Hub City patrons flock to beer festival

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A wide variety of Magic Hat brand beers awaits thirsty festival goers at the Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival Saturday, April 12.  A.J. Stewart / Printz
A wide variety of Magic Hat brand beers awaits thirsty festival goers at the Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival Saturday, April 12.
A.J. Stewart / Printz

The Second Annual Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival took place Saturday, April 12 at the Train Depot in downtown Hattiesburg.

More than 600 locals and 40 breweries attended the festival this year.

For $30, patrons were able to sample a wide variety of homebrew and craft beer from all over the United States.

According to the event’s website, the goal of this event is to support and expand the craft beer culture in Mississippi. The state has seen a great deal of change over the last few years when it comes to craft beer.
The changes they refer to are craft beer sections expanding in local groceries, new breweries opening and two bills passing in Mississippi – one allowing for a higher percentage of alcohol in beer and another
legalizing homebrewing.

Ford McDonald, a festival attendant, said the event was a great way to learn more about different types of beer.

“I wanted to try the different types of beer and expand my horizons,” McDonald said. “I tried many different styles that I wouldn’t have tried before. Usually I just go to the grocery store and get Miller Lite, but this event really opened my eyes to a vast variety of beer.”

McDonald said that since the different laws have been passed in Mississippi, he has noticed a change.

“I know raising the alcohol level is a big thing they’ve done around here, and because of that, there is more of a selection,” McDonald said. “The more they do events like this they’ll notice that it is a big deal for people in the state to have the craft beers and home brews that just aren’t available everywhere.”

Josh Sullivan, attendant, said he loves supporting the craft beer movement.

“I really want to support the craft beer culture in Mississippi, not only because it helps form a communal bond for everyone in the city, but because as a business industry, it really helps out the economy of the state,” Sullivan said. “Events like this really help establish a Hattiesburg community – both relationally and economically – and I’m really happy to take part in it.”

He said the two laws passed in Mississippi has really helped create a craft beer market.

“It brings in variety and that’s what defines a market. Passing both of those laws allows for the craft beer market to blossom,” Sullivan said.

Some vendors were from out of town, like Schlafly Beer from St. Louis, Mo., NOLA Brewing from New Orleans, La., and Straight to Ale from Huntsville, Ala.

Drew Stanford, brewer for Straight to Ale, said they are happy to be at this year’s fest.

“We chose to come out to support and promote our brand because we’ve finally been able to reach out to South Mississippi,” Stanford said. “When it comes to higher alcohol beers, it’s great that people have been able to change some legislation and bring better alcohol into the state.”

Stanford said the two new bills are vital to spreading awareness of the proud tradition and diversity of craft beers.

“It’s very important for people to understand that beer is not simply Bud, Miller or Coors,” Stanford said. “There are a lot of varieties out there available for the standard consumer and there is much more to explore.”
Granston Boxx, brand manager for Lazy Magnolia, said they loved it so much last year that they decided to come back.

“Events like this allow for people to come out and try a lot of beers that they’ve never had and they have a lot of beers that you can’t find at the local bars or local markets,” Boxx said. “It also allows breweries to try out new products and see what kind of feedback they receive on them.”

Boxx also said passing the two laws has been tremendously important and helpful for the state.

“One of the things about the higher alcohol percentage law is it allows breweries now in Mississippi to produce a lot of the styles that other breweries outside of the state can,” Boxx said. “It restricted a lot of different styles that were out there and on the table.”

“With home brewing, it’s going to produce a bigger following for craft beer, “ Boxx said. “It’s going to have people start brewing their own beer, and maybe even opening their own breweries, which is going to grow the craft beer movement in Mississippi.”

For more information, visit www.hattiesburgcraftbeerfest.com.