Natchez natives open brewery in La., hope laws and luck eventually allow for big expansion into Miss.
Charles Caldwell and William McGehee grew up in Natchez.
After high school, McGehee matriculated to LSU while Caldwell, obviously the smarter of the two, headed to Ole Miss.
After graduation, Caldwell took a job reviewing and processing loans at a bank in Natchez and McGehee went to law school at LSU.
It wouldn’t last long. Long story short, Caldwell and McGehee decided to drop everything and chase a dream. They opened their own brewery.
Tin Roof Brewing Co. started operations in Baton Rouge last November on the same weekend Ole Miss played LSU in Tiger Stadium. Thankfully, the Rebels’ poor performance did not curse the upstarts.
The opposite is true. Tin Roof brews two different beers – a pale ale named Voodoo Bengal and an amber ale the business partners call Perfect Tin. They plan to begin distribution in New Orleans this week, just in time for Mardi Gras.
Both beers contain an alcohol-by-weight content that conforms to Mississippi law, which limits ABW to 5 percent, the lowest in the U.S.
That won’t be the case long, though. Caldwell, 27, and McGehee, 29, have ordered a third fermenter to go with the two they use to brew Voodoo Bengal and Perfect Tin and plan to start later this year brewing seasonal beers and various India pale ales whose ABW is higher than 5 percent. That means their sale and distribution won’t be legal in Mississippi.
That disappoints Caldwell.
“The culture here and just the general attitude toward alcohol makes it easier,” he said of the difference in Mississippi and Louisiana. “We had already decided that we were going to open our brewery in Baton Rouge when we got into this. But even if, like, Oxford had been a big enough market for us to consider, Baton Rouge still would have won out because of the beer-content laws there.”
Several pieces of legislation that would raise Mississippi’s ABW cap face an almost certain death today, the deadline for committees to report bills to the floor of their respective chambers. Raise Your Pints and other organizations supporting the legislation have promised to continue the fight next year.
“It’s sad how the laws are now,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got friends and family all over Mississippi, and they’ve been some of our biggest supporters. Obviously, I think Mississippi could be a big market for us. I’m counting on being able to sell my beer there. We think there’s money to be made there, and a lot of tax dollars, too. It’s in the cards hopefully.”