Don't look for Burt Reynolds racing down your street in a black Pontiac Trans Am running point for a truck full of Coors with Sheriff Buford T. Justice on his tail. Instead, it's the couple down the block in their Toyota Corolla driving back from New Orleans with several bottles of craft beer. The beer could be a Belgium import in a wine sized bottled, corked like Champaign and costing more than a case of domestic beer. They couldn't buy it in Mississippi so Louisiana got the revenue instead.



Mississippi caps alcohol in beer at 5 percent ABW (alcohol by weight) preventing, according to the advocacy group Raise Your Pints Mississippi, more than 90 percent of the world's beers from being sold in Mississippi. They say this includes 87 of the Top 100 beers judged by Beer Advocate, forcing Mississippi consumers to purchase fine beer out-of-state.

Legislation providing the freedom to purchase these beers in Mississippi died in past sessions. It is back this year with bills by Representatives David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) and Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto). Their bills (HB26 and HB543 respectively) would raise the allowable limit of beer in Mississippi from 5 percent ABW to 8 percent ABW (for those more familiar with ABV - alcohol by volume - an increase from 6.25 percent to 10 percent).

The current ABW cap prevents any brewery in Mississippi - like Lazy Magnolia in Kiln - from creating alcohol above that level for Mississippi consumers or to export to states which allow their citizens to consume it. Absent the passage of the above legislation, additional bills by Baria (HB280), Representative Jessica Upshaw (R-Diamondhead) (HB7) and a Senate bill introduced by nine sponsors (SB2370) would allow a Mississippi brewery to create beer above the limit for export only.

Moving the ABW cap allows for more choices in beer. It does not alter the current beers on the shelf. If someone enjoys a Budweiser or Miller, they need not fear those will change. Allowing Mississippi adults the freedom to purchase fine beer is not a get drunk quick scheme. That can already be accomplished with liquor or wine. If the goal is to get drunk, it would be cheaper with beer currently available.


Like for the appreciation of wine, cheese and specialty foods, there is an entire market devoted to beer, but currently unavailable in Mississippi.



Fine beers - craft beers - possess complex flavor profiles like wine, which can be paired with specific foods and seasons. Like for the appreciation of wine, cheese and specialty foods, there is an entire market devoted to beer, but currently unavailable in Mississippi.

Traditions from the agricultural roots of Southern culture - like pickling and canning vegetables and jellies - continue long after people trade farmland for yards. Southern slow food movements trend toward organic and local produce with a focus on farmers markets, specialty farms, neighborhood creameries with fresh unpasteurized milk and raw cheese, and sustainable individual gardening. Another pursuit continues from Founding Fathers until today: homebrewing.

A Super Bowl party can be fun with a pizza ordered in twenty minutes. But many Mississippians instead spend hours slow smoking meat - perhaps deer sausage taken personally by the cook. There is nothing wrong with pizza; it is delicious. But there is another kind of food pleasure found in the patience of practiced technique and enjoyed in the preparation and sharing of a meal from scratch.

Homebrewing provides the same activity. You can pick up a six-pack of cold beer from a gas station. But some people choose to spend several hours boiling grains and hops, and waiting weeks to months for fermentation to share their creation.

Currently, Mississippi law provides for a person over the age of twenty-one to make for home consumption up to 100 gallons of wine a year. Of course wines can be made from grapes, but other fruits and berries like apples, apricots, cherries, pears, blackberries, strawberries - even herbs and flowers - provide the stock for Mississippi wild wines.

Additional legislation introduced by Baria and Moak, and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Terry Brown (R-Columbus) would amend the current wine law to explicitly reference homebrewing. House Bills 25 (Baria) and 84 (Moak) and Senate Bill 2307 (Brown) simply inserts in statute the words "or beer" after "shall have the right to make homemade wine." The legislation also allows for the transport and sharing of homebrew to and at homebrew competitions.

The House bills mentioned above have been referred to the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Representative Jeff Smith (R-Columbus). The Senate homebrew bill was referred to the Finance Committee chaired by Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall); the Senate export bill was double referred to Economic Development and Tourism chaired by John Horhn (D-Jackson) and Lydia Chassaniol (R-Winona) respectively - both are sponsors of the legislation.

Maybe with these reforms, we'll not see suburban Bandits spend their money out of state, otherwise they'll continue to do so because they're thirsty in Attala and there's beer in Louisiana.


Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.