/Tapping into Mississippi’s craft breweries

Tapping into Mississippi’s craft breweries

ChandyFest is a block party that combines music, food, and beer. It was created to help attract customers and create a sense of community for the craft brewery. This was in the pre-2017 days when many young breweries were trying to make a name for themselves among the complex laws regarding beer in Mississippi. This year marks a significant turning point in Mississippi’s recent history of craft breweries. The Mississippi legislature granted them permission to sell their beer on site in 2017. Breweries that produce less than 60,000 barrels of light beer or wine each year can sell as many as two cases per day from their taprooms. David Reese (Chandeleur Island Brewing Company brewmaster) says, “That changed everything.” This is a tough business, the margins can be small. We wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t happened. Because we need these margins to keep the doors open, we wouldn’t make it.” Southern Prohibition in Hattiesburg and Lazy Magnolia in Kiln quickly expanded their operations to fill bar stools and move product wholesale. Anyone of legal age can now walk into Chandeleur’s nautical-themed taproom and grab a cold draft beer. They also offer six packs or more of local beers. Southern Prohibition’s Ben Green says that if there wasn’t a tap room, many of the beers would have been priced out of reach. We are able to keep the price down here because we make it and sell it across the bar.” Matthew McLaughlin of McLaughlin PC, an attorney who has worked with over 200 small breweries in Mississippi, said that the state’s limited shelf space and tap space at traditional distribution points like bars and supermarkets is a major reason why on-premise sales are so important. He says that Mississippi has been historically very macro-focused. McLaughlin, executive director of Mississippi Brewers Guild helped to lead the effort to pass the on-premise provision and get it signed into law. This change has had a significant impact on Mississippi’s beer industry. Breweries can now offer their beer on-site, which allows them to be more creative in their product. The brewery does not have to spend a lot of marketing, production and distribution costs to offer specialty brews to customers. Green says, “Now we are able to do smaller, more experimental batches.” We can make batches with more complex flavor profiles. We can produce beers much faster and get feedback directly from customers.” Southern Prohibition has been successful with non-traditional beers in the taproom as well as the market. Crowd Control is the one responsible for Mississippi’s brewery’s success with distributors this year. Crowd Control’s double IPA, which was able to reach 99 percent of Mississippi’s beers, is the real reason. It is now their most popular beer. Green says, “We had some great success with a beer you would not have believed would do as well as it did.” Green says that some of this success can be attributed to the taproom’s openness. “This year, we’re going close the year making more beer then we’ve ever done,” he continues. Although the law has helped the entire craft beer industry in Mississippi, it didn’t save many brewers. Lucky Town in Jackson and Mighty Miss in Greenville have stopped brewing. Others have tried brewpub setups. Slowboat is now a bar. McLaughlin says that there are now 8,000 suppliers in the United States. “There were only 700 suppliers when I started my career in the alcoholic beverage sector 16 years ago. Tap handle space and retail shelf space have not increased at the same rate, which means there is fierce competition. We live in an environment where everyone wants the latest thing. Everything has to be hyper-local. It’s impossible to be local in six states because in six other states there may be 20 breweries within 50 miles. This is the local thing. Lazy Magnolia, which was established in 2003 and became the first state’s craft brewery, is now available in 18 more states. Younger breweries have entered a different market. Southern Prohibition distributes to five states, and there are no plans to expand that number. Green says that growth is not always about expanding into new markets. It’s about growing market share in the markets where you have a foundation. He says, “We’re trying deep roots in the areas we are currently at.” “We’ve had great success, even though we are only six years old in Mississippi this year. Although I would never say never, we are content with the state we are in. We are just trying to get a little deeper and into some of these.” Educating more customers about craft beer is the main goal. Reese believes there is plenty of potential growth for Mississippi’s home-brewed craft beer, even with the closings at a mere 1%. Reese says, “I can assure you that we are growing and that I believe the market is over saturated.” It’s 17 to 18 percent [market share] if you take it all in national perspective. It’s more than 50 percent when you go to Portland [Ore.]. Education is our challenge. Education is our challenge. Green and McLaughlin agree with Reese. McLaughlin says, “The greatest challenge right now is to get more Mississippians to drink Mississippi-made beer.” McLaughlin says, “If we can move that market share upto 4, 5, or 6 percent, it would be a huge boost to anyone that is operating within the industry right now.” Subscribe below to The ExPat newsletter, curated specifically for the expat community. {#label}{label}: {/label}{message} Something went wrong. Please try again later. D