Alcohol sales up in Iowa for 2015, a big year for local brands

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New Years Eve gives everyone at Mississippi River Distilling Company a chance to catch their breath after quite the year.

"We just celebrated our fifth anniversary a couple weeks ago, and now our products are shipping out to 26 different states. We also export to New Zealand, Australia and German. So, we're an international business now," owner Ryan Burchett said.

Sales at the distillery have jumped around 20% from a year ago, fitting into the more than 5% jump in alcohol sales this year in Iowa. Those numbers reflect a big change in the alcohol industry. Brands like Budweiser and Coors are getting replaced by spirits with local ties.

"We've carved a niche for ourselves across the nation because we have a story to tell, because our products are truly from grain to glass from beginning to end. It means something to a consumer in Dallas, Texas to Minneapolis, Minnesota just like it does here," Burchett said.

The distillery also sees a big boost in numbers when they come out with a new product, like they did this year with a vodka named after Chick McGee from the Bob and Tom Show.

"They already like our gin, our vodka, our whiskey, then what new flavors can we bring in? We always try to tap into something local," Burchett said.

They are set for an even bigger 2016. They're preparing to ship products out to New York and California, the biggest markets for spirit sales. Burchett says they're ready to keep growing, but not too big to overshadow their Iowa roots.

"It's surpassed every expectation and continues to grow. We're just looking forward to watch, not just ourselves, but the industry and everything in LeClaire continue to grow. It's been a lot of fun," Burchett said.

One other resolution Burchett has this year is to help change an Iowa law that keeps distilleries from selling their drinks by the glass. He started lobbying for the change last year and thinks they could see a change in the next legislative session.

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