Mississippi Memoir

Lucky Town celebrates HB 1322 in grand style

Where were you the day Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1322 into law? I don’t remember where I was either; truthfully, I hadn’t even heard of HB 1322 until about two weeks ago. I can tell you exactly where I was on Saturday afternoon, July 1st.

I was in Midtown Jackson at the headquarters of Lucky Town Brewing with more than 1000 of my fellow craft beer–loving Mississippians. What was the occasion? House Bill 1322, of course.

House brewmaster, Lucas Simmons, and crew opened their doors at 11 a.m. and were still going strong at the advertised closing hour of 8 p.m. They served twenty–seven beers, some brewed specifically for the event, and two ciders. By 6 p.m., several beers had sold out.

Beer wasn’t the only entertainment on offer. Revelers Saturday had their choice of two on–site food trucks, local musical acts like Jason Daniels Band, Scott Albert Johnson, and Silas, and several beer–friendly activities like giant jinga blocks and beanbag toss set–ups. Afternoon thunderstorms did nothing to discourage the good times as beer lovers savored special brews such Key Lime Pie and Dark Chocolate Gose and Salted Caramel Flair Incident, a variation of Lucky Town’s traditional oatmeal stout.

If you’ve spent any time in Mississippi in recent years, you’re probably aware that craft brew has become something of a local buzz word. We’re not exactly ahead of the curve on this one; it’s been a long time coming, and we’ve got miles to go before we rest on our hops. Our journey includes another 1st of July in 2012.

That summer, a ground–breaking Mississippi law went into effect allowing breweries around the state to brew beer in excess of 5% ABV, no small feat given that similar legislation had been put forward and failed twice before. The long–awaited “High Gravity” legislation also allowed breweries to give away samples of their brews but not officially to sell to customers on–site.

HB 1322 has changed that limited permission. As of July 1, 2017, Mississippi breweries may now legally sell pints, growlers, 6 and 12–packs directly to customers. The advent of the taproom has officially dawned in the magnolia state!

As you might suspect, there’s more to the story of craft brewing in Mississippi, so I pause to give a shout out to local, grass roots organization Raise Your Pints, at work behind the scenes since 2007. Thanks to their tireless efforts to bring “the highest quality beers in the world to Mississippi,” I spent a delicious and well–brewed July 1st afternoon at Lucky Town.

If you haven’t made a pilgrimage to our local Jacksonian craft brewery, Luck Town’s new taproom will be open weekly: Thursdays, 4–8; Fridays, 4–10; and Saturdays 1–8. Stop by and meet the four founders and co–owners: Lucas Simmons, also brewmaster; Chip Jones, sales and marketing; Angela Blackburn, events and planning; and Brandon Blackledge. They expect the new legislation will bring more visitors to the brewery, of course, but also to the cities and communities throughout Mississippi those breweries call home.

On–site taprooms promise a significant increase in foot traffic for craft breweries which in turn promises more traffic to local businesses as breweries continue to open up all over the state. The Mississippi Brewer’s Guild currently lists nine member breweries in operation from Mighty Miss Brewing in Greenville to Chandeleur Island, Biloxi Brewing, Slowboat, and Southern Prohibition, all on or near the Gulf coast. (Check out this map of the Mississippi Beer Trail provided by Chandeleur Island.)

Lucky Town employee Rueben Antdelink confirmed the boost guild breweries bring to local tourism, citing visitors to Lucky Town from across the U.S., England, Ireland, Poland, Japan, and the Middle East. “Most of our visitors come from cities and countries that support craft breweries on a massive scale. When they come to the U.S., they look for places to drink locally brewed beer. They want to do what the locals do.”

The supportive climate fostered by the Brewers Guild helps to simplify that goal for tourists. “It’s a very friendly atmosphere,” Antdelink said of the guild and its nine member affiliates including the Jackson brewery. “We support each other.”

Lucky Town’s website boldly declares that “Luck favors the bold.” I’d add that the harder you work, the more luck you seem to have. Take some time to visit these hard–working, lucky folk at their new Midtown taproom, located at 1710 North Mill Street in Jackson. As they say in the taproom, “Be bold. Rediscover beer!”

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