Iowa Looking To Update Alcohol Laws

Aug 10, 2016

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of Iowa’s alcohol laws. A working group will likely begin meeting in the next month to review existing regulations and make modernization recommendations.

"There is a huge emergence of entrepreneurial enterprises like craft distillers, micro brewers, family wineries," says spokesman Robert Bailey of the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division. "It’s changed a lot since (Iowa's alcohol) law was first written when prohibition was first repealed."

Beer Minister J. Wilson of the Iowa Brewers Guild says he's excited the governor has taken up this initiative, as he believes certain changes will help brewers grown their businesses. 

In particular, Wilson says he wants brewers to be able to sell their beers at farmers markets. He also cites the fact brew pubs aren't able to sell their products for off-site-consumption directly to customers. 

"For brew pub license holders, they're required to presell those growlers, or a dedicated growler keg, and sell that to the wholesaler," says Wilson. "It has to be transported to the wholesaler's warehouse, sit overnight and come back the next day to then be sold back to the brew pub." 

Joseph Dehner runs Dehner Distillery in Clive, and says businesses like his are especially burdened by Iowa's liquor laws. For example, there's a limit of 1.5 liters of hard alcohol he call sell to a single customer per day.

"We have like 14 different products, and we bottle them all in 750 milliliter bottles, well that means I can only sell two bottles per one person," explains Dehner. But if someone were to go to a grocery or liquor store, they could buy as many bottles of Dehner's Atomic Cinnamon Whiskey or Hemp Infused Vodka as they wanted, since those stores purchase the products from wholesalers. 

"Right now we feel like we are chained up, and we're very limited in what we can do," says Dehner. "I actually sell more product out of the state than in the state because of some of these laws." 

While the wholesale system will remain, both Dehner and Wilson are eager for Iowa's review current alcohol laws. They say the industry could be making a lot more money, which is good for everyone.