Leslie Henderson is as southern as the beers she brews. A Mississippian born and raised, she and her husband Mark opened Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Kiln, Mississippi, in 2005 and have since developed a loyal following for their regionally inspired beers brewed with local ingredients like roasted pecans and honey from a bee-keeping uncle. Here Leslie talks about how they came up with the name, her most challenging ingredient and what other local flavors are next up on tap.
Imbibe: How did you guys come up with the name Lazy Magnolia?
Leslie Henderson: The name was Mark’s idea, and it actually has several layers of significance. We started homebrewing on our back porch, which was shaded by some late-blooming magnolia trees. But the poor, sandy soil in our area didn’t promote their growth very well, so we called them lazy magnolias. The name was also chosen to instantly give people a feel for the way of life in the deep South. “Lazy” is not a bad thing when you consider it in contrast to the rat race many people face in their daily lives. In the South we enjoy a slower pace of life that allows us to enjoy our neighbors’ company, good music, and an afternoon on the back porch sipping a good beer while watching the critters play in the yard.
Imbibe: As a native southerner, what do you love most about what you do, and where you do it?
Henderson: I love the people the most. We have the most generous, loving, honest people in the world living here in the South. There’s just no need to be pretentious. I love that what I do has such a positive impact on our community.
Imbibe: If you’re not drinking beer, what’s in your glass?
Henderson: I’m an equal opportunity enjoyer of all beverages. I’m a big fan of dry white wines and good bourbon.
Imbibe: How much beer would you say you drink in a week/month/year?
Henderson: Lazy Magnolia brews beer for great flavor and moderate consumption—quality over quantity. That said, I am very much a moderate drinker. Average for me is just over one drink per day.
Imbibe: Lots of southern-grown ingredients find their way into your brews—what’s been the most challenging ingredient to work with?
Henderson: Probably the pecans. It’s tough to pin down exactly the right amount to use, and things can get ugly if you use too much. There’s also an issue with year-to-year crop variation. As for disaster stories? The first time I used sweet potatoes I just shredded them with a grater (50 pounds!) and tossed them in to the mash tun. Little strings of potatoes got tied around everything. It took hours to clean that mess up. Now we use roasted mashed potatoes to much better effect.
Imbibe: Any new southern-inspired brews in the pipeline that you’re especially excited about?
Henderson: Yes! We’re experimenting with bourbon barrels right now to infuse some interesting flavors into a couple of our beers. We’re also working with some distinctly southern fruits to accentuate our honey beer and our more hoppy beers. It’s fun doing little test batches!