Mississippi wins beer freedom

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Cheers, Mississippi.

Toasting into Independence Day, a new law went into effect yesterday that allows Mississippians to brew and sell beer with higher alcohol content. The law not only applies to local breweries — it means distributors can finally bring in certain beers from all over.

Miss. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in April, which legalizes brews of up to 8 percent alcohol by weight, or 10 percent by volume. More than a dozen bills were introduced this legislative session, all arguing to loosen up the state's collar when it comes to beer. (With one exception: homebrewing. Still not cool in the Magnolia State.)

Yesterday, stores braced for sales to meet the demand, and the stuff was "flying off the shelves."

The state's communications director for the department of revenue told the Clarion-Ledger more than 120 new labels have been approved for distribution in the state following the law and assures "Yes, there will be new product coming."

Jackson Free Press has the history lesson on the state's relationship to the stuff: Mississippi was the last state following Prohibition to fully sell booze statewide (in 19 effin' 66, more than 40 years after its repeal), and the iron-fisted rule of teetotalers and rigid temperance leaguers kept the state dry by default — not just in some counties where it's dry only on Sundays. The entire state is opt-in, not opt-out, for boozin' — though much of the state allows the sale of alcohol.

All of which to say "That's pretty weird!" considering they are very, very close neighbors to the east, and we're seemingly the wettest place in the world, it feels.

So Mississippi missed out on the big microbrewery boom and the growing and lasting affection to craft beer, while nearby states — from Nashville's Yazoo to Louisiana's Abita (except for Jockamo and Andygator, which have higher alcohol contents) — snuck into Mississippi bars and liquor stores.

Lazy Magnolia, founded in 2005, is familiar in brewpubs throughout Louisiana for its signature Southern Pecan Ale and Jefferson Stout beers. It's Mississippi's sole brewery, and Mississippians believe the new law could open the gates for others.

Any beer suggestions for our newly emancipated neighbors?

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