So you want to open a brewery in Iowa?

If you like long hours, hard work, constant cleaning, and the occasional snarky critic, the brewery life might just be for you. To assist you, we’ve compiled a list* of links to the information that will be essential to your quest. Good luck!

Licensing Information

Briefly, Iowa offers two types of licenses for breweries: Native and Brewpub. Native Breweries are able to have a taproom to serve beer or hard cider (but not wine or spirits), and are afforded the luxury of self-distribution of their products. Some serve food; some don’t. Brewpubs are able to serve wine and spirits, but are not allowed to self-distribute.

Don't just take it from us!

A few comments on local zoning and other considerations from Iowa brewery owners:

A big thing for us (as a “production” brewery with a taproom) is being able to have kids in the taproom, being able to have food trucks outside, and being able to put in a patio. You also don’t want a situation like out in West Des Moines where your brewery has to be a certain size percentage of your taproom area.
Things that ideally would be available:
-Water (We have a 2″ water main, which most don’t) if they have an existing building, upgrading to that would be a big positive. Cost us an arm and a keg.
-Loading dock or ramp
-Ample parking
-Bike trail access
-City Sewer
-3-Phase power
-Sustainable power
-Tax incentives
When we were planning our initial brewery without a kitchen the City of Des Moines told us we would have to put in a grease trap. We have a kitchen at the brewery now and the city required us to send all of our brewing drains through the grease trap in addition to all the kitchen drains.”

“Do five times the research you think you should and try to have AT LEAST 25% more capital than you think you are going to need. Being undercapitalized in this business could definitely lead to major issues even if everything else is working out well.”

“Check with local authority (city, county) on laws for minors in taprooms, time lines for getting liquor license approved as some only meet monthly, and building codes, etc.”

“Check with local authorities on building codes, fire codes, grease trap requirements, etc.”

“Research your brewery/beer names thoroughly before you start. Learn about copyright issues. Litigation is expensive, so learn all you can about potential branding before you start.”

“On the local level, larger city’s tend to have more regulation that smaller towns.


One more thing...

Insurance, Bonding, Accounting, Business ownership structure (LLC, Investors etc), Funding, Suppliers (hops, malt, yeast, chemicals), Branding/Trademarking/Design all that jazz, Self-Distribution do's and dont's.

The Iowa Brewers Guild’s Allied members can help with some of the elements of brewery ownership/operation, and you can find them here.


*This probably isn’t comprehensive and it’s certainly not legal advice. It’s simply a starting point. Do your homework!