Buying a six pack of beer directly from one of Mississippi’s craft breweries just got a lot easier after Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill into law.
Senate Bill 2552 will remove the prohibition on the amount of beer that can be sold directly to consumers at craft breweries. Right now, brewers are limited to selling either 10 percent of the beer produced there or 1,500 barrels, whichever is the lesser amount. The new law, which is now in effect after being signed by Reeves on June 23, eliminates this sales cap.
Under present regulations, brewers have to sell their wares to the public through a wholesale distributor unless those sales were conducted to those visiting their brewery. Once a brewery exceeded the cap, it could no longer sell beer to visitors at the brewery.
Two years have passed since Mississippi legislators passed a law that allowed craft brewers the ability to sell their products to visitors to their breweries. The state has 14 craft breweries and brewpubs at present, but several have ceased operating such as Lucky Town (Jackson) and Slowboat (Hattiesburg).
According to the Brewers’ Association, a national trade organization for craft breweries, Mississippi has the lowest number of craft breweries per 100,000 adults age 21 or older. The 14 breweries statewide produced 25,257 barrels of beer (ranked 48th nationally) with a $328 million economic impact, 43rd worst nationally.
The state has made steady progress in the last decade to provide more freedom to the alcohol industry in the state. In 2012, a new law allowed the sale of high-gravity beer with an alcohol content of more than 5 percent, with a maximum content of 8 percent. This allows longer shelf life for beer.
Passage of this legislation opened the door for the expansion of the state's craft brewing industry. In 2013, the state legalized homebrewing as one of the last states to do so.
This session was much like previous sessions, where the Legislature prefers small incremental changes to alcohol policy. While SB 2552 passed, the vast majority of alcohol-related legislation either was passed in a vastly-watered down form or didn’t receive a floor vote.
Two bills that would’ve allowed direct sales of wine from out-of-state wineries to Mississippi consumers — House Bill 988 and SB 2844 — died in committee without a floor vote. Mississippi is one of five states that refuse to allow direct shipments to consumers.
Instead, the Legislature passed HB 1088, which allows individuals to purchase wine from an out-of-state winery and have it shipped to a package store. The bill is similar to federal law regarding the purchase of firearms online, which requires them to be shipped to a holder of a federal firearms licensed dealer
Another bill that died was HB 4, which would’ve increased the number of package store permits that one person can own from one to three. It passed the House and died in the Senate without a floor vote thanks to heavy lobbying by the package store owner’s association, the Mississippi Hospitality Beverage Association.
There are 600 permits issued for package stores in the state and 2,000 permits for restaurants and bars statewide, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Mississippi is a control state, which means the state controls the distribution of wine and spirits. Even wine and liquor manufactured in-state has to go to the state’s warehouse in Gluckstadt before they can be shipped out to package stores, restaurants and bars statewide.
HB 1086 would’ve formed a public/private partnership, much like the Mississippi Lottery Corporation, to manage the state’s alcohol distribution warehouse in Gluckstadt. Instead, the Legislature passed SB 2807 that creates a committee to study transitioning the warehouse to a state-chartered corporation. The committee will have 13 members of the Legislature.