Top of the Hops: Biloxi

The Third Coast is a hot spot for food and drink festivals of all incarnations.  It is my plan to chronicle some of the great festivals to be found in the region.  This time around I visited the inaugural Top of the Hops Craft Beer Festival in Biloxi, MS.  The festival was sponsored by Coastal Mississippi’s own craft beer brewery Lazy Magnolia.

Part of the goal of Top of the Hops Beer Festival is to help Raise Your Pints realize their mission to lift the asinine ban on high gravity beer and the legalization of homebrewing.  Currently, Mississippi is the only state in the country that limits alcohol by volume to just 5% and one of only two that outlaws homebrewing beer altogether.  The Magnolia state is hoping to follow in the footsteps of neighbor Alabama which recently was able to shake off the puritanical chains of the Bible Belt lobbyists and raise it’s ABW (alcohol by weight) from a paltry 6% to 13.9%.  The successful efforts the Alabama Free the Hops campaign has served as motivation for Raise Your Pints.  After all like alcohol, religion is something that should be enjoyed in moderation.

Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey gave a one hour primer on what Mississippi beer lovers need to do to  change the state’s antiquated alcohol laws but he was not the only speaker on hand.  Lazy Magnolia’s Zohn Tennyson gave a seminar entitled A Day in the Life of a Professional Brewer.  Additionally Chef Danie Rodriguez of Capone’s Italian Ristorante performed a cooking with beer demonstration as did Chef Gerald Quick of the Culinary Learning Center.  Food for the VIP area was handled by the good folks at Gulfport’s famed Blow Fly Inn.

In addition to craft brews from over 50 brewers and the tasty Southern food there was live music provided by M.O.S.S. There were door prizes and raffles including the “Mound of Love” a palette full of craft beers from various festival participants and a custom painted Lazy Magnolia rocking chair.  There were samples of roasted barley which as it turns out makes a quite tasty snack and the folks from Daddy’s Barbecue Sauce where on hand giving out samples of their sauce and their “Sweet Love” BBQ rub.  The event was wonderfully organized especially to be a first time festival and it showed in the attendance.  The building was packed from start to finish.

I had a wonderful time at Top of the Hops and on may way out of town I stopped off for a little of the local seafood but more on that later.  For now I have my sites set on the BBQ Championship and Hog Wild Festival in Mobile, AL March 11th and 12th.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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