By BECKY GILLETTE
Kenny and Carrie Mann are making things happen in downtown Laurel. The young couple left their 9-5 jobs to follow their dreams of owning a brewery.
“And they are doing an incredible job,” said Jim Rasberry, chairman of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) of Jones County.
Slowboat Brewing Company distributed its first batches of beer on Dec. 27, 2015, and held the first tour of its facility Jan. 2, 2016.
Kenny Mann said the simplest answer to why they opened the brewery is passion.
“We fell in love with homebrewing and the Mississippi beer industry,” Mann said. “We wanted to be a part of the growth and development of the Mississippi beer culture. Although the Mississippi beer scene is very young compared to most of the country, it is made up of some of the most passionate brewers and advocates you will ever meet. We are extremely proud to be a part of this family.”
Mann said they have been completely floored with the constant support they have gotten from their distribution partners, retailers and consumers in the state.
“Beer is a very subjective product, and many times brands tend to get lost in the fray,” Mann said. “We have yet to experience this, due to the passion of our supporters. On a local level, we couldn’t ask for better support. The Laurel government, Main Street Association and the EDA have been nothing short of amazing to us. The people of Jones County put a smile on my face daily. The sense of pride growing in Laurel is very strong right now. It makes every difficult day in this business worth every second.”
Since opening, they have produced four year-round products, six different limited release products, and a number of specialty beers.
“We work hard, we try our best, and we strive to push the envelope whenever it comes to our brewing,” Mann said. “We have fun with it. We don’t brew what we think will sell well on the market; we brew what we would love to drink. I feel like this has been the secret to our success, thus far.”
Slowboat’s main focus is small batch artisan styles, including farmhouse, sour, spontaneously fermented wild ales, Belgian style, barrel-aged, experimental ales and an ever-evolving collection of popular American craft beer styles.
Slowboat gives people something different to do downtown. Mann said they offer a comfortable, family and pet friendly environment for patrons to enjoy.
“We have made it a point to be a welcoming home to local/regional musicians and artists,” Mann said. “We strive to be the hub of this amazing downtown Laurel community. But at the end of the day, we are just happy to be a part of it all.”
Slowboat currently employs four people. It hopes to add a salesperson in late summer. As far as plans for future expansions, Mann said they “don’t have any massive world domination plans. We started as a small, ‘boot strap’ business and always will always keep that mentality. We simply want to grow what we are doing now to its full potential as organically as possible.”
Mann said the only distribution expansion they plan in the immediate future is the addition of the Oxford market. With the addition of Oxford and its small surrounding markets, Slowboat beer will be available all over Mississippi.
“We hope to strengthen bonds that we have made all over the state, begin packaging our product in cans/bottles, and continue expand/improve our product line,” Mann said. “On the home front, we strive to continually improve our facility and product to the best of our abilities. Every single day is a push forward.”
Like other brewers in the state, Mann said there is room for improvement with state regulations.
“However, our friends from Raise Your Pints have made huge strides in recent years to improve the beer laws in this state,” Mann said. “And thanks to new legislation backed by a coalition of the lawmakers, distributors, retailers and breweries in this state, we will be allowed to begin limited on-site beer sales starting July 1. Having the ability to sell our product directly to the consumer from the brewery will make a world of difference in this industry. It gives small, independently-owned breweries, such as Slowboat, a real chance to thrive in Mississippi. Mississippi better buckle up, because we firmly believe that you are about to see a gigantic boost in the economy and beer culture here. The future is looking incredibly bubbly.”