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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dragging Mississippi out of the Dark Ages

Given the seemingly endless number of beer choices we have in Oregon and most other states, you may be surprised to learn that Mississippi is giving Saudi Arabia a run for its money when it comes to antiquated beer laws. We're talking dark ages.

Under current state law, the alcohol content of beer produced or sold in Mississippi cannot be greater than 5 percent. That effectively means craft breweries can't brew. It also means Bubba can't buy craft beer at the Piggy Wiggly. Nor can he brew his own beer in his mobile home. It's a sad situation.
All kidding about Bubba and the Piggy Wiggly aside, the situation is Mississippi is a joke. If you want to fully understand the problem, take a gander at the map showing wet and dry counties in the state. Half the damned state is dry! Once you see that, you begin to understand why beer laws are comparable to those in Saudi Arabia.

Fortunately, there is a move afoot to fix this mess. A grassroots organization known as Raise Your Pints is working to raise the alcohol limit to 8 percent. Thanks largely to that work, there are currently bills in the state House and Senate that would change the law.
It isn't all hunky dory. House Bill 1422 was passed on March 1, but has since stalled on a motion to reconsider. If it clears that hurdle, the bill moves on to the Senate for approval. Senate Bill 2878 is a backup. It was passed out of committee a week or so ago and is awaiting action in the full Senate. Whichever bill is approved by both houses would go to the gov's desk for signature, veto or tabling. If the latter, the bill would automatically become law after the deadline for approval passes.

Raise Your Pints is also working to make home brewing legal in Mississippi. You read that right: home brewing ain't legal in Mississippi today. And maybe not anytime soon. House and Senate bills that would make home brewing legal have failed to make it out of committee. Go figure.

What's going to happen? It seems likely the beer law will change. Eventually. That well-known stalwart of great beer, Anheuser-Busch, has thrown its support behind the effort to modernize Mississippi. Don't bother questioning why a company whose primary market is light beer would support changing this law. Just be glad they're supporting the change. They have deep pockets.

Much of what's driving the willingness to change these medieval laws is that the state is losing money. People are going outside Mississippi to purchase craft beer and the craft brewing industry is having a tough time due to the alcohol limit. Calmer, wiser heads in government realize the need to change. It hasn't been particularly easy because these laws are entrenched.

For most of the folks who read this blog, just be glad you live where you do. Changes to beer laws in Oregon, Washington and California made the brewpub concept possible long ago. An entire industry was established and flourishes largely as a result of those changes. A small group of people pushed for those laws and we owe them a big thanks.

Honestly, Raise Your Pints is merely trying to drag Mississippi into the 20th century. The 21st century will have to wait.


  1. I never realized how bad it was there. The Lucky Town Brewing Kickstarter vid opened my eyes. Good post Pete!

  2. Lilly Belle, your hair is golden brown, but your beer has been watered down. Tell 'em Neil. I drove through MS once. Some old goat at a diner threw his napkin at me and said,"You're a hippie, but you falling asleep on the job." Whooya. Must have been the freak flag and the fact that I had driven from Pasadena to New York and was driving through the south to avoid bad weather on my way home. I figured napkin versus ice storm. I hear Santorum is popular there. Surprise!
    Thanks for the post, Pete.


Keep it civil, please.