Craft beer drives tourism to the Gulf Coast

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When the state legislature allowed craft breweries to sell their beer on site, they opened the doors to a new form of tourism.

"More than half of the customers that come through the brewery are actually tourists," said Melia Christensen, the owner of a local brewery.

By cashing in on its growing popularity, the craft beer business has the potential to be more than just a tasting experience.

"There is a strong movement around craft beer nationally. There's a lot of people when they travel, it's just a thing. They just go visit the local brewery," added Christensen.

The Craft Beer Festival in MGM Park saw visitors from the area and beyond. Those who love craft beer and traveling say it's great. That the two can be combined.

"We recently just went on a trip and checked out a couple of the local breweries, so I really do. That's something I look for when I go into a new city, where can we check out the local breweries," said Jordan McQueen, a festival-goer.

Since the law was changed last year, craft brewers have been enjoying seeing the fruits of their labor.

"We love going out throughout Mississippi and seeing our cans on store shelves. It's a great feeling," said Christensen about her brewery.

The beer drinkers get to enjoy the variety of more than 50 breweries and distributors the state has to offer.

"I've been there in New York, North Carolina, Colorado, just wherever I am. I do a little research, and if it's in that area, I'll travel if I have some free time and check out a little craft beer action," said Andrew Peterson, a festival-goer.

Festival organizers say they are expecting the event to grow, and more breweries may be opening their doors, meaning the Mississippi Gulf Coast could be the next big travel spot for millennial beer connoisseurs.

This was the second year the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce put on the event.

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