A town of less than 20,000 people in rural Mississippi wouldn’t strike many people as being a community with a craft brewery. If you haven’t heard of Laurel, Miss., then let me introduce you to that town of less than 20,000 people in rural Mississippi with its own craft brewery.
Slowboat Brewing Company is owned by Kenny and Carrie Mann, a husband and wife team who spent many years as homebrewers before opening Slowboat in 2015. The brewery aims to be a community gathering space, which is clear from its open layout about multiple seating spaces. However, before life as a craft brewery the building served many purposes from a car dealership to a mechanic shop to a radio station, specifically it housed WAML (1340 AM).
Although the building’s history as a radio station plays a big role in the brewery, the name for the brewery originates in Kenny Paul’s former job working with oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Supposedly, a “slow boat” is a nickname for the tugboat working with an oil rig.
The brewery’s role as a community gathering spot is clear when you see the several communal-style tables inside the taproom and the picnic tables in the courtyard behind the taproom. Additionally, there is a long table that allows visitors to stand while having their beer. The brewery regularly brings in local food trucks. BackRoad Bistro is one that regularly sets up next to the brewery.
While the taproom layout promotes people staying for more than just a few drinks after taking a tour, the brewery only renovated the space in the weeks leading up to Mississippi beer laws changing on July 1 that allowed breweries to sell directly to consumer on site.
One constant has been the bar though.
The bar, of course, features the beer menu, but also a large supply of board games that customers can use. Another great aspect of the bar setup is seeing the brewery’s logo prominently displayed, which incorporates a 45 rpm adapter. In an era dominated by downloadable music, the logo incorporates the common design of a 45 rpm adapter that hearkens back to when music was played on vinyl records like WAML used for decades. The brewery’s beer series also evoke this nostalgia with beers being part of the 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, or 78 rpm series.
Regarding the beer, the brewery’s website says it focuses on farmhouse, spontaneously fermented wild ales, Belgian-style, and the evolving collection of American craft beer styles. During my visit, I order a half-pint pour of IV (a.k.a. four) and sampled my wife Katie’s pour of Wayward Son, which is a farmhouse IPA. However, we were most impressed by the brewery’s milk stout, Dairy of a Madman. We were so impressed with the beer that we ordered a 32-ounce crowler to take with us.
Due to the brewery occupying a former radio station, many of the beers feature names related to albums, songs, or musical acts. Dairy of a Madman draws its name from Ozzy Osbourne’s 1981 album Diary of a Madman. The farmhouse IPA Wayward Son draws its name from the 1976 song by Kansas titled “Carry on Wayward Son.” I won’t detail every beer and its musical inspiration, but the connection between beer and music helps create a unique connection between the past and the present of the building that houses Slowboat Brewing.
The nostalgia of music and beers is attractive, but the brewery produces some excellent beers. In addition to Dairy of a Madman and IV, I had previously drank Into the Mystic, which was a hibiscus wit. It paired quite well with the pulled pork sandwich I had previously when I visited Pig & Pint in Jackson, Miss.