Bill allowing wine and beer research, tasting at universities advances to South Dakota Senate floor

The breweries and wineries in South Dakota are increasing and have become a profitable aspect of the state’s tourism industry, Sen. V.J. Smith said.

South Dakota State University Dean of Education and Human Jill Thorngren reads a hard copy of Senate Bill 153 during a Senate Commerce and Energy hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Shannon Marvel / Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — A bill that would allow the use of alcohol by universities in South Dakota in certain situations, exempt from state alcohol regulations, was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee.

Senate Bill 153 passed through the committee on a 7-0 vote Tuesday, Feb. 18.

The bill would allow universities, such as South Dakota State University, to provide courses in alcohol fermentation, brewing and pairing of foods and beverages, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. V.J. Smith, R-Brookings.

The breweries and wineries in South Dakota are increasing and have become a profitable aspect of the state’s tourism industry, Smith said.

The alcoholic establishments have expressed a desire to have a skilled hospitality workforce that is knowledgeable in alcoholic products.


“When people come here and visit and they leave, we’d like to think they say, 'they sure are nice people and they seem to know what they’re talking about,'” Smith said.

Only 200 gallons each of distilled spirits, malt beverages or wine can be stored or produced at one time on campus, the bill states.

The alcohol would be securely stored and cannot be sold.

University researchers and research participants would be the only ones allowed to consume the alcohol. Even then, tasting of alcoholic beverages typically consists of sampling a small amount of a wine or malt beverage then spitting the sample out to cleanse the palate, according to Jill Thorngren, dean of education and human sciences at SDSU.

Thorngren said SDSU’s hospitality program is the only accredited program in the country that doesn’t allow students to interact with wine and beer.

“If we train our students appropriately and teach them how to manage beer, wine, alcohol they will be more responsible,” Thorngren said.

The bill still requires compliance with state law, including that anyone tasting or consuming alcohol will be at least 21.

The bill will go to the Senate floor for consideration.

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