In a name, Lazy Magnolia conjures the fine Southern traditions of swapping stories on the porch and kicking back in the shade. In a beer, it delivers the cool sip of hospitality required on such occasions.
And, in a brewery — Mississippi’s oldest packaging brewery since Prohibition — Lazy Magnolia signals the senior statesman of the craft beer industry in the state, leading the way as the first brewery approved for membership in the new Genuine Mississippi program.
Years-wise, Lazy Magnolia is still in its teens, but with distribution throughout the South, award-winning brews, a tourist destination profile and Mississippi ambassador outreach, its maturity goes far beyond the tastiness of its beers and the pull of its brewery tours and taproom in Kiln.
A Seat at the Table
Special attention to craft beverages that pair well with Southern food assures that Lazy Magnolia always has a seat at the table. It’s a perfect pairing, too, with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Genuine Mississippi program that highlights authentic, high-quality artisan foods and beverages grown, raised and crafted in the state.
Lazy Magnolia, founded by Leslie and Mark Henderson in 2003, sold its first beer in 2005. “For the first seven years of our [business] life, we were two crazy people on a random crazy walk,” Mark Henderson describes it. They were among those pushing for changes in state law to open up the craft brewery frontier in Mississippi, and as such, Lazy Magnolia set the stage for others to follow. “It has been amazing to watch, and it has been a certain amount of justification for all the hard work that we put into it, and we’re very proud of what happened.”
The Origin Story: Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale
Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, one of the first four beers Lazy Magnolia made for market is still its signature flavor accounting “for somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of sales, depending on the day or the week,” he says.
And, like everything else from down South, “There’s always a story.”
Its birth wasn’t without hurdles. Henderson was a big fan of brown ales, with a fondness for Pete’s Wicked. He got to thinking, “If we had a nut brown ale with pecans …” Rogue had a hazelnut brown ale. “I thought it was a little bit too plain … good, but not quite what we were after. I thought, ‘Man, if we had a pecan nut brown ale, that would be really amazing” for taste and ties to local culture.
He went to Leslie and asked if she could formulate a recipe. “I will never forget this. She said, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I have ever heard.’”
“Don’t you think that’d be cool?” he persisted. She gave him that look. The one that said, “I may just humor you, but you’re insane.”
She worked out a recipe and brewed it. “Eight weeks later, we were popping tops on bottles, and the beer was actually kind of nice. It wasn’t what it needed to be yet, but it was definitely drinkable. It had enough good points to say, ‘Look, maybe it’s got legs.’” He says the recipe went through nearly 30 revisions before hitting its “yep, this is special” mark.
“I will claim no credit for the recipe, other than it was my idea,” he says cheerily.
In 2006, they took Southern Pecan and Amberjaque Rye Ale to the World Beer Cup — 500 breweries participated and both of the Lazy Magnolia entries brought home bronze medals. It was a key validation among their peers. “People who obviously knew what they were doing thought they were good beers as well.”
Southern Pecan is the only one of those first four beers they still make. But there are loads more on the roster.
Pairs Well with Southern Food
In any given year, Lazy Magnolia makes about 25 different beers, which works out to about one every other week. They range from Lazy Margarita to Sour Blackberry to Skeleton Key Bourbon Stout. Sweet Potato Stout, Hard Iced Tea and Southern Hospitality are among those that will ring true with regional ears on name alone, but there are many more options to entice and refresh the palate.
Distribution is in about 20 states across the Southeast. “We do about 4 million beers a year,” Henderson says. They’ve shipped beer to Puerto Rico and to Germany, Sweden, Norway, Panama, China and El Salvador.
Visit the Lazy Magnolia Tap Room
In 2017, state law changed to allow taprooms. “That has been huge,” Henderson says. Before, the brewery in Kiln would get 7,000 to nearly 10,000 visitors a year to take a tour, try a few samples and get back on the road. More than two-thirds were from outside the region and more than half from outside the state. In 2018, Lazy Magnolia was approaching 20,000 visitors.
The “Lazy” part of the brewery’s name may play on a Southern stereotype, but it can’t linger long with those kinds of numbers. Besides, it’s not really lazy. “We take an extra few minutes to visit with people,” Henderson says.
“Beer and food and all of those things are part of that culture of what it is to be a community.”
Find out more about Lazy Magnolia Brewery and its beers that pair well with Southern food at lazymagnolia.com and learn more about the premium products available in Mississippi at GenuineMS.com.
Editor’s Note: This profile was written by Sherry Lucas, a Jackson, Mississippi culinary writer with an appetite for iconic foods. This story was produced in partnership with Genuine Mississippi.