BILOXI — Forget “born on dating.” If you want really fresh beer, and choices in a much greater range of flavors than you’ll find at the local convenience store, then sample what’s on tap at the state’s first brew pub located at the Beau Rivage Resort.
Beau Rivage didn’t skimp when it came to equipping their brew pub.
“It is probably one of the most expensive brew pubs, equipment wise, in the country right now,” said Beau Rivage brewmaster Brian Bush. “Beau Rivage spent at least $1 million on the equipment alone. It is very automated, and very showy as well. There is lots of visual excitement from all the different copper textures.”
Bush said that 98% of the beer sold in the U.S. is sold by major brewing companies, leaving only a 2% market for microbreweries. While the microbreweries can’t compete on volume, they have a leg up on taste.
“We have competed on taste, offering unique, different products the large brewers can’t make or aren’t interested in making,” Bush said. “The large companies cater to least common denominator, just like McDonalds. They make beers that don’t offend anyone. I worked for Anheuser Busch for 10 years, and I would never say that quality isn’t important to the major brewers. But we compete in different markets. They make enormous volumes of beer every day. Microbrewers have a lower volume, and offer unique flavors. It is all about taste.”
The new brew pub has been well received in Biloxi. Five different types of beer are offered in a wide range of colors and flavors. And the types of beer change with new offerings each season.
The biggest seller at the Beau Rivage Brew Pub is Biloxi Blonde, a light beer made with barley malt instead of corn or rice. Bush describes the beer as refreshing and crisp, with a slightly sweeter taste than beer made with corn or rice.
Ruby Red Lager, a Munich-style dark beer, is the second most popular beer at Beau Rivage. Hurricane Boch, a blonde boch characterized by a sharp taste with multiple flavors, is the third most popular.
“It’s giving the red a run for the money right now,” Bush said. “It is becoming more popular all the time. Originally it was going to be seasonable, but it has been so popular we are going to keep it on.”
Sunset Amber, a Vienna lager-style beer, is full-bodied, multi-amber beer. Sunset Amber was introduced soon after the opening of Beau Rivage, and has gained quite a following. Dixie Dog, a pilsner beer, is described as “traditional, very hoppy and full flavored.”
“It is the most bitter beer I’ve made, and not as popular as the lighter beers people are more familiar with,” Bush said. “But with the large population of Air Force personnel here familiar with German beers, it has quite a following among that group. We sold more of it than I thought we would.”
Dixie Dog is one of the seasonal beers, and will soon be replaced with a stout beer. The pub has a new product out every six weeks. After the stout, Bush plans a wheat beer, a fall offering of porter-style beer, and then a holiday beer.
“When you can keep trying new tastes, it keeps things interesting,” Bush said. “We have our flagship in Biloxi Blonde, but we also wanted to offer something special that people would have a good reason to come back to try. Changing the types of beers is also more interesting for the brewer because you can showcase what you can do.”
Mississippi law limits beer sold in the state to 4% alcohol by volume. At first Bush thought the 4% rule was going to be a significant obstacle because most microbreweries can go a lot higher.
“But actually this has been very interesting for me because it caused me to have to be more creative with the flavor,” Bush said. “Because I couldn’t make the beer heavier, I had to make it more flavorable. It allowed me to use different malts that have some great flavors. The restrictions also help make the beer more drinkable overall. The object isn’t to get drunk, but enjoy it with a meal. This allows you go enjoy more than one without having to worry about how much you are consuming.”
Beer doesn’t have the same kind of classy image attached to wine. Bush said that is part of its appeal: it is an egalitarian beverage that anyone can enjoy. And the U.S. has a long history when it comes to brewing beer. Several of the country’s original founders were brewers. And the reason the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth is because the ship ran out of beer; they had to stop, land, and find something to make beer out of.
Bush said there are even indications that beer had a civilizing effect on early mankind. Some anthropologists theorize that humans settled down into domestic, agrarian life, giving up being hunter-gatherers, when they figured out they could make beer from grain. “They settled down to grow grain to support their new-found beverage,” he said.
Bush believes there are plenty of opportunities in the marketplace for more microbreweries in Mississippi, and says a brew pub in the right setting can be very profitable.
Right now Beau Rivage is on track to produce about two-thirds of the limit imposed now on production from microbreweries. And another brew pub opened recently at Treasure Bay Casino in Biloxi. Fans of brew pubs are hoping that the Legislature will increase the microbrewery production allowed, allowing opportunities for more brew pubs to be opened in the state.