Iowa law makes an exception for Iowa vineyards and breweries that allows them to sell their products where they’re made. But the same exception has not been extended to the states two native distilleries, and their owners are trying to get that changed. Jeff Quint owns the Cedar Ridge Vineyards, Winery, and Distillery and says the law should be changed.
“You know a visitor comes out, they take a tour of the place and everybody that comes out wants to taste our products that our made right here. At the end of the day though I send them all packing… I can’t sell anybody what they came here for,” Quint says. The same thing happens in western Iowa where visitors arrive, sometimes by the busload, to see the home of Templeton Rye, the prohibition era Whiskey preferred by Al Capone.
Templeton President Scott Bush has been working with Quint to change state law. And after four years of lobbying they’re slowly but surely winning the support of a few key lawmakers including Democratic Senator Tom Rielly of Oskalooska. Riley says it’s all about tourism and it’s about bringing people into the state of Iowa. He says you look at wineries that have done so well and maybe there’s another segment of tourism we can go after too.
But Senator Rielly says the issue has proved far more complicated than he ever dreamed. For one, the state’s grocery and liquor stores are worried about the competition. Iowa law requires a 50% mark up on distilled spirits and retailers object to letting Iowa’s native distilleries charge less. They also want to limit how much product the distilleries can sell on site. Brian Duax is the manager of Central City Liquor in Des Moines. He says Templeton Rye’s so hot he can’t keep it on the shelves and says he worries he’ll be undercut.
“They keep saying it’s a great tourist attraction then why do you need to sell more than two bottles a person? Nobody’s gonnna go there and buy more than two. A two limit saves me, saves the little guy in Carroll.” Duax says. Duax also opposes allowing the native distilleries to sell their products at farmer’s markets and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission seems inclined to agree.
While Iowa wineries can sell at Farmer’s markets, commission administrator Lynn Walding says products with higher alcohol content require stricter regulation. The commission waded into the discussion at the request of the legislature and Walding says one of the biggest decisions is how to define a native distillery.
Walding says: “One view would have them say a native distilled product is something that is fermented and then distilled to concentrate the alcohol. That’s how we treat the native breweries; that’s how we treat the native wineries. Another view would say look as long as long as you add some process to it you should qualify.” Walding says some states even require native distilleries to use 51-percent native grain to qualify, but he says the commission is unlikely to go that far in Iowa. The President of Templeton Rye, Scott Bush, says the fewer regulations the better.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that go into producing a quality spirit so if you start to really put different definitions down all you really do is over regulate it and you keep the industry from really thriving which is what we set out to try and allow in the first place, Bush says.
Bush will continue to press the commission to reject a two-bottle limit and allow for sales at farmer’s markets. However he says the end goal is just to join the more than 20 states that now allow native distilleries to sell their products on site. The Alcoholic Beverages Commission was scheduled to talk about the issue last week, but the meeting was moved to this week because of the storm.