Oxford’s inaugural beer festival is a direct indication of the alcohol reformation taking place in Mississippi. Most of the beers provided at the festival this year were illegal in the state less than a year ago. The state had and still has some strict and odd regulations when it comes to alcohol. Yet, since being elected into office in 2011, Gov. Phil Bryant has signed two Senate bills that have dramatically loosened regulations. This legislation has earned Bryant the nickname “Budweiser Bryant” from the grateful Mississippi beer enthusiasts.
The credit does not lay solely with Bryant, though. A majority of the change in state regulation is due to the advocacy promoted by the grassroots, nonprofit organization Raise Your Pints. Formed In Jackson in 2007, this organization focused on bringing the highest quality beers in the world to Mississippi. In order to accomplish its mission, two decisive bills needed to be passed.
The first bill was Senate Bill 2878, a bill that would increase the amount of alcohol in beer so that it may contain up to 8 percent by weight. This bill was passed and became effective July 1, 2012. It allowed beer drinkers in Mississippi to access a much greater array of beers, like craft beers and high-gravity beers. Craft beers are beers that are distributed by small, independent breweries, while high-gravity beers are beers that contain a high percentage of alcohol. According to beeradvocate.com, the 5 percent alcohol by weight cap eliminated 80 percent of the top-rated beers in the world and about 33 percent of the world’s beer styles, like barley wine, doppelbock, imperial stout and many more. Before its passing in July, Mississippi was the only state to have a ban on high-gravity beer.
The second bill the Raise Your Pints collective sought to pass was S.B. 2183, which would legalize the act of home brewing. The bill was passed on March 18, 2013, though the illegality of home brewing in the state was not really preventing Mississippians from enjoying the hobby. The entire issue was more of a gray area of legal interpretation. This law change resulted in clarifying the legislation, to the delight of home brewers. The passage of S.B. 2183 left no question that home brewing is a legal hobby in Mississippi. Mississippi was the second to last state to legalize this act officially, leaving Alabama as the only state that has yet to do so.
Raise Your Pints President Craig Hendry said that the passage of S.B. 2878 was more difficult to accomplish than that of the homebrewing bill
“It was our top priority and we spent a lot more time educating and promoting it. Our efforts with that bill also made it easier to follow it with the home brew bill the next year.”
The hard work of accomplishing that task paid off for Hendry and beer enthusiasts in the state.
“After that law passed, we have seen a big influx of new beers and new breweries distributing to Mississippi,” Hendry said. “Also, less than 12 months later, we are on the verge of having five breweries open in Mississippi, compared to only one a year ago. So, the results are there for everyone to see.”
- Home brewing boom embraced in all 50 states (denverpost.com)
- Adventures in home brewing (redenvelope.com)
- BEER! Now that we have your attention, a little science… (23andme.com)
- Gov. Robert Bentley signs home brew bill (al.com)