Image: Frank Farmer

The 3rd annual Mississippi Craft Beer Festival will be held on the grounds of Duling Hall tonight, June 9 (purchase tickets here).

Presented by Fondren Renaissance, along with Capital City Beverages and Southern Beverage Company, the cooperative spirit between the two distributors brings over 100 beers from more than two dozen brewers to taste.

With more beers than last year, cooler temperatures and a larger festival footprint, we sat down with FRF’s Jim Wilkirson, Capital City’s Derek Nelson and Southern Beverage’s Matt Jeffries for an inside look at what makes the festival tick and what you can look forward to.

What can we expect tonight?

Wilkirson: It’s the chance to taste new product being introduced to the area with an opportunity to meet the brewers and talk one-on-one with them about what they do. It’s the widest variety of beers offered in one location at an extremely reasonable ticket price – $30 for general admission – to experience what the craft beer industry in Mississippi has to offer. Plus, it’s the camaraderie of being around all of those that love and have come to respect a relatively new industry in our state.

This is the third year that two distributors have worked together with FRF for a cooperative event, a rarity among “competitors.” How has this partnership, strengthened the two companies? 

Nelson: I think events like this are good for the beer category in general, especially craft. This gives consumers a chance to sample different beers and see what they might like. There are so many styles that people aren’t even familiar with yet and we can offer something for everyone. We have seen avid wine drinkers, who didn’t particularly care for beer, eat their words when they try a good Lambic, Flanders, or Gueuze.

Jeffries: Working together for this event has helped strengthen communication, product awareness, and event organization. This festival is all about the beer.  Most attendees don’t know who distributes what, and they most likely don’t care.  Both distributors not only want to be involved in a showcase like this–they have to be.

Have you seen a benefit to being a part of the festival?

Jeffries:  This festival has absolutely helped in continuing our mission to build and cement our craft portfolio. It has helped develop new relationships with our consumer and retail partners and helped evolve existing ones.

Nelson: Of course. Consumer interaction is always great. It’s always good for people to be able to sample what’s available in the market and we love to get feedback from the people drinking our brands.

What has been your favorite thing about the festival?

Nelson: Other than the great turnouts, good beer and good times? I would have to say the people organizing it. When the people putting on the festival don’t have a clue it sure makes my job tough. Jim (Wilkirson) & Angie (Noble, FRF special projects director) have done an amazing job with catering to our needs as well as the needs of attendees. This is definitely the best organized beer festival I’ve been a part of.

Jeffries: Agreed. FRF does one hell of a job coordinating volunteers, securing the space and all equipment needed for the distributors, and making the festival as comfortable as possible for everyone that is involved–and the breweries and distributors are grateful for all things seamless and the efforts put forth.

What changes are on the horizon for the industry?

Nelson: I think we’ll continue to see more brands enter the state but the most publicized change coming is the tap room law (which takes effect July 1). Breweries like Lucky Town (located in Midtown Jackson) will be able to serve their beer by the glass or can since most of their brands are now available in cans. Tap room feedback will also give us some insight to what beers we should bring to market, and that’s a good thing.

Jeffries: With over 5,000 breweries in operation in the country–and another 2,000 applications pending–there are going to be significant changes in the near future. Some will continue to thrive, a lot will continue to grow, and some, unfortunately, will probably depart from the scene. As we’ve seen in our recent changes to legislation, our in-state breweries will have more opportunities than ever before to build and grow their business, create more jobs, and generate more revenue.

Why is a festival like this important to Fondren?

Wilkirson: Although you may think you are only coming to the festival, you do end up experiencing Fondren as whole by walking down the sidewalks and seeing what else we have to offer. It’s an introduction to Fondren to some festival goers and is hopefully what brings you back to experience more. Second is the way the distributors and brewers all come together in partnership to put on a festival with the very best that each has to offer and adding on the promotion of our restaurants; it just takes it to another level that none of the other festivals in the state are able to accomplish. As a “come and go” experience, you’re not only experiencing the craft beer industry as a whole but you are also taking in the restaurant scene of Fondren as well.

The Mississippi Craft Beer Festival makes you proud to be a part of promoting such a viable up-and-coming industry in our state. Craft beer has truly changed the beer industry as a whole across Mississippi and the U.S. and Fondren is proud to be a part of that positive movement.

See more, including tonight’s beer list, and purchase tickets at