By JEFF AMY
JACKSON — Mississippians will soon be able to buy stronger beer, which supporters say will allow beer lovers to sample more kinds of suds and increase business opportunities for breweries.
The law signed by Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday takes effect July 1. It allows the professional brewing and sale of beer with alcohol content of up to 8 percent by weight, above the current 5 percent limit.
The law was supported by a group called Raise Your Pints, which has been lobbying for the change for three years.
“Literally thousands of Mississippians are crossing into Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana to buy beer and bring it home,” said Butch Bailey, president of Raise Your Pints.
Bailey said he’s confident that distributors, who control the beer trade in Mississippi, will broaden their offerings to satisfy demand. Raise Your Pints members were planning celebrations this week, and are likely to gather again to mark the July 1 legalization date.
“We’ll introduce high-gravity, gourmet beer to Mississippi in a big way, come July 1,” he said.
The owners of the state’s lone brewery, Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, said they have had to pass up contracts to make beer for other companies because they were limited to a low alcohol content. Bailey said that the promise of economic benefit from the bill was key to building support for changes. A number of lawmakers in both the House and Senate tend to vote against any measure expanding the availability of alcohol.
Bailey said his group is still seeking other changes. It wants the state to legalize home brewing and allow breweries to make beer with even higher alcohol content, as long as the beer is being shipped out-of-state to a place where such levels are legal.
Raise Your Pints is also supporting a proposal to let breweries offer free samples to visitors, although Bailey said others are the primary backers of that bill.