Long before craft beer became a thing in Mississippi, a small group of people got together to talk about Mississippi’s antiquated liquor laws and how it impacted their ability to consume a product they loved.
State law prohibited the sale of beer with an alcohol content by weight greater than 5%, making it difficult to find quality beers in Mississippi.
This group, later known as Raise Your Pints, persuaded lawmakers that the state would benefit from better beer laws.
At the time, Mississippi had only one brewery. Lazy Magnolia was located in Kiln – about 75 miles from Hattiesburg and 25 miles from the coast – a good distance to travel to sample a beer that was not well known. Some beer lovers would travel out of state to find beers to sample.
Former Raise Your Pints president Craig Hendry of Jackson said in a 2016 story that he remembers those days well.
“Basically a bunch of like-minded beer geeks were having a problem finding a beer selection,” he said. “We were traveling out of state and bringing back a variety of beers. We were smuggling beer into Mississippi.”
For nearly a decade, Raise Your Pints lobbied for a law that would allow Mississippians to purchase beer locally with a higher alcohol content.
Founding member Butch Bailey of Hattiesburg and restaurateur John Neal, who opened Keg and Barrel in 2005 to provide more beer choices to Mississippians, were among those who paved the way for the Capitol.
A number of craft beer festivals can be found throughout the state to celebrate the many varieties of the popular Mississippi drink.
That was in 2012. So much has changed since then.
“We are still very proud of what we achieved 10 years ago,” Neal said. “It took the help of a lot of great people. The craft beer scene in Mississippi is better than it has ever been. I look forward to more great times to come.
The law passed in 2012 raised the permitted alcohol content to 10% alcohol by volume or 8% by weight.
Breweries started popping up all over the state. Some survived, others struggled. The new law was great for retailers who could actually import and sell a wider variety of beers, but for brewers it was a different story.
Beer could not be sold at breweries, which limited brewers from marketing their beers to wholesalers. Visitors, on the other hand, were allowed to visit the breweries and taste the beers made there before buying them elsewhere.
Breweries like Lazy Magnolia and other groups and individuals invested in creating a better beer scene in Mississippi have partnered with Raise Your Pints to push for more improvements. And the legislator listened.
In 2013, Mississippi passed a law allowing residents to brew beer at home. Mississippi and Alabama were the last states to legalize home brewing.
The legislature passed a law in 2017 that allowed brewers to sell a limited amount of beer to consumers.
Mississippi breweries that produce no more than 60,000 barrels of light beer or wine per year were allowed to sell up to two cases of their product per day per customer.
These limits and others were repealed in 2020 when Governor Tate Reeves signed the latest measure, which became law on January 1, 2021.