The Beginning

While brewing with his buddies, Blake mentioned that he was working on a business plan to build a brewery in Sioux Falls. One of the “buddies” happened to be Rob Green. Rob piped up and said, “Hey, you should talk to my brother-in-law, Derek. He’s working on a brewery business plan too.” And so, the pair got together, exchanged notes, brewed together, and quickly became allies. A new business plan was set into motion. Once funding was in place and a 12,000 square-foot warehouse was secured, they went to work on designing the brewery. Bringing Riccardo into the company early was also a key to launching the brewery on the right path. Fernson Brewing Company is well on its way to becoming a regional brewery known for bringing people together over unique hand-crafted beers.

Derek Fernholz, Co-Founder/Brewer

A Milbank, SD native, Derek Fernholz is passion personified when it comes to brewing. Derek’s path started eight years ago. While visiting a friend in Delaware, Derek experienced his “ah-ha” moment in his brewing journey. Derek got in on a tour at Dogfish Head Brewery, and who was giving the tour? None other than Sam Calagione, founder and owner of Dogfish Head. Sam’s passion for the brewing process and the way he talked about craft beer resonated with Derek. Immediately after the tour, Derek bought Sam Calagione’s book Extreme Brewing, came home, and started brewing. He hasn’t stopped since. Derek is a graduate of South Dakota State University and has a big vision for Fernson Brewing Company: To see Fernson become a bigger family than it is now. His goal is to brew as much beer as the surrounding area will drink. He is also recognized by the BJCP as a certified Beer Judge. Derek and his wife, Hilary, live in Sioux Falls with their daughter Faye and Golden Retriever, Alice.


Blake Thompson, Co-Founder/Brewer

Methodical, analytical, and creative, Blake Thompson doesn’t just jump into things. He makes absolutely sure before he does. Blake fell in love with the fermentation process after spending time at Jessup Cellars winery in the Napa Valley. He realized years ago that a huge void exists in the Sioux Falls area: a lack of breweries. Blake became serious about beer after brewing with friends and getting a job at Bitter Esters Brew Pub in Custer, SD after graduating from Augustana College. Blake left the brewery in South Dakota after getting accepted into the Brewing Program at University of California-Davis where his dream continued to grow the more he learned. Upon completion of the Brewing Program, Blake returned to Sioux Falls and began writing a business plan to open his own brewery. Blake also completed a brewing course through the Siebel Institute in Chicago and has been brewing for seven years. Blake and his wife, Kayla, live in Sioux Falls with their son Fitzgerald and Yorkie, Millie.

Riccardo Tarabelsi, VP Sales and Marketing

Riccardo Tarabelsi has a unique skill set. From restaurants, bars, and retail, to distribution, pricing, and market analysis, Riccardo’s reputation is known throughout the region. With vast experience in event planning, public relations, and brand development, Riccardo’s passion for this business inspires those around him. Did we mention he’s also a Level I Sommelier and speaks three different languages? Born in Florence, Italy, Riccardo grew up in Boston, MA and got a degree in Psychology from Tufts University in Medford, MA. His favorite thing about working on the supplier level? Educating and training. Riccardo’s belief in Fernson Brewing Company is something that is contagious, especially after the first sip. Riccardo and his wife, Marybeth, live in Sioux Falls and have three boys, Dante, Berent, and Jaxon and a Chocolate Lab named Hershey.

Brett Feterl, Market Manager

Brett is just one of those guys that exudes kindness, thoughtfulness, and sincerity. Brett’s grounded personality began forming in Salem, SD (where his family is from) to Vermillion, SD where he graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in Economics. He fell in love with craft beer after tasting St. Bernardus Abt 12 in Vermillion, where he gained experience in the restaurant industry as a bar manager. Brett began his journey at Fernson first as a beertender, then as GM of Fernson on 8th, and now as Fernson’s Brewery Rep. If you ask him, he will tell you how much he loves working with people and believes that working for the brewery isn’t work at all, it’s a passion. Brett is responsible for both on- and off-premise accounts in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Brett lives in Sioux Falls with his wife Amy (with a baby on the way!) and their Toy Poodle named Bronco.