Cheers! Stronger beer now legal in Mississippi

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - At the stroke of midnight, two new beer production bills became state law.  Breweries are now allowed to make and sell beers with up to eight percent alcohol.  They can also produce higher content beers for other states.

Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia didn't waste any time. Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam led the official countdown and as the clock struck midnight, a ribbon was cut and production began on the first eight percent alcohol beer in the state.

Co-owner Leslie Henderson said, "It is a dream come true, I keep thinking I'm going to wake up. This is just one of the best days in the history of Lazy Magnolia."

This historic event paved the way for huge opportunities for the brewery.  Co-owner Mark Henderson said, "It's been painful that breweries in other states could do all these things and we couldn't. At the end of the day we produce locally, compete globally."

More than 100 people were at the brewery as the first Timber Beast beer came out of the bottling line.

Mark Henderson said, "It is wonderful that these people wanted to share in the experience and share in the love."

Leslie Henderson said, "We wouldn't be here without all of our friends here tonight, they made it happen."

The Hendersons credit a big part of this to Raise your Pints, a grass roots, non-profit organization that formed to lobby lawmakers and bring Mississippi beer laws up-to-date with the rest of the country.

Founder of Raise your Pints Butch Bailey said, "This is something that is long overdue, this is something that's good for the state in economic development, in jobs, in tax revenue. It is revenue positive, this is a way that Mississippi, with a stroke of a pen, our state is going to raise revenue without raising taxes and that's a win for everyone."

Bailey said it took more than just convincing legislators, the organization also had to get residents behind the movement.  "We worked on this for a little over three years, lobbied the legislature, recruited support, built some relationships and finally got it done," Bailey said.

To honor Bailey's hard work the new beer is named to honor him, he is a forester by profession.

So what can beer lovers expect when they give Timber Beast a try?

Leslie Henderson said, "A beautiful blend of hops, what you are going to notice when you first try it is the smell, this beautiful, wonderful hop aroma and the rest of the beer really supports that."

This is the first beer in what the Hendersons are calling their back porch series.

Mark Henderson said, " The idea is that you have your everyday type beers and then you have your special occasion kind of beers. Everyday stuff goes on the front porch, you don't mind if your neighbors come by and share it with you, back porch stuff you kind of segregate it off to the side and say look this is a special moment, I want to share it with just a few select friends."

Another new law that also went into effect at midnight allows the brewery to serve samples of beer during tours.

Click here to see behind the scenes pictures from the brewery.

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