mississippi culture co-owner tracy hutton photo by iain shaw

New brewery Mississippi Culture is opening a taproom in Staunton in April

Mississippi Culture will open its brewery and taproom at 201 S. Union St. in Staunton, Illinois, on April 22. Inspired by Belgian farmhouse brewing traditions, the brewery will use mixed culture fermentation to create saison-based beers to appeal to a range of tastes.

Mississippi Culture is the work of brewer Tracy Hutton and his father, Bruce, a home inspector by trade. Tracy has been head brewer at Recess Brewing in Edwardsville since 2018. The Huttons purchased the building in early 2020, but construction ground to a halt for around a year thanks to a combination of the pandemic and also the spike in lumber prices and other construction materials. After carrying out extensive renovations to the structure, including installing garage doors, stripping plaster from the walls to expose original brick, and removing a drop ceiling to expose the original tin ceiling, the Huttons see an end in sight. “We're looking at only probably three or four more weeks of construction,” said Tracy Hutton. Brewing is already well underway at the facility. “We're actually going to be pulling beer out of barrels on Monday and starting to pull those out and move beer in the tanks to cool down and get carbonated and be able to package and everything.”

Bruce Hutton believes certain architectural features date the building to the early 20th century, and the Huttons have established that the building was used more or less continuously as a bar from at least as early as the 1940s until the most recent tenant closed down in 2012. “That’s as far back as we can go, but we’ve heard rumors that it was even always a bar before that,” Tracy said. One of Mississippi Culture’s standout features is a stunning back bar, which was left behind by the most recent tenant. “A local guy purchased it and moved it into this building I think in the ’60s or ’70s,” Tracy said. “He said it’s from the World’s Fair, but we don’t have any way to prove that.”

Tracy said he and Bruce are currently estimating that the main taproom will seat around 35 to 40 guests. The brewery space can also be used by customers as an overflow space on busy days, and it will also be available for private events. The rear of the building is also set to be converted into a patio. “We’re going to be building a new fence and fencing in the patio,” Tracy said. “We have a small area where we want to put a small garden, and we'll have seating out there as well.”

photo by iain shaw

The taproom’s six draft taps will feature Mississippi Culture beer exclusively, but Tracy said that the bar will also stock canned and bottled beers from a range of local breweries. “We want to be a craft beer destination for this area. There's not really a great place to drink craft beer in the Staunton area, so we want to do more than just our beer,” he said. 

Mississippi Culture’s approach to brewing is heavily influenced by Belgian farmhouse brewing. “With that comes mixed culture, using other yeasts and bacteria aside from your standard brewers’ yeasts,” Tracy said. “Everything is basically a saison base, a Belgian saison base, and then using a combination of different other secondary yeasts and bacterias to create more unique flavors, sour beers, more funky farmhouse ales.” He added that while the brewery is finding its feet, he plans to create a few beers using standard brewers’ yeast, but the long-term plan is to focus on mixed culture brews. “We'd like to get to a point where all of our beers are aged for six to 12 months, and everything is mixed culture.”

Tracy said there will be beers for all tastes at Mississippi Culture. “Not everyone thinks that they love saisons, but traditionally saisons have been a very broad style,” he said. “So we want to do an amber saison, a hoppy farmhouse ale, these things to appease a wider range of craft beer drinkers than just the traditional saison.” One of the brewery’s first beers will be a farmhouse IPA called Crucial Subject Matter. “It’s a little on the hoppier side, and it’s going to get dry hopped. It’s not your traditional IPA because of the mixed culture, but we think that we can pull some good flavors that IPA drinkers will love out of that,” Tracy said. Another beer in the works is a Belgian blonde ale, with a peach-infused variety of that beer also available. 

photo by iain shaw

One of Tracy’s goals for Mississippi Culture is to use seasonal local ingredients as much as possible. “A lot of people talk about the terroir of wine, where the grapes are grown and all of this, and I think it's unfortunate that we don't think about that with beer as much,” he said. “Where's this grain coming from? Where's this fruit coming? That's something that I really want to encourage.

“Not saying that all of our beers will be 100 percent local ingredients, just because that's difficult. There's no malt house in this area, but we're going to do what we can to use things close to home or at least ingredients that could be found in this area.” Mississippi Culture’s malt comes from Indiana malt house Sugar Creek Malt Co., a family farm that grows heirloom varieties of barley and corn. “He does a lot of really amazing projects like bringing back varieties of barley that have not been grown in this area for hundreds of years,” Tracy said. 

The Huttons have a number of ideas as to how Mississippi Culture could evolve and grow, but their focus right now is on getting the brewery and taproom up and running. The brewery has space for a kitchen, so a food program could be one addition, but for now guests are welcome to bring in food from other places. Tracy said they hope to move toward bottling beer pretty soon, and they may start out distribution by having guest taps at somewhere like Recess. Another idea is to convert the space above the bar into Airbnb-type accommodation, which could suit those making the drive from St. Louis who feel like spending the night. Tracy said any day trip to Staunton to visit Mississippi Culture should certainly take in a visit to Blackbird Bakery + Cafe

In order to raise advance funds to support the brewery, Mississippi Culture is also inviting beer enthusiasts to join its membership program. For an annual fee of $250, members receive perks including a 750-millileter growler with a free monthly fill, a brewery T-shirt and glass, quarterly special release bottles, and access to exclusive, members-only tastings and events, including a pre-opening party. Sign up on the Mississippi Culture website.

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