Hattiesburg’s Keg & Barrel hosted its ninth Annual Outlaw Homebrew Competition and invited brewers from all over the South to present their homebrewed beers to the public Saturday, Nov. 10.
The event welcomed guests from Louisiana to Florida to compete for the title of Overall Best Beer. Keg & Barrel has hosted the event for nine years, and locals and out-of-staters travel in order to get a taste of the best beers.
General Manager of Keg & Barrel, Diana Pennington said the event began when homebrewing in Mississippi was illegal nine years ago.
“They passed a law about five years ago making it legal in Mississippi—hence the name ‘Outlaw Homebrew Competition,’” Pennington said. “Even though it’s legal now, we still do it. We usually have about 30 homebrewers from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida come with a bunch of beers, and everyone tastes them and it’s such a good time.”
The restaurant prepared for the event by marketing on social media and blind numbering the beers for the judges. Butch Bailey, who is the head of Raise Your Pints, led the judging and the restaurant provided cups for tasting.
Ocean Springs resident Trevor Smith brought along his own brews for the competition. Smith is known for experimenting with flavored beers.
“This is a fun beer event because it doesn’t go by the rules of most homebrew events,” Smith said. “I like this one because I bring a bunch of ‘Willy-Wonka’ style beers. Things that I throw a lot of different flavors into, like fruit and spices, even hot peppers. So that’s what I am trying to do today is bring just the wackiest, flavorful beers that I can think of.”
Long-time homebrewers look forward to the event each year. Hattiesburg local Sean Murphy had set up a tent at the Keg & Barrel for his tenth year while attempting something new.
“This is our first try with an Oktoberfest,” Murphy said. “It’s a lager, and lagers are a little more difficult because it takes a long time, and you need to ferment it at a colder temperature. We didn’t really have the equipment, but we did try our hand at this.” Murphy said.
“For the fruit beer, we have fallen in love with guava in beer. So my wife decided she wanted to use guava, and she added some mango extract. We are real proud of that one also. Both of them are easy drinking. They are not really high in alcohol, so we think people will really like them.”
Murphy said he wants more people to let go of their preconceived notions about beer.
“Just give it a chance,” Murphy said. “A lot of the time you will hear people say, ‘Oh, well I don’t like beer,’ and what I say is, ‘You just haven’t found the right beer.’ It is because a lot of people have a preconceived notion. They will say they don’t like dark beer, but they won’t try it. I just say try it, and eventually, you are going to find the one.”