Reviewing my 2017 ballpark resolutions

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time for the annual review of my New Year’s resolutions.  Unlike people who resolve to lose weight or be kinder to others, which are all great goals, mine focus on travel and more specifically they focus on baseball travel.

My first resolution for 2017 was…

While attending the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Boston in April, I organized a field trip to see the Portland Sea Dogs and got to meet Josh at the game.  It was great getting to talk baseball and our travel experiences during the game.  I wrote about my experience at Hadlock Field, too (read it here).

In addition to attending a Sea Dogs game, I also made it to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game during the AAG Annual Meeting.  Josh did not join me at the game in Manchester, but it was still a great visit.  I stopped at Stark Brewing before going to the game, and got to watch a doubleheader because of bad weather that canceled the previous night’s game (read about it here).

It’s easy to assess whether I accomplished my first resolution, which is a resounding yes.

My second resolution for 2017 was…

Although I did not blog about my trips, I did attend a few Birmingham Barons games this past season. My first visit was in April to celebrate my bachelor party with some friends. I also attended a game later in the season with my now wife Katie. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Mobile or Montgomery for a baseball game. So I can clearly acknowledge that I did not accomplish this resolution.

My third resolution for 2017 was…

When I made the resolution to see the Biloxi Shuckers with Katie, I had no idea when I was going to make that trip. However, Katie and I were both intent on making it happen because we had planned to visit in 2016 to celebrate her birthday, but we had to cancel those plans at the last minute.  But this year, we made the trip to Biloxi in mid-July after returning from our honeymoon to Southeast Asia.  We spent a long weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and visited a number of breweries in addition to attending a Shuckers game.  I blogged about my brewery visits (here) and wrote about my visit to MGM Park (read it here).  So clearly I accomplished this goal.

My fourth resolution for 2017 was…

Following the trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Katie and I visited family in Atlanta and made it to an Atlanta Braves game.  Although we spent several hours exploring The Battery Atlanta and having drinks at the Terrapin Taproom & Fox Brother BBQ, we did not get to explore much of the ballpark because of an extensive rain delay.  So I have opted not to blog about my visit to the ballpark because I feel like it was an incomplete visit.  However, I firmly feel that I accomplished my resolution to attending a Braves game at SunTrust Park.

Recapping the Resolutions
Unlike previous years, it is pretty easy to determine the success of accomplishing my 2017 resolutions.

#1: See a New Hampshire Fisher Cats or Portland Sea Dogs game with Josh Pahigian.  Goal accomplished.
#2: See all three Alabama MiLB teams (Birmingham Barons, Mobile BayBears, and Montgomery Biscuits).  One of three stadiums visited.  Goal unaccomplished.
#3: See a Biloxi Shuckers game at MGM Park with Katie.  Goal accomplished.
#4: See an Atlanta Braves game at SunTrust Park.  Goal accomplished.

On a grand scale, I accomplished three of four resolutions (0.750).  If I measured each individual component of my resolutions, I accomplished four of six objectives (0.666).  Either way, I feel good about upholding my resolutions for the past year.

A pint at Slowboat Brewing in Laurel, Miss.

A town of less than 20,000 people in rural Mississippi wouldn’t strike many people as being a community with a craft brewery.  If you haven’t heard of Laurel, Miss., then let me introduce you to that town of less than 20,000 people in rural Mississippi with its own craft brewery.

Main entrance of the brewery.

Slowboat Brewing Company is owned by Kenny and Carrie Mann, a husband and wife team who spent many years as homebrewers before opening Slowboat in 2015.  The brewery aims to be a community gathering space, which is clear from its open layout about multiple seating spaces.  However, before life as a craft brewery the building served many purposes from a car dealership to a mechanic shop to a radio station, specifically it housed WAML (1340 AM).

Offices for the brewery with a list of upcoming musical acts.

Although the building’s history as a radio station plays a big role in the brewery, the name for the brewery originates in Kenny Paul’s former job working with oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  Supposedly, a “slow boat” is a nickname for the tugboat working with an oil rig.

The brewery’s role as a community gathering spot is clear when you see the several communal-style tables inside the taproom and the picnic tables in the courtyard behind the taproom.  Additionally, there is a long table that allows visitors to stand while having their beer.  The brewery regularly brings in local food trucks.  BackRoad Bistro is one that regularly sets up next to the brewery.

While the taproom layout promotes people staying for more than just a few drinks after taking a tour, the brewery only renovated the space in the weeks leading up to Mississippi beer laws changing on July 1 that allowed breweries to sell directly to consumer on site.

One constant has been the bar though.

The bar with beer menu.

The bar, of course, features the beer menu, but also a large supply of board games that customers can use.  Another great aspect of the bar setup is seeing the brewery’s logo prominently displayed, which incorporates a 45 rpm adapter.  In an era dominated by downloadable music, the logo incorporates the common design of a 45 rpm adapter that hearkens back to when music was played on vinyl records like WAML used for decades.  The brewery’s beer series also evoke this nostalgia with beers being part of the 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, or 78 rpm series.

Regarding the beer, the brewery’s website says it focuses on farmhouse, spontaneously fermented wild ales, Belgian-style, and the evolving collection of American craft beer styles.  During my visit, I order a half-pint pour of IV (a.k.a. four) and sampled my wife Katie’s pour of Wayward Son, which is a farmhouse IPA.  However, we were most impressed by the brewery’s milk stout, Dairy of a Madman.  We were so impressed with the beer that we ordered a 32-ounce crowler to take with us.

Due to the brewery occupying a former radio station, many of the beers feature names related to albums, songs, or musical acts.  Dairy of a Madman draws its name from Ozzy Osbourne’s 1981 album Diary of a Madman.  The farmhouse IPA Wayward Son draws its name from the 1976 song by Kansas titled “Carry on Wayward Son.”  I won’t detail every beer and its musical inspiration, but the connection between beer and music helps create a unique connection between the past and the present of the building that houses Slowboat Brewing.

The nostalgia of music and beers is attractive, but the brewery produces some excellent beers.  In addition to Dairy of a Madman and IV, I had previously drank Into the Mystic, which was a hibiscus wit.  It paired quite well with the pulled pork sandwich I had previously when I visited Pig & Pint in Jackson, Miss.

Five things to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides beaches and casinos

When many people think of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a vacation destination they likely think about the beaches and casinos.  However, there’s a lot more to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides spending time on the beaches or trying to hit it big at the casinos.  Here’s five things you can do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides beaches and casinos.

#1: Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (386 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530)
Known as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George E. Ohr created ceramic works that clashed with the aesthetics of 19th century American ideals.  However, Ohr was eventually recognized for his genius when the Metropolitan Museum of Art included some of his pieces in a next permanent exhibit that opened in 2009.  A year later the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art opened in his hometown with three buildings.  The last building opened in 2014.  Noted architect Frank Gehry designed the five building campus to blend into the live oak trees on the site.

Out-of-town visitors may come to enjoy the buildings and the exhibits, but the museum also offers a variety of classes for visitors of all ages.  Local residents home schooling their children sign up for an exclusive program designed just for home-school children.  Kids between 6 and 13 years-old can sign up for a kids pottery wheel class that lasts two-and-a-half hours where kids will create two pots to keep, and the pots can be mailed to those who live out-of-town.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

#2: Beauvoir (2244 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39531)
A former home of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, Beauvoir was built in 1848 and purchased by Samuel and Sarah Dorsey in 1873.  Following her husband’s death, Sarah Dorsey learned about the financial difficulties of Davis and invited him to live in a cottage near the main house in 1875.  Davis eventually received the property after Sarah Dorsey bequeathed it to him in her will.  The house is preserved as a historic home with many original pieces retained from the time Davis lived at the home.  There is also a Civil War museum and presidential library dedicated to Davis on the property.

Beauvoir, former home of Jefferson Davis.

#3: Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum (115 East 1st Street, Biloxi, MS 39530)
One food item has to come to mind when people think of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: seafood!

There are a ton of great seafood restaurants along the coast, so take your pick of where to eat.  However, you can also take some time to learn about the history of the seafood industry and its role in the region at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.  The museum has an array of exhibits dedicating to shrimping, oystering, wooden boat building, and notably hurricanes.  If you want a hands-on experience you can sail on one of two Biloxi schooners that museum operates.

Main entrance to the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

#4: Biloxi Lighthouse (1050 Beach Boulevard, Biloxi, MS 39530)
With only 44 miles of shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi is not well-known for its lighthouses.  However, the state has one prominent light in Biloxi.  Completed in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse is still operational as an aid to private navigation.  The light was electrified in 1927 and automated in 1941.  It has survived numerous hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina that struck the region in 2005.  Inside the tower, the high water marks from each hurricane are marked with paint.

The tower is 65 feet tall from its base to the top of the weather vane.  If you want to tour the lighthouse, you need to be prepared to climb 57 stairs on a spiral staircase and then an eight-rung ladder to reach the light room and the panoramic views.  On clear days, you can see out to Ship Island.  During the summer months, tours of the lighthouse are often limited to the morning hours (typically 9, 9:30, and 10 a.m.) because it gets too warm to comfortable trek the 57 stairs to the top.

A view of the Biloxi Lighthouse from U.S. 90.

#5: INFINITY Science Center (1 Discovery Circle, Pearlington, MS 39572)
When people think about space exploration they probably think of Houston and mission control or Cape Canaveral in Florida, where NASA launched its space shuttle program.  Most people do not think about the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but if you’re focusing on the future and NASA’s latest goal of reaching Mars then this is the place to visit.  INFINITY Science Center is the public visitor center that is part of the John C. Stennis Space Center, which is NASA’s largest rocket testing facility.

In addition to a 30-minute bus tour of the Stennis Space Center, the INFINITY Science Center has a variety of interactive exhibits relating to multiple aspects of space.  There is also a full-sized International Space Station module and a model of the Orion spacecraft, which is under development for exploration of Mars.  There are an array of education programs, too, such as Homeschool Mondays, Science Exploration classes for school field trips, and Science Saturday classes for families.

The eagle sculpture at INFINITY Science Center (photo by flickr.com/dos82).

How to See the Sights
The best part about all the adventures beyond the beaches and casinos is that they are part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Attractions Pass.  The pass is $32, and includes admission to the five places listed above plus three other sights in the area (Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, and Pascagoula River Audubon Center).  The pass saves visitors $14 compared to paying admission to each of the eight sights included in the pass.

Maybe you came to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the beaches and casinos, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do more.  Regardless of your age or interests, there is something fun to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast besides just laying in the sand or playing games at a casino.  Visitors can learn about the history and culture of the seafood industry, enjoy the arts at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, learn about history at Beauvoir, see the Mississippi Sound and more from the Biloxi Lighthouse, or learn about the future of space exploration at the INFINITY Science Center.

A pint at Chandeleur Island Brewing in Gulfport, Miss.

Like many commercial brewers, Cammack and Cain Roberds started as homebrewers before making the jump to professional brewing.  In 2012, after Mississippi changed its law to increase the permissible ABV level from 6.25% to 10.1%, the Roberds decided it was time to open their brewery.  After finding a historic building in downtown Gulfport, Chandeleur Island Brewing Company opened in 2014.

View of the brewery from the street.

Despite the brewery’s location in Gulfport, its name comes from the Chandeleur Islands (pronounced: “shan-duh-leer”), which are a set of barrier islands along the coast of Louisiana (actually the easternmost point in the state).  The Chandeleur Islands are a well-known sport fishing area and part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.

Shortly after entering the brewery my wife Katie and I were greeted by the general manager, Corey.  We sat down at the bar and started talking about beer and almost immediately began sampling beers.  Before getting too comfortable discussing and drinking beer, I captured some shots of the taproom’s layout.

There are two areas where visitors can sit: the bar and an area with high-top tables.

Since Mississippi allowed direct-to-consumer sales starting in July 2017, the brewery added a video game and ping-pong table.  Corey suggested that more games may be added in the future.  There is a setup for corn hole outside.

Near the front is the brewery’s merchandise display, which included a long-sleeve, dry-fit shirt.  It is an item that my wife loves using, and is a clothing item not typically found at breweries.  So kudos to Chandy for producing a unique and really useful item.

A collection of merchandise for sale at the Bait Shop.

Also near the entrance were some of the brewery’s barrels that were being used for aging beer.

Some of the barrels being used to age beers.

The greatest benefit of Mississippi modernizing its beer laws to allow direct to consumer sales is that breweries are now incentivized to brew and offer a wider variety of beers in their taprooms.  The menu at Chandeleur Island Brewing reflects this change.  According to Corey, the brewery offered six new beers on the first day they were allowed to sell directly to consumers.

A view of the beer menu.

The brewery offers five year-round beers, most of which I’ve drunk because Chandeleur Island Brewing distributes to Alabama.  So I focused on sampling the taproom-only offerings like Blueberry Sour, Saison, Belgian Wit, and Raspberry Lambic (see more of my ratings on Untappd).  I had two year-round beers, but for different reasons.  Before my visit to the brewery I had not seen Lil’ Miss Sour, which is a tangerine-flavored sour ale.  It was tart, but not mouth-puckering, and quite refreshing.

I hesitated at first, but Corey convinced me to try Curlew’s Coconut Porter on nitro.  I’ve previously drank Curlew’s Coconut Porter, and despite my general dislike of coconut flavors, I really enjoyed the beer.  So my hesitation wasn’t because of my enjoyment of the beer, but because it was warmer when I visited I wasn’t sure that I wanted to drink a porter.  However, Corey prevailed upon me to try it because they offered it on nitro.  Without a doubt I can say that Corey was right about the beer being different on nitrogen.  It was a bit sweet and smoother than compared to the standard Curlew’s Coconut Porter.

Whether you’re a craft beer novice or an avowed beer geek, Chandeleur Island Brewing offers a beer for your palate.  The year-round brews, especially the Freemason Golden Ale, are a great introductory beers.  The taproom-only beers like the Belgian red offer something more complex that avowed beer geeks will appreciate.

Although Katie and I didn’t order traditional flights, the brewery has mats for those who order them.

The flight setup.

As a blogger and someone who loves social media, I especially enjoyed seeing the brewery’s social media accounts listed at the bottom of the mat.  It’s a great way to interact with people as they sip their beers.

Chandeleur Island Brewing Company offers a great atmosphere to enjoy craft beer.  The staff is knowledgeable and friendly.  The brewery is on the western edge of downtown Gulfport, but easy walking distance to the heart of downtown along 25th Avenue.  The taproom offers a variety of entertainment options, and the beers are great.

A pint at Lazy Magnolia Brewing in Kiln, Miss.

There isn’t a long history of current craft beer in Mississippi, but it all starts with Mark and Leslie Henderson.  After Mark served an apprenticeship at Crescent City Brewhouse in New Orleans, the couple opened Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in rural Kiln in 2005.  The brewery temporarily closed following the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, but the brewery was up and running within a month.

Since its opening Lazy Magnolia has fought an uphill battle to brew and distribute craft beer within the state.  However, the changes in Mississippi’s beer laws wouldn’t have happened without Mark and Leslie opening Lazy Magnolia.  Given the brewery’s role in Mississippi craft beer history it was especially exciting to visit the brewery after the state changed its laws to allow direct-to-consumer sales.

Entrance to the brewery.

The brewery’s location in Kiln means if you’re visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast that you’ll have to make a trek to visit it.  However, there are a handful of billboards and plenty of signage advertising the brewery’s exit off I-10.  The brewery building doesn’t have any glaring markers, but it’s easy to spot after passing Hancock High School (alma mater of Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre).  Like many breweries, the exterior is very unassuming, but given Lazy Magnolia’s founding as a packaging brewery that is not surprising.

Immediately inside the brewery is an enclosed area that serves as the taproom.

The bar with its digital menu.

In addition to the bar with a digital menu there are about a half dozen tables with seating for approximately four to six people at each table.

Seating area with wall for guests to sign commemorating the change in Mississippi beer laws.

And naturally, there is also a merchandise display, too.

A display of merchandise available for purchase.

After checking out the digital menu, my wife Katie and I decided to split a flight of beers.  Due to Lazy Magnolia is widely available where we live in Alabama, so instead of sampling the brewery’s staples we opted to try some of the taproom-specific brews.  We order the Lazy Saison, Me & the Dev-Ale (a strong ale), Bramblin’ Man (a blackberry wheat ale), and Gulf Porter.  I also ordered an individual taster of Molé Olé (a brown ale with peppers) for myself.  All were delicious, as I expected.  The Molé Olé was especially interesting because I’ve typically found that breweries add peppers to stouts or porters, and cannot say that I’ve seen many breweries willing to experiment by adding peppers to brown ales.

A flight of beers with complementary pretzels.

After finishing our flights, we waited to chat with Lazy Magnolia’s marketing assistant Anna Claire.  While she wrapped up some responsibilities, Katie and I headed upstairs to check out more of the taproom.

A pool table and bar setup upstairs provide additional entertainment space.

Upstairs is a large entertainment space that includes a stage for live music, a pool table, and bar.  It also provides an awesome overview of the brewery.

After exploring upstairs, Anna Claire took us on an impromptu tour.  I say impromptu because while Mississippi law no longer restricts breweries to selling tours and offering free samples of beer, Lazy Magnolia still runs tours (read more here).  I also say impromptu because a group had just finished a tour before we arrived, so Katie and I got a “private” tour.

The tour is like most brewery tours we have done previously.  We learned about the brewing process, saw where the grain was delivered, etc.

Supplies and brew tanks.

What is unique to the tour at Lazy Magnolia is a pair of old ovens that Mark and Leslie bought from Popeyes years ago.  While it may not seem like anything special, the ovens are critical to the history of Lazy Magnolia because it is in these ovens that they toast the pecans used to make Southern Pecan.  It is a nut brown ale and is the beer that helped put Lazy Magnolia on the map.

Ovens bought from Popeye’s that are used to toast the pecans used in the brewery’s Southern Pecan beer.

In addition to the ovens, there is also a giant papier-mâché airplane hanging from the ceiling.  The story goes that it was used as part of a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, and instead of being discarded (as is usually the case) Mark decided to bring it back to the brewery to display.

After living as part of a Mardi Gras float, the airplane made its way to the brewery.

The tour was great, and as someone who enjoys history it was really cool getting to see the ovens used to toast pecans for Lazy Magnolia’s best-known beer.  It may be a bit of a drive from the rest of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to visit Kiln, but it’s definitely worthwhile.  The brewery hosts a First Friday event, the first Friday of each month, that includes live music and a special pint glass with food on-site for purchase.  All proceeds from First Friday events go to a designated charity, too.

The drive from Biloxi to Lazy Magnolia takes about 40 minutes, but the experience is well worth it.  Visitors get to see a piece of Mississippi craft beer history and drink some great craft beer.

A pint at Southern Prohibition Brewing in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Mississippi: The final frontier… of craft beer.

Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to claim that Mississippi is the final frontier of craft beer, but it’s that attitude that the folks at Southern Prohibition Brewing channeled when starting the brewery in 2013.  A sentence on their website describes the reasoning behind their name because “our name is a daily reminder of the hurdles that exist as a craft brewery located in South Mississippi.”

Despite some of the hurdles that exist to brewing craft beer in the American South, Southern Prohibition has cleared many of them to create a widely-known regional brand and more importantly, a fun and enjoyable taproom in a college town.  However, the brewery and taproom can be difficult to find unless you trust your gut when you see a large building fenced off by the railroad tracks.  As I drove through Hattiesburg with my wife Katie giving directions from Google Maps, we wondered if we’d found the brewery when it said he had arrived as the destination, but neither of us saw any signage marking the facility as Southern Prohibition Brewing.  We made an assumption that Google Maps was correct, parked near the other cars and found our way inside.

However, the view of the outside is very disarming.

Entrance to the brewery.

The door leads directly into the taproom, where we met taproom manager Adam Bockelman.

A view of the bar seating and the beer menu.

After meeting with Adam, we got a brief tour of the production area.  The brewery only offers tours on Saturdays, so plan accordingly if you want to see more than just the taproom.

As Mississippi had only changed its laws to allows breweries to sell on-site to consumers early this summer, Adam was eager to show off the changes the brewery had made.  One of the most visible changes is the setup of the courtyard people pass through before entering the taproom itself.

The courtyard showing off picnic tables, corn hole boards, washers toss, and soccer pool in the background.

The courtyard has numerous picnic tables and includes several classic beer-drinking games like washers toss and corn hole.  However, the coolest game is nestled against the fence farther away from the entrance: soccer pool.

The soccer pool setup occupies one corner of the courtyard.

The concept of soccer pool is simple.  You play pool, but on a larger scale.  However, players use their feet to kick the cue ball instead of using a pool stick.  I didn’t get to play against Katie, but it’s definitely something on my to-do list when we stop by next.

In addition to the games, which Adam admitted were designed to keep people there, a food truck is now on site Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  One of the regular food trucks is Mercury Pizza Co., which was named the 2017 “Best Pizza” in the Pine Belt according to Signature Magazine.

Inside the taproom, Southern Prohibition had made changes to keep customers around, too.  The brewery relocated its barrel-aged projects to the production side and installed an arcade with a decor that Adam described as “’80s gym chic.”

View of the game area.

The arcade features old, orange booths with a pool table and video games like Cruis’n USA and Terminator Salvation.  So there are plenty of options to extend your stay at the brewery.

However, the primary reason come is for the beer, which is excellent.  Southern Prohibition offers four year-round beers: a blonde ale, an imperial India pale ale, an imperial red ale, and a breakfast IPA.  The brewery offers a variety of other beers with a regularly changing menu, which you can consult using the Untappd app or read it here.  In addition to the extensive draft list, the brewery has selection of beers customers can purchase to take home.

Speaking of beers, I had a pair of tasters while sitting at the bar and taking in the newly re-designed taproom.  I ordered Mississippi Fire Ant, an imperial red ale that is part of their year-round series, and Sleeper Agent, a Russian imperial stout.  Mississippi Fire Ant was a very hop-forward beer, but a great choice for those who consider themselves hop heads.  Sleeper Agent is a great representation for its style and very smooth, although I opted for the non-barrel-aged version, which is less boozy than Barrel Aged Sleeper Agent that is part of the Wild & Wood Series.  Katie opted for the Barrel Aged Sleeper Agent, Mango Ignition (a wild American ale), and Soul Glo (a funky farmhouse ale).  Naturally, we shared our tasters, so we each got a sip or two of each beer.

Regardless of what type of beer you drink, you are likely to have a great time at revamped Southern Prohibition taproom.  SoPro brews great beers, and now has a taproom that offers a variety of entertainment options to keep customers around.

A pint at Biloxi Brewing in Biloxi, Miss.

Like many other microbrewery owners, Mark Cowley started as a homebrewer before seeking investors and opening his own brewery.  However, unlike a lot of American homebrewers, Mark got his start in England while serving in the U.S. Air Force during the 1990s when craft breweries were exploding onto the scene across the pond.  Eventually after a transfer to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and following his retirement as a weather forecaster for the Air Force, Mark finally opened Biloxi Brewing Company.

The story behind the brewery’s location is also quite compelling, but let’s start with what people see when they arrive at the brewery.

Exterior of the building.

Usually a door doesn’t merit a closeup view, but the artwork with the brewery’s logo and text on this door deserve a bit more attention.  So I took a close up to show it off.

Front door to the brewery.

The taproom opened in January, but only on July 1 did it begin selling beer on premise because of a change in Mississippi law (read more here).  Like many breweries, it took time for Mark and his investors to settle on a location for the taproom.  The discovery was almost incidental, as his wife’s cousin asked her about an old building that her uncle owned.  After visiting and exploring the space, Mark knew the team had found it’s taproom and brewing space.  The building used to house Professional Drug Company, serving as the company’s warehouse.

With the building previously housing a warehouse there was a lot of space, which is quite evident with the setup in the brewing and storage space.  In fact, there is so much room in the production area that the brewery hosted q local chamber of commerce meeting in mid-July.

Keg storage in the production area.

However, most visitors aren’t exploring the production area.  Visitors can still get a tour of the facility, but now that the law has changed the brewery only offers tours on Saturdays.  The taproom portion of the brewery is quite extensive as well.  You can get a feel for the space with the following pictures.

Margaret setting up some snacks.

As the first people to arrive after its opening, my wife and I were greeted by Mark and his wife Margaret, who was setting up the popcorn machine and setting up the retail side of the brewery.

A set of high-top tables with unique keg-inspired seats.
A view of the bar top with a glimpse into the production area while Mark pours a beer.

With the bar in mind, my wife Katie and I sampled all of the beers available on draft (see full list here).  While getting a tour of the brewing and storage area, I had a pint of Salt Dog, which is the brewery’s base gose.  Sours beers don’t work for everybody’s taste buds, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I also prefer lighter beers like a gose during the summer heat.  I also tried Biloxi Blonde, which despite its name is not a Belgian blonde, but instead is a kölsch.  For people new to craft beer, it is an excellent introductory beer.  Black Gold is an export stout, and while not something I would typically drink during the summer it was quite good.  I finished with Pelican Pier, which is a blood orange gose.  I had sampled’s Katie’s pint and liked it so much that I opted to order it and take it with me as we headed to a Biloxi Shuckers game at MGM Park.

In most cases people wouldn’t be allowed to take a beer with them when leaving a brewery, but Biloxi Brewing Co. sits in one of Biloxi two entertainment districts, which allows patrons to leave a bar or restaurant with a to-go cup. So Katie and I both left with a pint of Pelican Pier.  We also returned the next day to get a growler filled with Pelican Pier, which was by far our favorite offering.  The brewery is located within downtown Biloxi’s historic district about a half a mile from the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, which means it’s convenient for people visiting the casinos to get a great local beer.

With the law changes, there are changes in store for the taproom, too.  Mark says he hopes to install a nitro tap for Black Gold, and to create a barrel area in the front corner of the brewery in the vault that was originally stored narcotics.  It seems that the forecast is calling for a bright future for Biloxi Brewing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

My night with the Biloxi Shuckers – July 14, 2017

The newest stadium in the Southern League opened nearly two years ago to much fanfare, as the stadium endured numerous construction delays and the team played its first 25 home games on the road at a number of different ballparks (read more here).  So I was thrilled when I finally got to attend a Biloxi Shuckers home game this summer. However, I did not plan the date to attend the game.  My wife Katie scoured the Shuckers promotional scheduled picked the date because the team was giving away a bobblehead commemorating outfielder Brett Phillips chasing away an opossum (see video here).

So after visiting Biloxi Brewing Company, which is just a few blocks from the stadium, we walked over to the ballpark to make sure we were in line to secure our bobbleheads.  So while we waited, I got a few pictures of the main entrance.

Main entrance.

There were significantly more people at the north entrance to the ballpark, but the more interesting view on that side of the stadium was the outfield gates that were adorned with images of former players.

Gate on north side of stadium covered with images of former players who have played in MLB.

Once we entered the stadium and claimed our bobbleheads (more on that later), we walked around the concourse checking out food options.  However, I was most concerned about getting a photo of the game’s starting lineups.

Starting lineups for the Birmingham Barons vs. Biloxi Shuckers on July 14.

After having some beers before walking to the stadium, neither Katie nor I were particularly hungry.  So we checked out the team store and I took advantage of the opportunity to capture a few pictures of the visiting Birmingham Barons and the home Shuckers warming up before the game.

While watching warm ups we opted to get a beer at the Buena Vista Beer Garden, which is along the right field line close to the home team’s bullpen.  There are 24 beers available on draft there, which is the most available at any one location in the stadium.  Half of the 24 taps are dedicated to local and regional craft breweries with Abita, Lazy Magnolia, and Biloxi Brewing each having four taps at the stand.

The Buena Vista Beer Garden is the go-to spot for craft beer at the stadium.

There are other spots in the stadium where you can get beer, and specifically craft beer.  For example, the True Blue Brew Crew stand and The Sand bar both feature a selection of macrobrews and craft beers.  These two spots are along the first base line close to the team store.  So with drinks in hand, we ventured to our seats and I waited to take my usual photo of the game’s first pitch.

Biloxi Shuckers starting pitcher Jon Perrin delivering the first pitch to Birmingham Barons shortstop Eddy Alvarez.

After capturing the first pitch, I decided to capture a few more photos of game action before returning to my seat.

Once I returned to my seats, which were awesome with many thanks to the great staff at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, I felt like I needed a photo to capture how amazing the view was from our seats.

Game action with Barons pitcher Michael Kopech and Shuckers batter Michael Choice.

After watching a few innings of play, Katie and I decided to consider our food options and decided to examine the concession stands along the concourse.  While we opted to visit each stand to find out what they offered, the Shuckers also have a flip board with a map of “Food Finds” that helps fans find specific items.

A map of “Food Finds” helps fans locate each concession stand and portable stand throughout the stadium.

So what did we see as we explored the concourse and checked out our food options…

When it comes to food, the Shuckers do a superb job.  As you can see from the previous photos, they ballpark has all the baseball staples like hot dogs, chicken tenders, and even pizza.  Fans can also find more local flavors like po’ boys and local BBQ.  My wife and I asked people before we went to the game what we should eat and we asked some of the employees for suggestions, and we got a LOT of recommendations.  So it was difficult to decide what to eat because we didn’t keep hearing the same chorus of eat at a particular stand or order a particular item.

Considering that we came for the weekend to enjoy the beach, Katie and I felt like the natural choice was to order seafood.  Choosing seafood led us to the Aw Shucks Gulf Grill, but then the choices got more difficult.  The menu includes garlic butter oysters, jambalaya, red beans and rice stuffed Cajun sausage, beer brats, and grilled boudin.  We struggled to choose just ONE item, but thankfully we didn’t have to pick just one.  We ordered the Grand Slam Gulf Grill!

Everything in the Grand Slam Gulf Grill was fantastic.  We probably ordered AND ate way too much food, but it was by far the best food option at the park to split between two people.  By far the best part of our dining experience was that we ate something that is genuinely unique to Biloxi.

After eating and becoming stuffed on all that great seafood, I felt like it was appropriate to walk around a bit and get a few more pictures of the stadium to show off the luxury suites, kids’ area, and the grandstand.

After walking off some of the food, I remembered that I had not taken a picture of the item that Katie and I claimed when we walked in the gates: the Brett Phillips and opossum bobblehead.

A bobblehead commemorating a game during the 2016 when outfielder Brett Phillips chased away a possum.

The bobblehead itself is great, and I’m excited to have it in my collection.  However, it’s also cool because the bobblehead includes an audio recording of Brett Phillips laughing.  Phillips’s laugh is so notorious that it has been the focus of multiple articles (read one here).

Shortly after photographing the bobblehead, we got to watch a staple of Shuckers’ games: the Crawfish Boil Race.  It features a race between Spud (a potato), Kernel Cobb (an ear of corn), and Crawford (a crawfish).

Spud, Kernel Cobb, and Crawford prepare for the Desporte & Son’s Seafood Market & Deli Crawfish Boil Race.

But something different was afoot this night…

A possum appeared out of nowhere to win the Desporte & Son’s Seafood Market & Deli Crawfish Boil Race.

As we watched the end of the Crawfish Boil Race, I hoped to get a picture with the team’s seagull mascot, Schooner.  Sadly we remained elusive until we were leaving the stadium.

Katie and I with Shuckers’ mascot Schooner.

It’s the first time I’ve taken a picture with a mascot outside the stadium after the game had ended, but getting that photo with the team mascot is always an important part of enjoying the full gameday experience.

There’s no doubt the Biloxi Shuckers provide a great gameday experience at MGM Park.  From the start of our visit with free parking at the parking deck next to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino to a unique giveaway item to excellent local beer and food options to fun in-game entertainment like the Crawfish Boil Race to getting our photo taken with the team mascot at the end of the game, we enjoyed the quintessential Minor League Baseball experience along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Final Score: Birmingham 3, Biloxi 1
Box Score

A pint at Lucky Town Brewing in Jackson, Miss.

At the end of June, my wife and I made a road trip from our home in Alabama to visit her parents in Tulsa, Okla.  Driving straight through would take about nine hours excluding stops, so we decided to extend the trip with a few stops along the way.  My wife suggested we stop for a Mississippi Braves game so we could pick up a Dansby Swanson bobblehead (see it here).  Additionally, it meant we got to explore our first Mississippi brewery together: Lucky Town Brewing Company.

On the day we arrived, we were limited in what we could do at the brewery because Mississippi law prevented people from directly buying a beer at a brewery.  Instead people had to purchase a tour of the brewery, and could receive up to six complimentary six-ounce pours of beer.  So instead of bellying up to the bar and ordering a flight or getting a pint, we each purchased a tour.

Although we each purchased a tour, the day we arrived at the brewery wasn’t any June day.  It was June 30, which meant the staff at the brewery were preparing for a “grand opening” event at midnight July 1 to celebrate the change in state law that would allow breweries in the state to sell beer directly to customers.  It wasn’t easy to find the brewery because it occupies a nondescript building across from the railroad tracks.

Exterior of Lucky Town Brewing at the intersection of North Mill and Livingston streets.

While nothing on the building denotes that it is home to a brewery there is some amazing street art on the side.

A closeup of the street art on the side of the building housing Lucky Town Brewing.

There is a small parking lot immediately behind the brewery that can hold approximately a dozen vehicles.  Like any brewery, you see kettles, mash tanks, fermentation tanks, canning line, and more.  Most notably the sense of humor present on the outside of the building continues inside.

By the entrance is a large stage for performances, which hosted a variety of bands to celebrate Mississippi’s new law that went into effect on July 1.  Additionally, the brewery installed a new bar with 30 taps to take advantage of the state’s newly revised beer laws.  According to brewmaster Lucas Simmons the goal is to have a variety of small batch beers and ciders available on draft at the brewery in addition to their year-round staples like Ballistic Blonde, Flare Incident, Gose Gamblin’, and Hop Fiasco IPA.

Speaking of beers, I tried each of the six the brewery had on draft for people who purchased tours that day.  If you visit the brewery now your options will be different because they are no longer restricted to offering samples and you can simply choose to order whatever beers you want.  However, I sampled Hop Fiasco IPA (a West Coast IPA), Upper End of Social (a East Coast IPA), Gose Gamblin’ (a sour German beer), Ballistic Blonde (a Belgian blonde), Pub Ale (an English mild ale), and Flare Incident (an oatmeal stout).  I’m not a beer drinker who enjoys hoppy IPAs, but Hop Fiasco is a very solid representation of the style.  My favorite beer was Gose Gamblin’ partially because I enjoy crisp, sour beers during the summer, and it was especially humid that day.  It is a bit heavier on the salt compared to some other goses I have drank, but it is a great choice.  Per Randy that day, the Pub Ale is their biggest seller (referencing sales throughout the state and elsewhere), which surprised me because English milds are not popular style in the U.S.  For people wanting to explore craft beer, but are used to drinking the big-brand macrobrews, the best choice is the Ballistic Blonde.  It is light, refreshing and not overly bitter.

But back to the space at the brewery.

By far the coolest (and perhaps most important) feature at the brewery is a chalk-wall thank you note to all the people who donated to the company’s Kickstarter campaign (see the page here).

A wall thanking all the people who donated to the brewery’s Kickstarter campaign.

Speaking of community, there is no doubt that the craft beer drinking community in Jackson supports Lucky Town.  My wife and I did not get to visit at midnight when the brewery kicked off its celebration of the law change, but I was fortunate enough to get a photo from the brewery showing how many people came out for the event.

Crowd gathered for the midnight grand opening of the brewery on July 1 to celebrate direct sales in Mississippi. (Photo courtesy of Lucky Town Brewing Company).

As someone who lives in Alabama, I know that the South is not known as a craft beer hot spot.  However, things are changing across the region.  Despite being the last state to legalize home brewing, Mississippi was not the last state to allow breweries to sell direct to consumers (that distinction belongs to Georgia, whose law goes into effect on September 1, 2017).  So next time you visit Jackson be sure to visit Lucky Town Brewing where you’ll find some very approachable craft beer.  Or if you’re a craft beer aficionado, you can check out their verified menu on Untappd to see what they are pouring and perhaps expand your horizons with a well-made Mississippi craft beer.

Revealing my 2017 ballpark resolutions

I’m now into year three of writing baseball-travel resolutions (read 2015’s resolutions here; read 2016’s resolutions here).  These resolutions/goals mostly focus on attending Minor League Baseball games, but sometimes I add a Major League Baseball goal.

The first resolution for 2017…

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to interact with Josh Pahigian, who has written numerous books about attending MLB and MiLB games (see his Amazon author page here).  He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches at the University of New England.  During this past season he reached out to me about using a photo I took of a biscuit at a Montgomery Biscuits games (read my post here) in his upcoming book The Amazing Baseball Adventure: Ballpark Wonders from the Bushes to the Show, and we’ve corresponded about attending a game together when I’m in the Boston area for the AAG Annual Meeting in May.  My schedule is still in flux, so I’m not sure what ballpark or game we may attend, but I’m optimistic that I’ll get to either a New Hampshire FisherCats or Portland Sea Dogs game and meet Josh.

My second resolution for 2017…

I’ve previously aimed to see all the MiLB teams in Alabama, and setting the same goal this year.  I have seen the Barons (read post here), BayBears (read post here), and Biscuits (read post here) at different times since I started blogging about my stadium visits, but have never visited all three ballparks during the same season.  My fiancée Katie has been keen on the idea of seeing the Biscuits and BayBears, so I decided it would be a good goal to try and see all three teams during the upcoming season as we hopefully visit more of Alabama’s craft breweries.

My third resolution for 2017…

Last August, Katie and I had hoped to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and attend a Biloxi Shuckers game, but we were unfortunately unable to accomplish that trip because of other commitments.  As she loves the beach and thankfully enjoys baseball, too, I’ve pitched the idea to her that we could visit Biloxi this summer for some beach time while also watching the Shuckers and visiting some of Mississippi’s craft breweries.

My fourth resolution for 2017…

Last year, I resolved to see the Atlanta Braves play a game during their final season at Turner Field.  So it seemed appropriate and kind of obvious that I’d resolve to see the Braves play a game during their first season at SunTrust Park this year.

Now that I have my four baseball travel resolutions set for 2017 I have to start planning and make them a reality.  I accomplished two of my four resolutions for 2016, and hopefully will be more successful this year.