Higher-alcohol beer-lovers ready to party like 1933

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Moments after Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2878 into law Monday, increasing the alcohol content in beer from 5 percent by weight to 8 percent by weight, craft beer lovers in Mississippi took to social networking sites to organize impromptu celebrations.

One group posted on Facebook that it was getting ready to celebrate like it was 1933 — the year prohibition ended across America. Prohibition in Mississippi, which began with the abolition of alcohol in 1907, was not repealed until 1966.

In 2009, Alabama and West Virginia raised their respective alcohol caps on beer, leaving Mississippi as the lowest in the nation.

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“Literally thousands of Mississippians are crossing into Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana to buy beer and bring it home,” said Butch Bailey, president of Raise Your Pints, a grassroots organization started in 2007 by Bailey, Craig Hendry, David “Soup” Campbell, Katie Parkman and Todd Parkman.

The law will take effect on July 1.

Two formulas exist for measuring alcohol in beer — by weight and by volume. Mississippi uses the by weight formula. So a 5 percent beer by weight is equal to about 6.2 percent by volume. The new law will convert to about 10.1 percent by volume.

Linus Hall, a Vicksburg native who, with his wife, Lila, own Nashville’s Yazoo Brewery, said he expects to increase the available selection in Mississippi.

“We have a beer named Sue, which is a 9 percent (by volume) imperial smoked porter that is very popular around here,” Hall said this morning. “We have already sent some off to the lab to get it certified for when Mississippi’s bill goes into effect in July.”

Lucky Town Brewing Co., a startup in Gluckstadt in Madison County, recently completed a fundraising effort to get their brewery off the ground. Chip Jones, Lucky Town’s sales, marketing and distribution manager, said this morning that the new law will allow the brewery to produce a wide variety of beer.

The owners of the state’s lone brewery, Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, said they have had to pass up contracts to make beer for other companies because they were limited to a low alcohol content. Bailey said that the promise of economic benefit from the bill was key to building support for changes.

Lisa Martin, who co-owns Martin’s at Midtown in Vicksburg with her husband, John, has 10 craft beers on tap and many in bottles.

“We are looking forward to being able to offer our loyal customers a wider selection,” she said.

The craft beer bill, sponsored by Sen. John Horhn of Hinds County, passed the Senate on March 12 and the House on March 27.

“Mississippi’s craft beer culture is about to explode and Mississippi businesses will now be able to compete with surrounding states for Mississippians hard-earned money,” Hendry said. “Mississippi’s beer connoisseurs will soon be able to buy their favorite beers at their local retailers, keeping that money in the community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.