On July 1, Mississippi craft breweries and beer enthusiasts will celebrate the passing of House Bill 1322, which will “authorize small craft breweries to sell light wine or beer they produce on the premises of the brewery.”
Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill on March 15. A portion of the bill “authorizes small craft breweries located in Mississippi that produce no more than 60,000 barrels of light wine or beer annually to sell on the premises of the brewery light wine or beer produced at such brewery for consumption on or off the premises of the brewery,” according to HB 1322.
Previously, under the three-tier system, producers sold their products only to wholesale distributors who then sold to retailers and only retailers could sell to consumers. This system was established to prevent vertical integration among the tiers listed.
“Beer distributors in the state carry all the craft brewery brands and sell them to licensed retailers,” said President of the Mississippi Beer Distributors Association Richard Brown. “With the craft breweries wanting to have limited craft brewery sales, we wanted to maintain the integrity of the three-tier system as much as possible.”
Mississippi Beer Distributors Association, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the Mississippi Brewers Guild worked together over several years to pass this legislation.
HB 1322 will protect the distributors and retailers. Small craft breweries are only allowed to sell 10 percent of beer or light wine or more than 1,500 barrels produced annually at the brewery.
“Licensed Retailers can only sell what they purchase,” Brown said. “By allowing a brewery, who is a manufacturer, to on-site sale, you get into the business of the independent Mississippi beer distributors and beer realtors, which were all involved in the bill. However, everybody came up with a proposal that both sides could accept.”
The bill will benefit the three-tier system because it will insure the sale of popular beer to distributors.
“It will allow us to experiment with more products [and save] money in the long run by not releasing something to the market that is not going to be a big seller,” said President and CEO of Biloxi Brewing Company Mark Cowley. “[We can save money] by doing a limited release from the brewery.”
House Bill 1322 will allow small craft breweries, categorized as not producing more than 60,000 barrels of light wine or beer annually, to sell limited amounts of beer at the brewery or to-go. The amounts are limited to 576 ounces, in a growler – or two cases per customer. Mississippi will join 48 other states in allowing on-site sales. Previously, the small breweries were only allowed to provide samples of beer on brewery tours.
Brewmaster at Lucky Town Brewery Lucas Simmons and his business partner, Head of Sales Brandon Blacklidge, spent days at the capitol lobbying for the law change and attending committee meetings. Cowley said he also made several trips to the capitol to lobby for the legislation, and attended several events for legislators to speak to them about the cause.
Simmons said there were several benefits from the law being passed.
“We will be able to capture a good bit more revenue per person that stops in on a visit to Jackson,” Simmons said, “Many people drop in for a tour and sample our products and would like to purchase some to take back to friends to share. We currently have to turn them down. Whereas with the new law, we will be able to sell them up to 576 ounces to-go in any form.”
Simmons said being able to sell a small percentage of product would exponentially affect business revenue positively for breweries.
“This fuels job creation, expansion, growth and most importantly: sustainability,” Simmons said. “Being able to sell on site, we can create a much smaller pilot batch and get faster and better feedback from people before going full scale with the product. ”
On July 1, Craft breweries across the state will organize events to celebrate the bill enactment day with bands, new brews and food. For more information visit msbrewersguild.org.