Iowans buying more liquor, new report says - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans buying more liquor, new report says

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A new report out this week from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division shows Iowans are drinking more liquor -- at least by sales figures.

The ABD says it saw an increase in profits in fiscal year 2013 -- which ended June 30 -- as compared to the fiscal year before. It also saw record liquor sales, at nearly $256 million. Liquor sales account for nearly 90 percent of the division's direct revenue.

Wholesale wine sales were up six percent over FY12 and wholesale beer sales were down about six percent.

At Dubuque's Mason Dixon Saloon Tuesday afternoon, bartender Allie Swift was gearing up for this week's so-called Black Wednesday: the Wednesday evening right before Thanksgiving.

"Especially in Dubuque, it's like one of the biggest nights for going out, just because everyone's back from various schools, everyone's home," Swift said.

Bottled beer is the Mason Dixon's biggest seller, Swift said. On a busy night, the bar can make between $3,000 and $4,000 in alcohol sales alone.

Helping fuel those sales, Swift said, is the growing popularity of flavored vodka drinks.

"A lot of the Three Olives (flavored vodkas) you can mix with, like, Sprite, and it just completely transforms the drink," Swift said.

Flavored vodkas of different brands feature flavors ranging from maple syrup and root beer float to hibiscus, cilantro and lime, cucumber and Bloody Mary-ready olive and rosemary.

Steve Wallace has seen that trend, too. He is the wine and spirits manager at Dubuque's HyVee on Dodge Street.

"We've added an additional, probably, 40 to 50 new flavored vodkas in the last year. It's such a growing market," Wallace said, standing in an aisle filled with different vodkas. "We used to have, like, a four-foot section. As you see, we have vodka on both sides now."

He also said he sees people's beer tastes changing.

"People are shifting from the regular domestic beers and going into some of the imports," he said. "Microbrew beers are coming up by the thousands."

All these alcohol sales add up. The ABD report broke down the amount of alcohol sold in FY13 by the number of Iowans of legal drinking age. According to that, the average of-age Iowan drinks 2.03 gallons of wine per year, 2.27 gallons of distilled spirits and 33.56 gallons of beer.

About 40 percent of the ABD's FY13 revenue went straight to the state, counties and cities: a total of nearly $120 million, which the ABD said was a record contribution.

$18.9 million of that went to fund substance abuse programs through the Iowa Department of Public Health. $96.7 million went to the state's general fund. $3.7 million went to cities and counties in the form of license revenues. The city of Dubuque, for example, received $219,144 in FY13 from wine/beer/liquor licenses.

The report also showed unflavored vodka remains Iowa's top-selling liquor.

Spirit Lake's Dickinson County in northwest Iowa has the highest sales of alcohol by gallon per capita. Black Hawk County is fifth in the state, Linn County is eighth, Johnson County is 10th and Dubuque County is 21st.

The report also broke down liquor sales by the number of cases sold by brand. The top seller was Black Velvet, followed by Hawkeye Vodka.

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