Mississippi is in a weird position. The past few years have been really great for lovers of craft beer. It isn't perfect yet.
Laws have changed recently that open the state up for a surge in beer making. Sadly, this might not be enough to catapult the state into a beer-focused craft beer haven. Yet.
What Laws Have Passed
In 2012, lawmakers passed a bill into law that allowed the sale and brewing of beverages in excess of 5% alcohol by weight up to 8% alcohol by weight. The small amount of brewers in the state could make stronger and more popular beers and craft beer drinkers could stay closer to home instead of travelling out of state to places in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee to get their beer fixes. More importantly, it kept money in the state instead of letting it flow out to other economies.
In 2013 legislation finally passed that allowed home brewing in the last two states that banned it; Mississippi being one, the other Alabama. There was a depressing lack of craft brewers home grown in Mississippi. The state's oldest and largest brewer, Lazy Magnolia, has only been around since 2003. The law, SB 2183, allows up to 100 gallons brewed per person, up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household with two or more persons over 21. That is a lot of beers but it is only one step in the right direction.
What Laws Are In The Way
It isn't perfect in Mississippi yet. There are only around eight breweries that call the Magnolia State home, and one of the biggest complaints stem from the notorious "Three-Tier System".
The three-tier system in Mississippi has had a strong hold on the beer economies of most states and have caused problems for those especially in places like Georgia and Mississippi. Both states must sell their beer to a distributor only, and cannot sell their own products directly to customers at events or in their own taprooms. They also can't distribute it themselves, and instead have to fight for shelf space with larger, often out of state brewers.
What will happen?
Luckily there are strong forces of change working in the Magnolia State trying to help them catch up with other more progressive states. Matthew McLaughlin, an attorney that has made it his personal mission to help and support Mississippi brewers, is fighting hard with others to not let the state fall behind.
McLaughlin has worked with Lazy Magnolia for nearly twelve years. As the craft beer community grew so did McLaughlin's knowledge. Now he is branching out to other breweries and even other states. He helped our friends at Lucky Town Brewing Company acquire their building and permits so they could begin churning out their brews. He has helped brewers as far north as Nashville and even has clients in Texas.
He is definitely an asset to the state and has strong opinions on how to make life better for craft brewers.
"Fundamentally we need to be competitive. " McLaughlin said in an interview with us. "What I mean by competitive is we need to adopt well reasoned alcohol regulatory laws that are competitive with what everyone else has done within the space. "
McLaughlin knows that taprooms as well as on site sales for products to be consumed off site will be crucial. It will keep the state competitive with other beer-friendly states but it will also keep a lot more money in Mississippi.
We have more to say about beer crusader McLaughlin in a later article, but the fact that he is working on the problems is more than encouraging.
Steps are going in the right direction. Raise Your Pints, the non-profit grassroots organization helmed by Craig Hendry is working hard on the current issues, as is the Mississippi Brewers Guild. For those wanting to help, these are the people to contact.
We are very passionate at Brewhoppin about pro-craft beer laws and will continue to watch, inform, and educate as much we can. Stay tuned!