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Sale of Stronger Beer Depends on Governor’s Decision

By Rhonda Miller | Published 28 Mar 2012 07:00pm | comments

A bill that would allow the sale of beer in Mississippi with a higher percentage of alcohol is in the hands of the Governor.  As MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, supporters of the bill say it could boost the state's economy.

The brown glass beer bottles are coming down the assembly line at Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Hancock County. The bottles are labeled, then filled with beer - at the rate of two cases per minute, up to 1,200 cases a day. Owner Leslie Henderson says the company’s specialty beers, known as craft beers, emphasize their local identity.

"Southern Pecan is our flagship beer, that’s what people know us by. We also have a beer made with Mississippi honey called Southern Gold."

All that beer is at the state limit of five percent alcohol. But a bill approved by the Mississippi House and Senate, and now on Gov. Bryant’s desk, would allow the alcohol content to increase to eight percent. Henderson says the change would make the brewery more competitive.

"Essentially what this will do is open up a whole new level of business for us. Now, of course, we’ve been operating for eight years under the current laws and at this point, it’s really starting to hem us in and keep us from doing as much business as we could. "

She says the higher alcohol beers often have a higher profit margin that allows companies to expand.

"If this law passes, I’m going to make some major investments in equipment, a new building, territory expansions, new recipes, new employees and a lot more raw materials that I’m purchasing from Mississippi  suppliers."

To increase support for stronger beer in the state, Butch Bailey of Hattiesburg founded a volunteer group called Raise Your Pint.

"The bottom line is, we’re people who are passionate about craft beer. We enjoy it. I travel, my wife and I, we plan vacations around it. It’s similar to the way a lot of people approach fine wine."

In the first half of 2011, sales of craft beer jumped 15 percent nationwide. 







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