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by Ken Rizer State Representative · March 2nd, 2017


Two years ago I was enjoying a nice dinner, entertainment, and a glass of wine at Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery in nearby Swisher. I knew that Cedar Ridge produced bourbon whiskey on site as well, so I asked for a glass of that. "I'm sorry," said the waitress, "it is against the law for us to serve that here." "How could that be," I asked, "when it's produced right here?" Turns out Iowa's outdated alcohol law had failed to keep up with the rapid growth of not just micro-distilleries, but wineries, microbreweries, and brewpubs as well. Iowa's law failed to provide equity across these different sectors, hurting job growth and economic development.

After years of working to solve this problem, the members of the State Government Committee and I, working hard with the Alcohol Beverages Division and Iowa Economic Development Authority, crafted a bill acceptable to all key stakeholders. We passed it out of the committee 23-0, which was a welcome display of bipartisanship given recent and expected partisan divides on other issues. Due to the great efforts of bill manager Representative Mike Sexton and others, this bill is now on to the Iowa House floor for likely passage.

The bill makes adjustments to brewpubs and micro-distilleries. First, it authorizes brewpubs to sell the beer they make for consumption off premises in a growler that is filled and sealed at the time of sale. Second, it provides that brewpubs are responsible for reporting and remitting the barrel tax for the beer sold in a growler. Third, it doubles the micro-distillery cap on proof-gallons from 50,000 per year to 100,000, allowing for continued growth in the sector. Fourth, it allows micro-distilleries to sell up to a case of their product on site. Finally, the bill allows micro-distilleries to serve their product on-site by the glass.

These changes will increase economic development and better serve the changing tastes of Iowa adult beverage drinkers. Next year we'll need to readdress the second phase of this reform, creating better equity for alcohol licensure. If all goes according to plan, customers of Cedar Ridge and other micro-distilleries should be able to enjoy a glass of local, native-distilled spirits after July 1 of this year.

It's a great honor to serve the people of Marion, Bertram, Ely, and the surrounding parts of Linn County. If you'd like to meet, discuss an issue, or visit the Capitol, please call me at 319-651-7316 or email me at ken.rizer@legis.iowa.gov.
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