Craft beer booming in Hattiesburg

Amanda Bailey, craft beer specialist at Taps & Crafts, fills a growler with craft beer produced in Mississippi at Taps & Crafts Thursday. Taps & Crafts, opened Dec. 12, is located at 6481 U.S. 98.(Photo: Eli Baylis/Hattiesburg American)

Thanks to Hattiesburg’s booming craft beer scene, Pine Belt residents now have more beer choices than ever before.
In addition to craft beer store The Golden Growler and Southern Prohibition Brewing, Hattiesburg is now home to two more craft beer retailers — The Brew Kettle Beer & Tobacco Store and Taps & Crafts, both on U.S. 98.
Both stores offer a wide selection of craft beers in bottles — The Brew Kettle about 400, Taps & Crafts about 300 — which can be mixed and matched at the customer’s leisure. And while many stores around Hattiesburg offer a “Pick 6” program — in which a six-pack is filled with a variety of beers — the two new stores vary on that theme by allowing customers to try one, two or as many different beers as they desire.
“That’s one of the (customers’) favorite things,” Brew Kettle owner Darren Cook said. “They’ll come in and try a couple of different ones, and they’ll end up buying a six-pack of one they like.
“What’s really fun to see is when someone comes in and buys, say, a 12-pack of Miller Lite and then buys one or two of the craft beers to go along with it. Next thing you know, they’re coming in and buying six-packs of that (craft).”
Those beers come from all corners of the country, and indeed, from all over the world — you’ll find beers from Mississippi breweries like Southern Prohibition and Lazy Magnolia to brews from Belgium, Germany and France.
Taps & Crafts also offers several types of beers on tap, which are rotated periodically and are sold in 32- and 64-ounce growlers. The Brew Kettle won’t be far behind in that endeavor, as taps and growlers are expected there by early next week.
“(Craft beer) is growing and growing, and the reception has been amazing,” said Amanda Bailey, craft beer specialist at Taps & Crafts. “(The 32-ounce) growlers give you that opportunity, that if you want to try two beers on tap, you can get two 32-ounces. So a lot of people will get the 32-ounces during the week, and then grab a 64-ounce on the weekend.”
And the craft beer movement continues to grow in Hattiesburg at places such as The Golden Growler, which also offers rotating taps. The store continues to get new offerings from places such as Chandeleur Brewing Company out of Gulfport and SweetWater Brewing Company from Atlanta.
“From my perspective in the store, more and more folks wander in each day, ask a couple of questions, try something they haven’t tried before, and end up coming back,” co-owner Andy Crumpton said. “So it’s on the upswing and going really well. It’s a good time to be drinking craft beer.”
Southern Prohibition, which was recently named Craft Beer Destination of the Month by Beer Advocate, also continues to push forward with its regular offerings like Mississippi Fire Ant, Devil’s Harvest, Jack the Sipper and Suzy B. Next on the list is Pow! Rye in the Kisser, a rye spring ale that was expected to be released this weekend.
“Hattiesburg is becoming a (craft beer) hotspot for people to pay attention to,” Southern Prohibition sales manager Emily Curry said. “Hopefully there will be a day when every bar in Hattiesburg has a nice selection of craft beer on tap.”
That day is getting closer and closer, thanks to spots like Keg and Barrel — with its 56 taps — and Mahogany Bar, which offers about 150 beers and was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Beer Bars” for the second year in a row by Draft magazine.
“Part of the reason (why Hattiesburg has a good craft scene) is because those places have always had an environment that was conducive to people trying it and learning about it,” Crumpton said. “They’ve got a knowledgeable staff, so you can go in and ask questions about the beer that you’re buying.
“I find that for a lot of people that are into craft beer, learning about it — the history of it, the styles, that kind of thing — that seems to really matter to folks.”
It’s a scene that wasn’t possible a few short years ago, when the state regulated bottled beers to no more than 6 percent alcohol by volume. But in 2012, that law was changed to 10.2 percent ABV.
“That opened the door to dozens of other craft brewers to come into the state of Mississippi,” said Nick Alexander, sales representative at Stokes Distributing. “The change in the craft beer scene here has been so dramatic.
“Mississippi now has close to 10 breweries — and there’s another one (Slowboat Brewing Company) coming to Laurel — where before it was just Lazy Magnolia. I think a lot of people now treat craft beer like food — you don’t eat the same food every day, so why would you drink the same beer every day?”
But as far as Hattiesburg’s craft beer scene has come since then, there’s still room for more.
“There’s still a long way to go with it,” Curry said. “There’s still a lot of growth, a lot of people that can be drawn in and get interested in it.
“But we’re doing things like the Hattiesburg Craft Beer festival, and every day somebody is trying a new craft beer. So it’s a good scene, and it’s getting stronger.”
At a glance
New craft beer stores in
•The Brew Kettle Beer & Tobacco Store opened Dec. 18 at 6242 U.S. 98. The store offers about 400 different craft beers, with taps and growlers coming early next week. Also in the works is a selection of home-brewing supplies. Details: 336-5533.
•Taps & Crafts opened Dec. 12 at 6481 U.S. 98, inside the Minit Mart convenience store. It offers about 300 different types of craft beer including six rotating taps that are sold in growlers. Details: 296-4904.

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