhead for Union Labs, keeping costs down.
"It's very niche market, but it's growing, so I think it will be good," Bordewyk said.
Union Labs also plans to offer product quality testing for local breweries and vineyards.