Craft beer fight in Mississippi — tell Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Sen. Dean Kirby to stop being ridiculous
We’re not even from Mississippi, but we want people to have access to quality beer. But apparently, Mississippi’s Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and state Sen. Dean Kirby think people should be stuck with beer that’s less than 5%, the lowest in the nation.
We know not just how badly this affects the people who want good beer, but how badly it affects people who want to make good beer. Take, for example, Mississippi’s lone craft brewery, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co.
Leslie Henderson, who co-owns Lazy Magnolia Brewery with her husband, Mark, said if the alcohol content ceiling was raised to 8 percent, it would mean a sizable jump in her sales because she could add to her product line of gourmet and craft beer, whose alcohol content by weight hovers in the range of 7 percent and 8 percent.
“I would estimate our business would have been approximately 25 percent greater (the past year), which is on the order of about $750,000, just in revenue. I would say at least 50 percent of that goes to pay some sort of taxes. That’s a lot of tax dollars that are lost.
“There are existing customers that want (craft beer) from us, but we can’t produce it for them. Most of our sales by percentage, particularly because we’re in five states, are outside of Mississippi. It has certainly held us back as far as expansion goes,” she said.
Seems easy, right? Get with the times, up your alcohol content to something reasonable, then profit. So why is Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, Sen. Dean Kirby, and the Mississippi legislature acting outright nonsensical?
“We’re rather resigned to defeat at this point,” Henderson said. “It’s frustrating, especially when all we want to do is create jobs in Mississippi and give more money to the state. We’re not coming to Jackson asking for anything. We’re begging them to let us give them more money. I think they really need my money.”
Butch Bailey, a Hattiesburg forester who serves as president of Raise Your Pints, shares Baria’s and Henderson’s frustration with the legislation being lost in the anxiety of election-year politics.
“No one’s ever given me a good reason why we should not pass it,” he said. “‘It’s an election year.’ That’s all I ever hear, but there’s never an explanation behind it. My response as a citizen of Mississippi is I think they should stand up and do the right thing. Stop worrying so much about your political bosses or your party bosses and the tough election. Do the right thing for the state that will raise revenue.”
This is completely absurd. Why are they holding this up? What mythical votes do they think they’re going to loose from keeping good beer out of Mississippi?
“If you go to places like Oregon and Colorado, it’s treated the way fine wine is. These are gourmet products, and there are thousands and thousands of Mississippians who enjoy it the same way and travel out of state to buy it. We want to buy it here. To get that, we have to remove this ban.”
Bailey said about a third of all beer styles are banned in Mississippi as well as 70 percent of the top-rated beers in the world.
“We don’t think that’s fair. They’re legal in almost every other country, and in 49 out of 50 states. So it’s basically Mississippi and Saudi Arabia that ban these products.
“We think Mississippians are mature and intelligent enough to make the same choice people in Alabama and Louisiana and Tennessee can make.
“This isn’t anything radical. We’re not going away until we get this done. This is a commonsense, win-win situation for everybody involved. We’ll fight until this happens,” Bailey said.
So here’s what you can do right now — as in this minute.
You can email Dean Kirby and tell him to stop being irrational at email@example.com, or you can call him at 601-359-3246.
As for Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who apparently has his sights set on the Governor’s office, you can call him at 601-359-3200. Do it now — they need to know this isn’t right.