Liquor Sales Up, Beer Down in Iowa

By Erin Jordan

Iowa beer sales fell flat last year, but spirits were soaring.

Sales of distilled spirits were up 5.6 percent in fiscal 2013, spurred by the popularity of whiskeys and bourbons as well as cream liqueurs like RumChata. Beer sales went down about 6 percent from fiscal 2012 as Iowans tried the trendy new drinks, said Tonya Dusold, spokeswoman for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

"There's been an explosion of innovation in spirits," Dusold said. "The growth in whiskey, flavored whiskey and bourbon has increased the number of female bourbon consumers."

The Alcoholic Beverages Division transferred $76.6 million from alcohol sales to the state's general fund in fiscal 2013, which ended June 30. This is down slightly from $78.5 million turned over to the state's general fund last year.

The remainder of the funds go to substance abuse treatment, city and county programs and promotion of Iowa native wines and beers.

Preliminary numbers show the state collected $13.8 million in beer taxes from 72.6 million gallons of brew in fiscal 2013, which was down 6 percent from fiscal 2012.

Wine sales were up 4.4 percent last year, with Iowa collecting $7.3 million in taxes from 4.2 million gallons of wine.

Spirit sales rose 5.6 percent in fiscal 2013 to $255.8 million. This amounted to nearly 5 million gallons of spirits, only a 1 percent increase in volume from the previous year.

"This was the first time we broke a quarter of a billion in spirits sales," Dusold said.

Kolin Brighton, production manager at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, said more people are drinking the distillery's craft whiskey and bourbon because the liquor is smooth and local.

"The local food movement, the farm-to-table restaurant is really embracing our product," he said. The Swisher distillery will start this week bottling its second batch of single-malt whiskey.

While most of the "Hot 100" spirits sold in Iowa last year remain the same from previous years – Black Velvet's hold on No. 1 is secure – several new brands cracked the Old Boys' Club. RumChata, described by About.com as a blend of Caribbean rum, cream, vanilla, cinnamon and "secret flavors," ranked 23rd in sales in Iowa last year with 7,983 cases.

Kinky Liqueur, which describes itself as "a delightfully fruity fusion of super premium vodka," ranked 30th in Iowa spirit sales with 5,995 cases. FYI, to get on the Kinky website, you must be at least 21 and "irresistibly fabulous."

Ready-to-Drink, or RTD, beverages are also popular, Dusold said, but many of the freezable pouches you see near grocery store checkouts don't have enough alcohol to be regulated by the Alcoholic Beverages Division.
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