I recently got to visit Mississippi’s first brewery, Lazy Magnolia, shortly after some significant changes to the Mississippi beer law went into effect. First, the alcohol limit for beer increased to 10% ABV. However, another big change is that breweries are now allowed to give samples of their beer at the brewery, and thus during tours of the brewery. (Word on the street is that tours of Lazy Magnolia have greatly increased since this change!)
I made my visit a couple of days after the law change, and after the large celebrations that were held. This actually worked out really well because I got to talk with the owners, Leslie and Mark, and one of the things that came up in conversation was the impact that Butch Bailey and Raise Your Pints has had on Mississippi. Mark mentioned that for him, the most important thing was realizing conceptually that you can actually change laws.
That’s big. I think it’s often easy to forget that we live in a democratic republic here in the U.S. It’s so easy to see the laws as these fixed, immutable points, but that’s not the case. Every law is always open to revision or even being repealed. And it’s nice to have a reminder about that now and then.
The thing that Raise Your Pints did so well was to change the culture. So many of their events, despite being fundraisers, were really about introducing people to new beer. They would collaborate with Keg and Barrel or Lazy Magnolia to create special one-time-only brews or hold events that showed off beer and food pairings. These events show off just how amazing beer is. And people always loved to bring their friends who hadn’t experienced this before. This is vital in an area where some Congressmen think that the beer we got drink pretty good.
For me, this shows that the biggest impetus for any law change must be knowledge triumphing over ignorance. If you don’t or can’t understand beer, you could never understand why we wanted to get the law changed. Mississippi had to learn about the craft beer movement before it could support the democratic process of updating our beer laws to support this movement.
Even though this process was difficult and costly, I think in the end it speaks to the power of democracy. Reduce ignorance. Increase knowledge and understanding. Effect change. A simple formula, but not always easy to achieve.
To Butch, Craig, Soup and all the rest of Raise Your Pints: cheers y’all!