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