Staff Editorials

Lawmakers should pass new rules for distilleries

Bottles of Iowa Bourbon are filled Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery near Swisher. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Bottles of Iowa Bourbon are filled Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery near Swisher. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa law doesn’t place production caps on homegrown companies manufacturing tools or valves or tractors. But if you’re a distiller crafting homegrown bourbon, it’s another story.

A common sense bill under consideration by the Iowa Legislature would make several good, reasonable and overdue changes in the state’s liquor control laws. That includes lifting the current 50,000-gallon cap on spirits production, a limit that’s pouring cold water on native distilleries’ efforts to expand facilities, grow product lines and make forays into new markets.

The bill, HSB 108, is the product of a task force appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad to review and modernize liquor laws. It’s chaired by Stephen Larson, administrator of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The task force included industry representatives, the Department of Public Safety, the Iowa Restaurant Association and other interests.

The confluence of Iowa’s state-regulated liquor control system and its economic development objectives is a reflection of Iowa’s growing native beer, wine and spirits sector. Durham says the industry’s health is key to her authority’s dual goals of promoting both manufacturing and tourism.

Wineries and breweries have received significant legislative attention in recent years, with moves to loosen limits on higher alcohol content beers, retail sales and other changes. Now seems like the right time to level the playing field for the roughly one dozen distilleries producing native spirits.

In addition to removing the production cap, HSB 108 also would remove provisions barring distilleries from selling their product by the drink on premises. Patrons, under the bill, would be allowed to buy a 12-bottle case of a distillery’s products. Current law limits purchases to two bottles.

Evidence of the growing interest in and demand for homegrown spirits is obvious. Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery in Swisher has vastly expanded its product offerings and become a destination for locals and visitors alike. In western Iowa, Templeton Rye is planning a $26 million project to bring its full production to Iowa.


Lawmakers now have a golden opportunity to boost distilling, create jobs, grow tourism and send high-quality Made in Iowa products across the country. They should approve the bill.

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