Southern Prohibition Brewing also began with a home brewer, Quinby Chunn, who grew up in Texas and followed his parents, David and Diana Chunn, to Hattiesburg.
Emily Curry, the company’s sales and marketing coordinator, said Quinby Chunn fell in love with homebrewing.
“He wanted to do more than that so he went and got his brewing degree,” she said. “He then worked in a brewery in Texas for several years to learn anything and everything about brewing and the process and everything he wanted to know to brew one day. He moved back here in 2008 to be closer to family and bought an office building. He had every intention of opening a brewery.”
Chunn bought the former McGregor’s Furniture Warehouse in Downtown Hattiesburg and started working on his plan.
“He met the head brewer, Ben Green, the guy who is responsible for the recipes and the fun beer names,” Curry said. “They hooked up in early 2012. Ben was an active brewer who won some awesome awards at the homebrew competition at the Keg and Barrel. From there, Quinby came in and said, ‘I want to open a production brewery. I want you here.’”
Green then went to Wisconsin to get his Master Brewers Association of America certification, going from being a home brewer to being a production brewer,” Curry said. “Instead of brewing on a 5-gallon system, he went to brewing in our production facility. It’s not the same beer, even if you just scale it up. You have to do a lot more than that. They started working on recipes in 2012.”
Curry said she came on board in January 2013 and the business launched in April 2013.
“I came on to do sales, marketing and all sorts of different things,” she said. “We did that in three months, launching with Suzy B’s and Devil’s Harvest. Devil’s Harvest now is definitely not the same as it was then. We have changed the recipe drastically, taking it from an extra pale ale to an East Coast-style, hazy IPA.”
Onward and upward
The business has expanded quickly, Curry said.
“We started out with 14 draft accounts in Hattiesburg and now we have more than 4,000 accounts in five states,” she said. “We bottle some of our bourbon barrel-aged in 22 ounces and our up-and-coming sour and wild ale program will be in 500ml bottles. Ben has been working on these beers for more than a year. We’ve got barrels with some wild fermentation going on in a different area. They are keeping it away from our production facility for sanitation purposes. We are really excited to start our program next year.
We started out in Mississippi and we launched in Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and we will be in Georgia early next year.”
Production has also ramped up.
“We started as a 3,000-barrel facility and now we are in a 13,000-barrel facility,” Curry said. “We produce probably right now 600 barrels a month, while a barrel is 31 gallons.”
The brewery’s main ingredient, hops, comes from Yakima, Wash.
“We played around with New Zealand hops, English hops and other ones, but for the most, everything we use is U.S.,” she said. “We have contracts because of the volume that we are producing now. We are growing really fast. I would say that we are the fastest-growing brewery in Mississippi.
“As we are starting the influx of breweries into the Southeast, we are starting to see more vendors. Like the boxes, we get those from Memphis. Our cans are made by a company that makes cans in Batesville. There are going to be more yeast and grain vendors coming into the state.”
Curry said brewers in the state are dealing with legislation that can be restrictive.
“We are making tremendous strides with the state laws,” she said. “If you are not challenging what is being done right now, then you are not improving. So we are always challenging with ourselves as a professional company and with our laws in the state as an industry with our laws as a whole.”
Southern Prohibition and Slowboat are both working toward better rules in the state, Curry said.
“We are all in the Mississippi Brewers Guild together and we’re all brewing great beers,” she said. “We’re all trying to progress this state and progress this industry. We might be competing for the same tap space, but at the end of the day, what is a step forward for one of us is a step forward for all of us.”
Curry said the brewery’s name also shows the business’s targets.
“Our name is Southern Prohibition,” she said. “It kind of plays on the fact that we want to be a regional brewery and that Prohibition still exists with all of these laws today. But also for us, it is a daily reminder that we are always pushing the envelope for what we brew as a beer to sell all over the state. We make a beer called Sinister Minister with a priest with a bleeding eye. We want to push it as far as we can go and remind ourselves and that we still have further to go as a company.”
In that decision to push the envelope comes experimentation, Curry said.
“A lot of our brewery’s philosophy is creativity, to experiment, to make mistakes and try new things,” she said. “The number of different beers we have put out in a short amount of time is a lot. We have to have a go-to-market strategy instead of saying, ‘Hey, you can come to the tap room and we can put out all of this beer.’ I plan for it to go to states. We have three sales reps in three different parts of the region and even if they just talk about 10 kegs to an area, it’s really exciting to send that to a city to sell beer on a tap.”
Curry said production revolves around the different beers.
“We package one to two beers a day,” she said. “We package one canned beer occasionally, our barrel-aged and sour stuff in bottling and kegging, of course, whenever we can. We have five year-round beers right now, one seasonal beer rotating and some bourbon-barrel stuff rotating. We also experiment and infuse some beers occasionally.”
New beers will have their own time in the spotlight.
“This year, we are actually starting a rotator series, where we’re releasing a new beer every six weeks,” Curry said. “You get six weeks to try this beer, starting out with a milk stout, a black saison after that and we’ll have a couple of exciting beers after that.”
The brewery, located at 301 Mobile St., holds tours from 5-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Curry said the atmosphere is mostly laid back.
“We do have beer releases,” she said. “We have video games, darts and cornhole. It’s more like the social pub hour. Our name is kind of like a speakeasy. We kind of kept it raw.”
Not a clue
Curry said she is surprised by the brewery’s anonymity.
“There are people in Hattiesburg that don’t know that we exist,” she said. “But there are also people in Hattiesburg that don’t fathom the idea that the beer they are drinking is made in their backyard and is made by people they went to school with or shop at the same grocery store as or go to church with. I was sitting in a bar not too long ago and a guy was talking about how much he liked Suzy B. He said, ‘Yeah, it’s really good.’ I said, ‘You know it’s made in town.’ He had no clue. He said, ‘You mean, like, I could go there?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you could go down there and get samples. I actually work there.’ He said, ‘You work in a brewery? Really?’”
Curry said the local establishments have added Southern Prohibition beers to their menus.” The bars definitely see an advantage by putting our beers on tap,” she said. “It’s great liquid. I am really proud of everything Quinby and Ben have ever made. Our branding is fantastic. Our sales team is always a voice of the company.”
For the Pine Belt, breweries like Slowboat and Southern Prohibition have tapped into a growing market that is expanding beyond its home boundaries.