In 1966 Mississippi became the last state in the country to repeal Prohibition, after being dry since 1908, more than a decade before the 18th Amendment was ratified. While the production and sale of alcohol was banned in Mississippi for most of the 20th century, the ban was selectively enforced, especially along the Gulf Coast. Sale of alcohol during these years was sufficiently widespread that the state actually had separate tax codes for “legal-illegal” alcohol (bootleg booze produced legally in other states, and for which federal taxes had been paid) and “illegal-illegal” alcohol (homemade hootch, such as moonshine).
Because of its long Prohibition period, it is probably not surprising Mississippi hasn’t developed much of a craft beer industry, with fewer than a dozen breweries in the state. Recently, however, there has been a bit of a boom in Mississippi beers, especially along the Gulf Coast.
The most famous Mississippi craft beer is most certainly Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, long a favorite in this area and widely available in bottles and on tap. It has a wonderfully distinctive taste with — as one might guess — a nice, nutty finish. While best known for its Southern Pecan, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. — Mississippi’s oldest brewery — puts out a wide variety of other styles. Located right off Interstate 10 in Brett Favre’s hometown of Kiln, you can sample all of Lazy Magnolia’s brews at its new taproom, The Porch, which also serves food, including brats and flatbreads, to pair with your beer. The Porch’s specialty is its “beer float” — vanilla bean ice cream topped with its sweet-potato cream Jefferson Stout. That alone sounds like it’s worth the trip!
A little east of Lazy Magnolia, Chandeleur Island Brewing Co. in downtown Gulfport puts out a number of beers that have recently become available in Lower Alabama. Most of its beers are on the lighter side, with a coastal feel. Surfside Pineapple Wheat is one of my favorites — a very light wheat ale with a tart finish; it’s very nice on a hot day sitting on the Gulf (or by the pool). Its Freemason Golden Ale is a bit stronger, but not as distinctive. Curlew’s Coconut Porter is perhaps Chandeleur’s most unique style. As expected, it has hints of coconut in both the aroma and finish — a nice beach twist to a dark beer.
About an hour up Route 49 from Gulfport is Hattiesburg’s Southern Prohibition Brewing, founded in 2013. Its taproom resembles a fraternity house basement, but if you come for the beer, and not the ambiance, you won’t be disappointed. SoPro, as it known, puts out a great slate of beers, many of which are now available on tap or in cans in the Mobile area. To start, its Crowd Control is simply one of the best IPAs you will find anywhere — strong and hoppy, yet extremely drinkable. If you like IPAs and have not tried Crowd Control yet, get yourself one — you won’t regret it. At 8 percent ABV, however, it is really not a beer to have if you are planning on having a few, as it will knock you down.
Like many brewers who put out very strong IPAs, Southern Prohibition puts out a lighter IPA as well. Often known as session IPAs, SoPro has instead dubbed its Devil’s Harvest a “Breakfast IPA.” It is a wonderful beer — cloudy, looking almost like an unfiltered wheat, with great flavor and only 4.9 percent ABV. It may be my favorite of all Southern Prohibition’s beers, but it’s a tough decision as they put out a number of great styles, including the Suzy B Dirty Blonde Ale, with both light malt and hop flavors. Southern Prohibition also puts out a number of small batch brews available only at the brewery, for both on- and off-site sales, and it is certainly worth checking out if you are in the Hub City.