5 Mississippi brews that forever changed the state’s beer scene

(This originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Oxford Magazine.)

When I moved to Oxford in 2012, I drank a lot of PBR.

Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan was (and arguably still is) the flagship brew of Mississippi, but the Oxford beer scene was lukewarm. Literally. You couldn’t buy cold beer anywhere in the city, and thirsty twenty-somethings regularly crossed county lines to get around the restriction. More ambitious residents took to homebrewing.

Even outside Oxford, the state had strict limitations on beer’s alcohol by volume—I recall the local Kroger advertising Newcastle and Abita Amber as “high gravity beers.” When Mississippi eased regulations in 2012, beer lovers took note and got to work.

Today, I sip a Belgian tripel from Okolona, Mississippi at 7.7% alcohol by volume while I pen this piece on the blossoming Mississippi beer scene. The phrase “Mississippi beer scene” might raise an eyebrow or two with the west coast powerhouses, but local beer enthusiasts know that plenty of brews merit mention in the Magnolia State.

In fact, narrowing Mississippi to five beers proved trickier than I expected. Every time I nailed down a list, a new outfit or a debut brew caught my attention. The beers below represent solid staples from Mississppi’s more established breweries and more obscure ones from small, family-owned enterprises. They attest to the impressive creative range of a state that, despite its late arrival to the stage, has showed up and showed big.

Raise a glass with us to brews that make Mississippi proud.

HOT COFFEE // LUCKY TOWN BREWING CO. 
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI

At 10.3% alcohol by volume, one pint of Lucky Town’s Hot Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Stout will warm and cheer you. Two will tuck you in and put you to bed.

Based in Jackson, Lucky Town infuses this stout with cinnamon, cocoa nibs, ancho, gaujillo and passillo chiles, and Old Route 4 Dark Roast from Bean Fruit Coffee in Pearl, Mississippi. If, like me, you love spicy Mexican chocolate and spike your coffee with cayenne, this is your new favorite beer.

Get it: Growler, Larson’s, Jackson Beer Company (available in kegs and on tap only)

Also try: Chocolate Hookup Milk Stout (7.1%) from Mayhew Junction Brewing Company in Starkville, or one of its variants, Vanilla Chocolate Hookup (6.1%) and Vanilla Imperial Stout (7.9%).

CURLEW’S TOASTED COCONUT PORTER
CHANDELEUR BREWING CO.
GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI

Named after a mostly untouched island chain off the Mississippi coast, Chandeleur Brewing Company brings an experimental of the Gulf Coast brewing scene. Don’t let this porter’s name fool you—you’ll taste the ‘toasted’ much more than the ‘coconut.’ In an age of coffee porters, this beer is not overly sweet or too hefty for its style; instead, it finishes with a bit of almost-citrusy astringency.

Get it: Growler, Larson’s, Jackson Beer Company, most Oxford bars

Also try: Natchez Revival Coffee Porter (5.8%). Brewed with fresh-roasted beans from Natchez’s Steampunk Coffee Roasters, this porter blends rich flavors with a light-bodied mouthfeel. Consider it your late afternoon iced coffee.

LARRY BROWN ALE
YALOBUSHA BREWING CO.
WATER VALLEY, MISSISSIPPI

Yalobusha Brewing Company sits just south of Oxford in Water Valley, Mississippi, but Oxonians consider it our own. So it’s fitting that Yalo would brew the quintessential Oxford beer. Named after the famed Mississippi writer who penned Big Bad Love, this hearty brown ale leans dark, with roasted chocolate notes and a velvety texture. Bonus: proceeds from Larry Brown Ale sales benefit the local fire department.

Also try: 1817 Tripel (7.7%) out of Okolona, Mississippi. This traditional Belgian style tripel boasts a rich amber color and a malty sweetness that masks its potency. Sip slow and easy.

Get it: Yalobusha Brewing Company, Growler, Larson’s, most Oxford bars

DEVIL’S HARVEST
SOUTHERN PROHIBITION BREWING CO.
HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI

A redux of SoPro’s original release, the Devil’s Harvest revamp is lusciously cloudy in color and perfectly balanced in an era of over-the-top pale ales. Citrus and floral notes mix with just the right hoppiness for a refreshing spring to summer beer.

Get it: Growler, Larson’s, Jackson Beer Company, most Oxford bars

Also try: MPA #8 (7%), the pale ale that put Oxford Brewing Company on the map.

Brewmaster Mason Meeks plans to open Point Leflore Brewing Company in Greenwood, Mississippi later this year.

WAYWARD SON
SLOWBOAT BREWING CO.
LAUREL, MISSISSIPPI

Slowboat Wayward Son (7.2%)

Slowboat brewery speaks to the rich, evolving landscape of Mississippi beer. The small batch, experimental brewery is family-owned and operated in the Free State of Jones, in downtown Laurel, Mississippi. This farmhouse ale twists light American hops with citrusy grapefruit and finishes tart and sour. Carry on, Slowboat.

Get it: Slowboat Brewing Company (on tap only)

Also try: Salty Dog (4.7%) by Biloxi Brewing Company. Lemon and wheat dominate this German style unfiltered beer. As a gose, Salty Dog exhibits slight sweetness, a good bit of salt and coriander, and is sour through and through. (In case you missed it: sour is the new IPA.)

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