July 24, 2014 10:06:53 AM
The Golden Triangle has its first homegrown beer.
SweetGum Brewing Co. is slated to have its first brew on local shelves by the end of September, according to co-owners Ed Dechert and Cameron Fogle. It's called Standby Red Ale. It's an Irish red beer, one Fogle said is "appropriate for Starkville's market."
If things go as planned, there will soon be more varieties.
Dechert and Fogle both live in Starkville. They both have a passion for beer. And they both support the idea of "local." Fogle said that several years ago, when he had just moved to Starkville and the idea of starting a brewery was only an idea, he thought, "This is the type of town that needs to have its own brewery." It is a place that supports its own, that takes pride in itself, he said.
Fogle, 41, is an attorney who teaches at the University of Alabama. He is the company's businessman. Dechert, 32, teaches at MSU. He is the brewer. They were introduced during an Arts and Sciences Happy Hour at Zorba's Greek Tavern. Both had kicked around the idea of starting a brewery and they decided to go for it.
They came up with their company's name. (Dechert's wife helped: the couple has sweetgum trees in their backyard.) A MSU advertising student came up with a logo.
Then, earlier this week, they entered into an agreement with Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, a town near the Mississippi Gulf Coast. SweetGum will use that brewery's facility to make its beer, and Clark Beverage Group Inc. of Starkville will be the distributor.
Dechert and Fogle plan on going to Kiln in August and brewing 60 barrel batches of Standby Red Ale. (That's roughly 19,000 12-ounce beers.) Not long after that, SweetGum beer will be available in the Golden Triangle and across north Mississippi. Starkville restaurants and bars will have kegs on tap. Convenience and grocery stores will have six-packs of bottles, and each one will be adorned with these words: "Rough around the edges never tasted so smooth." That's the company's motto.
Throughout the rest of the year, Dechert and Fogle will travel to Kiln to brew more batches. The plan, they said, is to eventually have a full-scale brewery in Starkville. They have gone this route initially to focus on getting the beer on the market and saving costs.
"It is very much our intention to stay here," Fogle said.
Earlier this month the Census Bureau said the number of U.S. breweries more than doubled -- from 398 to 869 -- between 2007 and 2012, according to data from the 2012 Economic Census Industry Series.
In Columbus, Divergent Art Tattoos will have a grand opening Aug. 1. The business is at 2014 Hwy. 45 N., where Coggins Shoe Shop was before it closed earlier this year. The spot consists of about 1,000 square feet. A sign posted at the storefront last week said the tattoo and piercing parlor will be open on Thursdays and Wednesdays from noon to 10 p.m., and from noon to 1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Lastly, several people have mentioned a rumor around town: Publix is opening a grocery store in Columbus. I contacted Brenda Reid, a media and community relations manager with the Florida-based supermarket chain. This is what she told me:
"Thanks for your inquiry about Publix opening a store in Columbus, Miss. At this time we do not have a confirmed store site in Columbus. Publix only comments on store sites that are confirmed."
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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