The beer guy
When the marketing director refers to the "clean, white space" design on the cans of the Mississippi Delta's first craft beers, it's a tipoff that a newspaperman is involved in the operation somewhere.
Sure enough, Jon Alverson, publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Miss., is "the beer guy," of Mighty Miss. Brewing Co., which opened May 27 as part of a multimillion-dollar downtown redevelopment project anchored by an historic Sears building.
Putting out a good newspaper that serves as "a guiding light in the community," is still Alverson's priority, and he does not run the day-to-day operations at Mighty Miss. Other people handle finances, marketing and the brewing itself. But Alverson designed three of the first four beers himself; a friend designed the fourth.
Alverson, a native of Mobile, Ala., is a career newspaperman. He worked for a start-up paper in Florida when he was just 15. After graduating from the University of Florida he took a job as a photographer for the Andalusia Star-News in Alabama.
From there Alverson worked his way up most capacities from the pressroom to general manager for single or groups of newspapers in Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, northwestern Pennsylvania, the Memphis area and eventually Greenville. He said he was attracted to Greenville because it was part of the Emmerich Newspapers group and because he wanted to run a daily with its own press.
"My wife bought me a home-brew kit about 10 years ago. I got into that real quick and enjoyed it," Alverson said.
Laws governing home-brewing, microbreweries and sales of craft beer vary from state to state and are changing frequently with the development of the industry. "I was a bootlegger for half of my home-brewing career," Alverson said.
On moving to Greenville, he discovered Delta Brewing Supply, a home-brewing store that sold supplies and craft beers but was not itself a brewery. Alverson said he was one of only a few people in the whole county brewing their own beer.
"We started a home-brew festival. We called it the world's smallest home-brew festival."
The brewery project started about two years ago. As the grand opening approached, the newspaper was in the position of needing to cover what was a major business development in a community of 35,000 people, but was also the publisher's brainchild in which he had a financial interest.
"I didn't tell them to do a story on me," Alverson said of his news staff. "It's obviously the biggest thing going on in town right now. It's the newest. There's not another brewery in a 120-mile radius from us. It's a huge thing, but I knew better than to ask."
When the news side did come to him about a story, Alverson said he tried to put the spotlight on his brewmaster (from Milwaukee) and other members of the team running the day-to-day operation. READ THE STORY
In the early weeks of Mighty Miss., the emphasis has been on finding distribution locations. The brewery can handle up to 10 different craft brews but for now is concentrating on the four designed by Alverson.
People trying out a Mighty Miss. beer should pay close attention to the alcohol content, which ranges from less than 4 percent to 7.4 percent. With the exception of the Mighty Miss. flagship beer, an American Pale Ale that is also aimed at non-craft lovers, they are named for towns located in and around the Delta.
Pace Porter is named after a town with 240 people. Sledge Saison is the high-alcohol beer named after Charley Pride's hometown. Onward Amber is named for the place where Teddy Roosevelt went bear hunting.
Alverson isn't giving up the newspaper business for the craft brewing business, but he believes the Mississippi Delta is in the midst of a craft beer revolution. For now, Greenville is the epicenter.
Jane Nicholes is a freelance writer and editor based in Daphne, Ala. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.