Mississippi has been slowly embracing craft brewing as a way to respond to the refined tastes of some beer enthusiasts plus boost tourism in the state.
The fledgling industry has received a big boost from the Legislature this year, assuming Gov. Phil Bryant concurs.
Lawmakers agreed to allow Mississippi breweries to begin on-site beer sales. Currently, other than letting tour groups try a sample, craft breweries are restricted to wholesale operations.
That has limited their growth and their tourism potential, since, as other states who are further along in this industry have demonstrated, craft breweries do best where they can also have a retail operation. Often, that results in the creation of an ancillary brewpub, where visitors can order and drink beer on the premises and buy a meal.
The change will be beneficial in Greenwood’s effort to bring a craft brewery to downtown. Developers have been in regular conversations with one such prospect from Winona, who started a microbrewery in Oxford and now would like to do the same in Greenwood if he can line up the investors. To be able to have a retail and wholesale operation would make the business plan more feasible.
Although the Delta has long been a place where alcohol flowed freely, even during the days of Prohibition, other parts of the state have been more conservative about it. It’s tough for lawmakers from dry or semi-dry counties to vote for anything associated with alcohol.
Those who enjoy craft beer, however, are often the flip side of those who enjoy fine wine. They have cultivated a taste for heavier, European-style beer, usually consumed in moderation.
Besides, there’s plenty of traditional beer to be had at convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants and bars, so holding down Mississippi craft brewers from making a go financially was not doing anything to stem problem drinking. It was just stifling the creation of an experience that residents and tourists might like. It also put Mississippi brewers at a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts in neighboring states, where on-site sales are legal.
Bryant should sign the bill.