BY: Steve Wilson | Watchdog.org
Mirroring a trend nationwide, the industry has grown from one microbrewery in 2003 — Lazy Magnolia in Kiln — to seven statewide, but that’s still the lowest per-capita of the 50 states. According to the Brewers Association — a Boulder, Colorado-based trade organization for craft brewers, home brewers and distributors — a microbrewery is defined as a brewery that produces fewer than 15,000 barrels per year, with 75 percent of production for sale off-site.
While overall beer sales increased only 0.5 percent in 2014, microbreweries account for 17.6 percent of the increase — despite accounting for only 11 percent of all beer production in the U.S.
Mississippi is one of two states that have a clear ban on on-site sales for microbrewers; Georgia is the other. According to Brewers Association economist Bart Watson, these laws — an outgrowth of the post-Prohibition regulatory climate — are unnecessary today.
“A lot of the blame pre-Prohibition was placed on what were known as pint houses,” Watson said. “These were locations that were either owned by or commonly controlled by large out-of-state breweries. There was a perception that these breweries didn’t care about their local communities and were just pushing beer into them without worrying about the ills they’d cause in the local communities.”
This led to what Watson called the three-tier system, which consists of producers, who can only sell to independent distributors, who then sell to retailers. Mississippi has some of the most restrictive regulations on distribution, as local brewers have few options for breaking their contract with a distributor, even for cause. No entity can have a financial interest in the success of an entity in the other two tiers. According to the Brewers Association, North Carolina and Texas have eased their regulations on distribution contracts and have thus seen their number of microbreweries increase 23 percent.