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New samples law more good news for existing, future breweries

May 31st, 2012 No comments

This week’s issue of the Mississippi Business Journal has a story in it about Crooked Letter Brewery, whose owners hope to be up and running this fall.

The Jackson County brewery would be Mississippi’s second, joining Hancock County’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. (The Keg and Barrel in Hattiesburg is a brewpub, the only of its kind in the state.)

Crooked Letter CEO Wanda Blacksmith and her husband Paul, the brewery’s GM, said they had planned to open a brewery before Raise Your Pints and others were successful in their push to reform Mississippi’s beer laws. The Blacksmiths did say, though, that the new laws that raised beer’s alcohol content and allowed breweries to exceed that limit in beer sold out-of-state would help.

Crooked Letter got another bonus last Thursday, when Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that allows breweries to offer samples to customers who tour their facility. It was yet another piece of the craft beer crowd’s legislative agenda. It didn’t make the Crooked Letter story, because the news of Bryant’s signature didn’t arrive until the MBJ’s printing presses were running.

The samples, according to the law, have to be made by the brewery offering them, and cannot exceed six ounces. No one person can have more than six at a time. The samples have to be consumed on the brewery’s premises, and can only be offered between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Obviously, the law requires that tasters be at least 21 years old.

Breweries also have to maintain records of how many and what kind of samples they offered, though there doesn’t seem to be any language that requires auditing of those records by a state agency.

Like the other new statutes, the brewery samples bill takes effect July 1.

 

Trade organization: U.S. craft beer exports soared in 2011

April 27th, 2012 No comments

Numbers from the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association show that American craft beer exports nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011.

Last year, craft beer makers in the U.S. exported  more than 110,000 barrels, up 86 percent from 2010.

Exports have gone up all nine years the BA has collected data.

That’s important to Mississippi, what with our new raised alcohol-by-weight law taking effect July 1. (Legislation Gov. Phil Bryant signed in early April will raise the cap from 5 percent ABW to 8 percent ABW.) The state’s lone existing brewery, Lazy Magnolia in Hancock County, told the Mississippi Business Journal last year an 8 percent ABW law would bump their revenues an estimated 25 percent annually.

And in the Jackson area, the folks at Lucky Town Brewery have just completed gathering seed money to begin brewing their beer on a small scale with the hopes of eventually opening a full-blown brewery. The hope is that microbreweries will begin to take hold in some of the state’s more touristy areas — the Coast, the Delta and the college towns.

This is a good example of a small business-driven market that has a lot of growing left to do. Mississippi seems to have jumped into the game in the nick of time.

For the full report from the BA, click here.

Bryant signs beer ABW bill (Updated)

April 9th, 2012 No comments

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed Senate Bill 2878, which raises the alcohol content in beer from 5 percent to 8 percent alcohol by weight.

According to the Legislature’s website, Bryant signed the bill April 5, which was last Thursday. Monday was the day Bryant had to either sign it or veto it before it automatically became law.

On July 1, when the law takes effect, Mississippi’s beer options will grow. Raise Your Pints and all the lawmakers — especially Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, and Rep Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs — deserve a massive amount of credit for being persistent and pushing this issue as one that had to do with economic development and tourism, and not alcohol.

UPDATE: Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey, as you might imagine is having a pretty good Monday.

“We’re thrilled,” he said. “And, 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 his organization is planning a couple celebratory events. One is tonight in Hattiesburg at the Keg and Barrel. There will also be one in Jackson, either tonight or tomorrow.

Best I can tell, Bryant signed the bill late Thursday. Because lawmakers and Capitol clerks weren’t around Friday because of the Easter holiday, the signed bill didn’t get filed until this morning. That explains the delay between the listed signing date and it not appearing on the legislative website until Monday morning.

Beer law reform picks up powerful GOP bill author

February 8th, 2012 No comments

In this week’s MBJ I had a story about the beer legislation that has tried and failed the past few legislative sessions. You can read all about it here  (subscriber link).

Bills that would raise the state’s alcohol-by-weight content from 5 percent (lowest in the U.S.) to 8 percent have died in committee at least the last two sessions, as have bills that would allow the state’s only brewery to offer samples of its product to those taking tours of its facility. Bills that would have legalized homebrewing and allowed a brewery to brew illegal beer as long as it’s shipped and sold out of state have also perished. (It’s worth noting that the fact homebrewing is illegal has done nothing to stunt its popularity here).

After my deadline last week, though, came a bill in the Senate authored by Senate President Pro-Tem Terry Brown, R-Columbus, that would legalize homebrewing. Like Rep. Jessica Upshaw, R-Diamondhead, who has introduced beer legislation in the House, Brown’s filing a similar bill is significant.

Because while the bills have enjoyed a modicum of bipartisan support in the past, I can’t remember the GOP jumping on the bill-filing train before now. They may have; I just haven’t confirmed as much. Democrats have traditionally filed and supported the bills the loudest. The committees the bills died in were split among which party controlled them. The GOP now controls the House committee (Ways and Means) and the Senate committee (Finance) in which these bills currently sit.

And that was the gist of this week’s story: Longtime supporters of the beer agenda are more optimistic the legislation’s chances of passage are greater this time, if only because it’s likely lawmakers won’t have to face re-election in November. They may have to if the redistricting process gets squirrely, but it’s unlikely. Election-year politics killed the bills before they were even filed last year.

While it would legalize homebrewing, Brown’s bill does have some limits on the amount one household can brew per year: If there’s only one person over the age of 21 years residing in a single household, that house can brew no more than 100 gallons of beer annually. If there are two or more folks over 21 in one house, that limit rises to 200 gallons per year. The bill would outlaw homebrew being sold, but it would allow it to be exhibited at competitions, tastings, county fairs, etc.

Behind Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Brown is the Senate’s second-most powerful member. So it’s not insignificant that he’s filed this legislation. Upshaw and other Republican supporters of the beer bills have made it into an economic issue by tying it to tourism. How beer legislation in both chambers is handled in committee will be interesting.