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Council eases path to operation for Hattiesburg breweries

The Hattiesburg City Council removed late last week one of the last major hurdles two breweries had to clear before they could get their product on shelves.

The council altered the city’s land use code to allow breweries in Hattiesburg’s downtown district. The old code would have allowed breweries, but would have also mandated they provide things such as parking areas similar in size to other downtown retailers.

John Neal, owner of Southern Prohibition Brewery, said the altered land code “just makes thing a lot easier on us.”

“Now we don’t have to have a whole bunch of parking that would be expensive to build and that we just wouldn’t have needed,” he said Monday morning. “We’ll have people come and tour the brewery, but nothing that would have justified having 50 parking spaces.”

Neal said he hopes to have Southern Prohibition beer on retail shelves by April. His 20-barrel brewery will sit in a renovated furniture warehouse. Gordon Creek Brewery, which will be right down the street from Southern Prohibition, is scheduled to start brewing next month, according to the Hattiesburg American newspaper.

Neal, who also owns craft beer bar the Keg and Barrel, said his operation will be a little different from the handful of breweries that have sprang up since July 1, when state law changed to allow the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi to rise from 5 percent by volume to 8 percent by volume.

“We’re going to can our beers, which is kind of a new thing for the craft beer industry,” Neal said. “It protects the beer from light, gets it colder, and is generally just easier for the consumer to handle.”

Neal said business at Keg and Barrel is up 30 percent since July 1. He’s added 45 parking spaces and built an outdoor bar since then, he said. “I fought hard for the ABV law, but I had no idea it would have this dramatic of an effect on not just us, but everybody connected to craft beer.”

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