In 2004, two young engineers in Hancock County started Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company with a dream and a desire to make specialty beer. Four years later, Mark and Leslie Henderson’s microbrewery is proudly producing Mississippi-brewed and bottled beer, the state’s first and only bottling microbrewery since Prohibition. Their beer is sold in many outlets in all Mississippi counties where beer is legal and in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
“It’s going great guns, and that’s the plan. Everything is going very well. We can’t make enough, and we’re ramping that up, too,” said Leslie Henderson, the Brewster and co-owner. “We have a lot going on.”
The beer that’s being bottled at their Kiln operation is the signature beer, Southern Pecan, which won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup in the Specialty Beer Category. In the beginning, Mark was skeptical of this flavor but was won over by Leslie’s skill and ingenuity. The proof has been in the beer with this crowd-pleasing, award-winning brown ale.
She has given up her day job with Mississippi Polymer Corporation, and Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company now has eight employees. Although Mark puts in approximately 30 hours a week at the brewery, he still works full time with Planning Systems Inc.
The brewery owners are working to get enough bottled beer in their existing territory with a plan to grow the number of customers in that territory rather than going to more states. Outlets where the products are sold grow continuously.
“We are adding accounts every month. I see us growing our customers about five times,” she said. “We know where we want to be in 10 years. We will have about 100% growth in the next year, then 30 to 50% growth for the years after that. In 10 years, we’ll be as big as Abita Beer.”
Henderson says a major key to Lazy Magnolia’s success is the great crew working there. “Without them, we could not do it,” she said.
Until December 2007, the microbrewery’s beer was available only in party kegs, restaurants and bars. It was a happy day for the Hendersons and their employees when the first bottles of Southern Pecan rolled out.
“It’s been extremely popular — way better than we expected,” Leslie Henderson said. “We expect to come out with another flavor in a bottle in December of this year, but we’re not ready to release the name of it yet.”
Branching out to purchase the bottling equipment was a little scary, she admits, as the huge stainless steel tanks are not cheap. “These tanks won’t lose their value, and we were able to pick up some used equipment,” she added.
Everything from milling to packaging is done in the 10,000-square-foot facility located in the Stennis Airport Industrial Park, a site Henderson says is ideal for a brewery for several reasons. The water there is perfect for the kind of beer Lazy Magnolia makes, Interstate 10 is only three miles away and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission provides access to utilities and security services.
“Beer is 90% water, and the mineral content of this water is good,” she said. “The soft alkaline of the water on the Coast gives us a beer that can’t be made anywhere else.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.