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Mississippi legislature passes new beer bill

Callie Daniels/The Daily Mississippian

 

Beer connoisseurs throughout the state can look forward to a new brigade of beer this summer. 

A new bill (SB 2878) was approved by Gov. Phil Bryant this past Thursday that will allow the sale of beer containing more than 5 percent alcohol.

The bill will allow businesses to carry beer with a higher alcohol content than is normally found in craft beers. Mississippi has been one of the strictest states regarding beer laws.

The bill was not easily passed, though, according to Harrison County Rep. Scott Delano. The House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 69-49 with three abstentions. Delano was in favor of passing the bill and has been advocating its approval for the last three years.

Delano worked hand in hand with Raise Your Pints, a grassroots non-profit organization started by Mississippi citizens passionate about craft beer. Raise Your Pints President Butch Bailey said they came together with no connection to the beer industry in hopes to improve what he called “bad beer laws.”

They had two goals in forming this group: to raise the permissible alcohol content and to allow in-home brewing. While the organization has successfully achieved its first goal, plans for in-home brewing are still in the works, Bailey said.  

Several areas in the state are still dry counties, which makes it difficult for people in the legislature to pass any type of liquor law. The focus then shifted, Delano said, to educating lawmakers about why passing the bill would be a good idea.

“Even the discussion of alcohol in Jackson has always been an extremely contentious topic,” Delano said.

The aim is not to increase the amount of alcohol in current beers but to diversify the selection. With more craft beer companies establishing themselves in the state, the market will grow. Buyers currently have to go out of state to get specialty beers, which causes Mississippi to lose money in the process. 

The state Senate and House of Representatives agreed, passing the bill on to Bryant, where it was approved.

The bill has already affected the beer business in Oxford. 

Bikini Beer manager Leslie Howell told Newswatch the new bill will be amazing for business.

“We’re going to have to totally revamp the whole store,” said Howell, who expects her business to add up to 120 new beers to its inventory. 

Howell said they plan on making room for as many new beers as they can order and stock. Bikini Beer is still limited on what beer it can order because some breweries will not ship to businesses that cannot keep their beer refrigerated.

Biology senior Dan Harber said the bill was the right move for the state.

“I think any time you introduce a new market to entrepreneurs in the beer industry, you’re going to see positive growth,” Harber said.

As soon as July 1, higher-alcohol-content beers will be available for sale in Oxford.