Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brewsday Tuesday: New beer options on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM

click to enlarge mississippi_brewing_co_taps.jpg


Summer is in full swing, and this week’s Brewsday Tuesday is about a day trip I took to Mississippi’s Gulfport and Ocean Springs area — because even when you need to get away, you still want fresh and local beer.

Ocean Springs is the site of the Crooked Letter Brewing Company, which had blown me away at the WYES beer tasting with its Mystery Romp mocha porter. The brewery has tours every Saturday from 1-3 p.m., which are free and include tastings of all their beers.

In addition to its flagship beers Stabello Italian Lager, Gipsy IPA and Crooked Heffy, Crooked Letter was also pouring its Mystery Romp porter and its Mariposa, which is a pale ale brewed with mango, jalapeno and cilantro. The Mariposa was outstanding — still very much a pale ale, but with background hints of fruit and herbs. Very balanced, very subtle. The Stabello lager was incredibly clean drinking and refreshing. John Myers, Crooked Letter’s head brewer, said they recently replaced the more traditional Saaz hops with Cascade hops. Although Cascade hops can overwhelm a beer, the grain and yeast profiles stand up to it, leaving the effect of the hops a pleasantly floral and citrusy flavor in the crisp background.

On his business card, Myers’ title is “Brewer, Paleontologist, Geologist.” He’s well-traveled, being a musician and general wanderer in his youth, but settled in New Orleans to pursue his graduate studies at the University of New Orleans. He purchased a house near the campus in early 2005, and following Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the federal levees, his house (already raised four feet off the ground) had eight feet of standing water in it for more than a month. He left New Orleans to pursue a Masters in geology at Kansas State and a dual doctoral candidacy in both geology and paleontology at Michigan State. By the time he finished, his friends Paul and Wanda Blacksmith were opening up Crooked Letter and offered John the position as head brewer, as he had taught them both to brew many years ago.

Crooked Letter Brewing’s beer should be distributed in New Orleans in the next few months. I highly recommend seeking the beer out when it arrives.

The second stop I made on the road trip was to celebrate the opening of Gulfport’s first brewpub, the Mississippi Brewing Company. Less a sit-down brewpub than it is a beachside concession stand with fresh beers brewed on the premises, this was one of the more unusual brewpub experiences I’ve had. Cousins Sam and Alex Vasquez started homebrewing only a year ago and say they knew that they were onto something great. Their one-barrel brewing system (one barrel is equivalent to 31 gallons) is in the back of their small concession stand space and their fermenters are placed in an adjoining cold room for proper temperature control. Looking at the setup, it’s amazing that it works at all, let alone that it produces great beer.

Among the ones sampled by our group of four, the Crazy Hefer Hefeweizen, Red Headed Step Child Red Ale, Southern Light Blonde Ale, IPA and Mississippi Speckled Stout were all hailed as quite good. (I also sneaked in a pint of Crooked Letter’s Mariposa Ale, because I wanted to see how the jalapeno, mango, and cilantro worked in a full serving of the beer. Verdict: excellent.)

Sam says that he and Alex have brewed more than 60 batches of beer in the last sx months, experimenting and tweaking recipes. They intend to self-distribute, and are currently running a “Keg Drive” where a $100 donation will be rewarded with your name engraved on a brick at the brewpub entrance, tickets to tastings and the opportunity to win back your donation. Check out their website at  and click on the “Founding Fathers” link for more info.

Since Mississippi’s laws pertaining to homebrewing and alcohol limits in beers have changed over the last year, the uptick of brewers, breweries, and homebrewing resources make our neighbor to the east a very interesting place to visit.



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