It looks like the state of Mississippi is slowly catching up with the rest of the modern world.
Mississippi, a state often ridiculed as the epitome of backwardness in both the social and political realms, has finally overturned its archaic beer laws. Just a couple of days ago, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2878, making it legal to sell stronger beer within the state’s borders. Before the bill was passed, Mississippi law limited beer to 5 percent alcohol by weight (approx.. 6.2% by volume). With passage of the bill, the limits have been raised to 8 percent alcohol by weight (approx.. 10% by volume) and that means a large percentage of U.S. and internationally brewed beer can now be sold in Mississippi for the first time since pre- prohibition days.
A good deal of the credit for the introduction of the bill and its eventual passage goes to the activist group Raise Your Pints. Headed by craft beer enthusiast Butch Bailey, Raise Your Pints is a grassroots, non- profit organization formed for the purpose of overturning Mississippi’s outdated and irrational beer laws. The group had been in existence for five years and was formed by several craft beer advocates who gathered in a Jackson bar and decided it was time to change the beer culture in their home state.
Raise Your Pints was fully aware of the challenges it faced, but it worked the system and achieved its goals. Raising public awareness was one challenge, but Bailey and crew also knew they needed corporate support. By securing the backing of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, the Malt Beverage Association, and breweries large and small, the grassroots effort had a better chance for passage. The legislation had actually died in committee the previous two years, but this is common in Mississippi, where laws often take three years or more to pass.
Political and economic experts can debate about the reasons Mississippi kept these outdated laws in place for so long, but the important fact is that, beginning on July 1, 2012 when the law officially takes effect, Mississipians can finally purchase the craft beer they deserve. The really strong barleywines and other products will still be illegal, but the legal increase to roughly 10 percent alcohol by volume will open the craft beer floodgates, bringing in a huge number of malt beverage products previously banned by law.
Mississippi, my pint is raised to you.