Inside Mississippi’s Craft Beer Industry

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When it comes to craft brewing in Mississippi, Cam and Cain Roberds were the new kids on the block in 2015.

3 On Your Side was there for the grand opening of their Chandeleur Brewing Company in Gulfport. Seven years later, their brewery is not only surviving but thriving.

”We do anywhere around that $10,000 mark just in beer inside the taproom every week,” said Cain Roberds.

Their secret to success: Not only the product, but their investment in the community with annual events like ChandyFest, celebrating the founding of Chandeleur Brewing.

But it hasn’t been all fun and foam, particularly in 2020.

”That January and February were the biggest numbers that we had ever seen, I mean, that was gonna be like a record year, you know, we didn’t expect that much growth. And all of a sudden, COVID was here and it was like, just went out the window,” Cain Roberds said.

The Roberds twins also point to their unique management staff when you talk about Chandeleur’s success. It’s not what many expect when it comes to the craft beer industry.

”So, currently we have three female managers,” explained Gina Prater. “So, our head brewer is a female. The sales manager and general manager [are] female and our taproom manager is a woman.”

Katie Turner said, ”I thoroughly enjoy it. You know, I’m getting a lot of great feedback from our locals and loving what I do.”

”If you build it, they will come,” added David Reese.

In neighboring Biloxi, that’s exactly what David Reese did. The owner and brewmaster of Fly Llama Brewing built his craft brewery in January 2021, as he put it, “Smack dab in the pandemic.”

“We certainly didn’t plan for that,” he said. “But we had to do it and we went in knowing that there was a chance that we could fail and, you know, we’ve just grown and we continue to grow and the community has been amazing to us and it’s been just a really, really great year.”

Except for a slight dip in 2020, the number of craft breweries operating in Mississippi, per year, is steadily on the rise. Right now, there are 18 craft breweries in the Magnolia State.

And consider this: According to the Brewers Association, craft breweries have a 344-million dollar impact in Mississippi.

Cam Roberds said, “Yeah, we pay a lot of taxes and we employ a really good group of people, too, you know.”

Not all the breweries we featured in 2015 survived. Jackson’s first brewery, Lucky Town Brewing Company, unplugged its taps for good in 2019. Shortly after Lucky Town opened, Larry Voss started brewing craft beer at L-D’s Beer Run and Bicentennial Beer Company.

It’s a much smaller scale, but Voss says that’s the way he and his clients like it.

”The beer industry isn’t the biggest money-making industry because, unlike liquor, which has a really good margin, beer doesn’t have a real large margin, profitable margin. So most all of us do this for just the love of it and the passion of it.”

But the capital city proved that it is still fertile ground for large-scale craft brewing. In May 2022, Jackson attorneys Matthew McLaughlin and Conner Reeves co-founded Fertile Ground Beer Company in the Belhaven Town Center.

The building once housed the laundry service for Baptist Hospital and is now being re-purposed for new businesses like Fertile Ground, now the new kid on the block in Mississippi Craft Brewing. Comparatively, this pub is massive, featuring a modern look.

”You know, I think Jackson is ready for, you know, a brewery of this size and to have a place to go and to drink locally made beer,” Conner Reeves said. “We’re excited to sort of [having] to be there for everyone that’s already in the craft beer, but hopefully people that aren’t quite sure about craft beer yet. You know, we can be that space. And I know we’re gonna have some beers, they’re gonna like too. So, we’re excited about showing them.”

One thing Reeves and the others agree on: Craft beer in Mississippi is here to stay.

”Absolutely,” Reeves said, “it’s not going anywhere. People are definitely moving from macro products to locally made products. And, you know, it’s still growing all over the country. [There are] 9,000 breweries. That number has been trending upwards for the past ten years. They’ll probably level off in the near future but for now, Mississippi’s got a lot of opportunities. We’re not saturated by any means. The capital city is not saturated. We got a lot of growth.”

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