by Sophie McNeil Wolf
If you don’t like something, change it. Easier said than done? Not for Fondrenites Todd and Katie Parkman. What started as a meeting of only a few beer lovers has become a statewide movement to enjoy craft beer and poetically ‘Raise Your Pints.’
Katie, a native of Richmond, Virginia, was first exposed to craft beer in college at Virginia Tech. After moving to Mississippi for a job, she met Todd, and helped foster his interest once they started dating. It wasn’t until Chris Crothers’ Musiquarium closed that the two started to realize the lack of beer options in Jackson.
After contacting a similar group in Alabama called Free the Hops, the Parkmans were put in touch with two other Mississippians and beer lovers — Butch Bailey and Craig Hendry. They met for the first time in 2007 at Hal and Mal’s in hopes of bringing better beer to Mississippi, but not without a few learning moments.
Their first official name was Mississippians for Economic and Beverage Advancement, thinking it would resonate with legislators.
“We assumed we were citizens, we have great ideas, everybody else in the country has already done this. Why should we have to payÂ someone to do this for us? The learning curve with dealing with the Mississippi legislature, we had to pick up very quickly, “ Todd says with a laugh.
They switched their tactics and became more citizen oriented, changing to Raise Your Pints and rallying beer lovers from across the state. Through memberships, T-shirt and pint glass sales, and special events, RYP, with the help from the Parkmans, helped raise money to hire a lobbyist to help them get their higher gravity beer law passed.
Ironically, the “economic advancement” angle that didn’t work in the beginning, worked five years later in 2012. “It was the tipping point, “ said Katie.
On July 1, 2012, Senate Bill 2878 became law, raising the permissible alcohol content in beer from 5% by weight (6.25% ABV) to 8% by weight (10.1% ABV). In the spring of 2013, homebrewing became legal.
“We’ve seen an influx of businesses and new breweries coming in. When we first started, it was just Lazy Magnolia. Now there are seven active breweries in the state,” said Katie.
They use to get asked, “Why are you doing this?” The simple answer was, they just wanted access to good beer. While shopping, they see others now loading their carts with craft beer, which Katie says makes folding and mailing all of those RYP shirts over the years worth it.
But, they’re quick to say it takes a community to make a feat like this happen. They credit people like Lazy Magnolia for proving Mississippi could sustain a brewery, Raise Your Pints sponsors like Sal & Mookie’s for always hosting events, and the state’s beer distributors for getting behind them and finding new beers to bring to the area.
The Parkmans may be able to rest a little easier, but they aren’t out of the game completely. Raise Your Pints has a few more amendments to the law they want to change. “We’re working on some things that we hope will really benefit consumers,” said Todd.
“If you don’t like something, do something about it,” Katie urges. “If you don’t like laws, change them. You can impact change in your own backyard.”