With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. We’ve miraculously reached our 24th state on the list, The Magnolia State, Mississippi. The state nickname is right in line with both the official State Flower and State Tree, though it’s also known as the Hospitality State.
Mississippi ranks 32nd in total population (roughly 3 million), is ranked 32nd in population density and houses 8 craft breweries as of 2015 (four times the total of 2 in 2011) who are represented by the Mississippi Brewers Guild. The state ranks 51st in total breweries (including D.C.) and 51st in breweries per capita (or .8 per 200,000 adults) as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
We tried finding a history of brewing in the state prior to its early entry into prohibition in 1907 (13 years before passage of the 18th Amendment), but came up with little beyond the legislature passing a measure that enabled communities to permit or ban alcohol sales in the 1850’s. Mississippi was also the first state to ratify the 18th Amendment enabling federal prohibition.
While 39 states ratified the 21st Amendment of the Constitution, ending prohibition in 1933, Mississippi did not and took no action to rescind its ban on alcohol until1966 – the last state to do so. Today 36 of Mississippi’s 82 counties are still dry, with 12 of them not having one wet city.
Though the state wasn’t producing alcohol following the end of federal prohibition, the state began levying a 10% “Black Market Tax” on illegal alcohol. So you were required to pay this tax to enable the bootlegging of alcohol into the state, but you could still be prosecuted for breaking state law. Until the tax was abolished in 1963, the total levied each year was usually in excess of a million dollars, making the state tax collector the second highest paid public official in the country, behind only the president.
From 1966 until 1999, not much changed until Coast Brewing opened on the Biloxi coast at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. They became the state’s first brewer and brewpub since 1907 and were limited to a peak of 4% ABV. During its 6 years of existence, Coast/Beau Rivage captured 5 GABF medals and are the only brewer in the state to have done so. They were forced to shut down in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s 30ft storm surge claimed their copper kettles.
Lazy Magnolia Brewing, founded in 2003 in Kiln, was the first to package beer and is now the oldest in the state. Known for their popular Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale and Timber Beast (a rye DIPA), they now distribute throughout the South, plus Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and NY.
In 2012, the alcohol limit by weight was finally increased from 5% (6.25% ABV) to 8% (10.1% ABV) primarily due to the efforts of the grassroots group Raise Your Pints. In that same year, state law was changed to enable tasting tours on-site, yet along with Georgia, they still do not allow direct sales to customers and are the last two states to do so.
They were also the last state to legalize homebrewing, which became legal as of July 1st, 2013. Three times over the past four years, the MS Brewers Guild has introduced legislation to enable on-site sales, with the most recent attempt dying in committee on February 23rd of 2016. The Brewers Guild plans to re-introduce legislation in 2017.
3 More Mississippi Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Chandeleur Brewing (Gulfport) – Named for their love of fishing the 50 miles of barrier islands just south of the state (pronounced the same as the lighting fixture), Chandeleur is the youngest brewery on our list, open since early 2015. When they aren’t fishing, they’re canning their delicious Curlew’s Toasted Coconut Porter, Lil Smack IPA, Surfside Wheat and Freemason Golden Ale. And they’ve already grown to the point of distributing in Louisiana and Alabama, so keep an eye out for them.
Crooked Letter Brewing (Ocean Springs) –Starting with a temporary license to produce small batches in late 2012, they officially became a production brewery in January of 2013, but that’s after Paul and Wanda Blacksmith had to relocate to a county that accepted their establishment. In the end, they’re crafting some excellent styles. From their Italian-style lager Stabello, to their highly touted Mystery Romp Porter (infused with chocolate and coffee), you might just be walking crooked after all those tasty offerings.
Southern Prohibition Brewing (Hattiesburg) – Originally founded at the Keg and Barrel brewpub in 2008, they bought the rights to the brewery name in 2012 after the owner had different plans following the ABW/ABV law change in 2012. Commonly known as SoPro, owner Quinby Chunn has been quite active in the legislative process to enable taprooms for on-site sales. Plus the art and creativity here is obvious from the custom metal tap handles to the clever names such as Pow! Rye in the Kisser Rye Ale, Jack the Sipper ESB and their Barley Legal barleywines.
On a personal note, I was so impressed with the quality of work being done in Mississippi, despite all the barriers to get their product to market, that I can’t encourage you enough to check out what’s being done in the Delta and the Gulf Shore. It is here the craft movement needs the most support and it’s clear that interest is ripe for what we hope to be explosive growth in the near future.
A huge thank you to RethinkMS.org for their awesomely detailed brewing history of the state!