In April, Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2878.
It wasn’t just any piece of legislation. It was the payoff for years of hard work by a grassroots beer advocacy organization that had sought to raise Mississippi’s cap on beer alcohol content.
The bill raised the cap from 5 percent, which was the lowest in the U.S., to 8 percent alcohol by weight.
It was the third time Raise Your Pints and its legislative supporters had submitted the legislation.
Former Sen. (and now Rep.) David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, was the original flag-bearer for the bills, when they would routinely die in committee. It wasn’t until Raise Your Pints, Baria and a handful of GOP lawmakers started to sell the issue as an economic development tool that could drive tourism that the issue started to gain traction at the Capitol.
The plan worked, and the law, which took effect July 1, is already bearing fruit. Three breweries have since either announced plans to start production, increase production, or both. That was the point Butch Bailey, one of Raise Your Pints’ founders, made in April after Bryant had approved the measure.
“We’re thankful that Gov. Bryant recognizes that this will help our small businesses and it will promote the production and sale of Mississippi-made products,” Bailey said then.
Hancock County’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. has expanded its offerings of craft beer, and Crooked Letter Brewing Co. in Ocean Springs started production this fall. Jackson’s Lucky Town Brewing Co. launched its product in December, and Southern Prohibition Brewing Co. in Hattiesburg has increased its capacity.
Right before the law took effect on July 1, several beer companies — like Abita and Lazy Magnolia — made preparations to have the new beers on the shelves as soon as it was legal to do so.
Once the beers made it to stores, they didn’t last long. Specialty beer retailers like Hops and Habanas in Madison sold it as fast as it came in the door. Two new coolers store owners had purchased just to stock with new offerings were empty less than two hours after opening on July 1.
Grocery stores like McDade’s locations in Jackson created set-ups just for high-gravity beers that still are among the most popular sections in the store.