Campaign for better beer is a-brewin’

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 20, 2009

It is time to free the hops and Raise a Pint.

For too many years the hops have been handcuffed in this state, sending those in pursuit of the art form known as craft beer to venture to neighboring states to fill those states’ coffers with tax money.

Forty-eight other states — Mississippi and Alabama the only exceptions — have repealed prohibition-era laws that limit the alcohol by weight in beer to 5 percent. A six-year effort in Alabama to have its laws repealed failed again this year. The three-year effort to change Mississippi’s laws has yet to have a bill make it out of committee.

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For most, the beer industry is limited to The Big Three — Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch. Those behemoths own 78 percent of the American market share by using a limitless advertising budget to convince Americans that what those mass breweries produce is more than cheap ingredients and preservatives.

There are 1,459 craft breweries in America, but most of the beers produced are not available here. Of the top 100 beers as rated by the Internet site, 86 are unavailable in Mississippi.

The Raise Your Pints movement is entering its fourth year trying to persuade legislators overseeing an already poor state to treat beer in the same manner wine is treated.

Following Thursday night’s viewing of Beer Wars, most gathered at a local watering hole to connect with others who appreciate great beer, but are all stymied as to why Mississippi insists on being last again.

One Rankin County couple told of a trip planned for Friday. They’d drive west, through Jackson and Clinton and Vicksburg. They’ll have money in hand and would like nothing more than to give their dollars and tax dollars to buy a beer, some of which cost as much as $10 per 12-ounce bottle, in this state.

They will cross the Mississippi River into Louisiana. At Delta, they will scan the shelves for anything and everything new that is unavailable in our state.

They will pay Louisiana sales tax, maybe buy gas there. Then they’ll head back across the Mississippi River.

It happens often here, and will continue until the laws are changed.

A movement is afoot, Mississippi. There is a world out there that is in the business to make quality, delicious beer without the pressures of pleasing stockholders.

It’s time to free the hops.