Brian Perry – Changing beer law gives more options, brings in revenue

Don’t look for Burt Reynolds racing down your street in a black Pontiac Trans Am running point for a truck full of Coors with Sheriff Buford T. Justice on his tail. Instead, it’s the couple down the block in their Toyota Corolla driving back from New Orleans with several bottles of craft beer. The beer could be a Belgium import in a wine sized bottled, corked like Champaign and costing more than a case of domestic beer. They couldn’t buy it in Mississippi so Louisiana got the revenue instead.

Mississippi caps alcohol in beer at 5 percent ABW (alcohol by weight) preventing, according to the advocacy group Raise Your Pints Mississippi, more than 90 percent of the world’s beers from being sold in Mississippi. They say this includes 87 of the Top 100 beers judged by Beer Advocate, forcing Mississippi consumers to purchase fine beer out-of-state.

Legislation providing the freedom to purchase these beers in Mississippi died in past sessions. It is back this year with bills by Representatives David Baria (D-Bay St. Louis) and Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto). Their bills (HB26 and HB543 respectively) would raise the allowable limit of beer in Mississippi from 5 percent ABW to 8 percent ABW (for those more familiar with ABV – alcohol by volume – an increase from 6.25 percent to 10 percent).

The current ABW cap prevents any brewery in Mississippi – like Lazy Magnolia in Kiln – from creating alcohol above that level for Mississippi consumers or to export to states which allow their citizens to consume it. Absent the passage of the above legislation, additional bills by Baria (HB280), Representative Jessica Upshaw (R-Diamondhead) (HB7) and a Senate bill introduced by nine sponsors (SB2370) would allow a Mississippi brewery to create beer above the limit for export only.

Moving the ABW cap allows for more choices in beer. It does not alter the current beers on the shelf. If someone enjoys a Budweiser or Miller, they need not fear those will change. Allowing Mississippi adults the freedom to purchase fine beer is not a get drunk quick scheme. That can already be accomplished with liquor or wine. If the goal is to get drunk, it would be cheaper with beer currently available.

Read more by Brian Perry
2/15/12