Oktober and the Law – Starting Your Own Brewery?

Iowa Brewing Attorney Will Reasoner Dickinson Law Des Moines

Posted on 10/01/2018 at 01:27 PM by William Reasoner

As we approach the most wonderful time of the year – Oktober – I decided that if now isn’t the perfect time to write an ode to beer, then I don’t know when the right time is. It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a lover of beer. I loved trying all kinds of beer at Iowa City’s Northside Oktoberfest when I was in school at the University of Iowa, and my wife and I try to find a local brewery to enjoy anytime we take a trip.

I have often thought about what it would be like to make my own beer, but I have decided to leave that to the people who can actually turn water, grain, and hops into that glorious nectar. But the fact that I shouldn’t chart out on my own to brew some beer does not mean that you shouldn’t give it a shot.

The number of Iowa breweries has more than doubled in the past five years. I have noticed the availability of a variety of Iowa beers from all corners of the state available in cans at grocery stores skyrocketing in the past year or two. And I couldn’t be happier to see a wider range of cans available for sampling. If I may digress, I agree with my former University of Iowa classmate that canned beer is great.

Is now the time to start a brewery? I can’t make that decision for you, but I could certainly taste-test for you. More importantly, every new brewer needs a good lawyer guiding them through the waters; there are so many legal issues to consider, including:

  • Zoning: Is your ideal location zoned for use as a brewery or taproom?
  • Business Ownership: Are you incorporated? Is a corporation the best structure? Do you have other business partners?
  • Licensing: Are you aware of the state and local licensing requirements?
  • Taproom Logistics: Can you allow minors to visit the taproom with older friends or family?
  • Leasing: If you don’t own the building, what does your lease look like? Are you going to be on the hook for many years, or do you have an “out” built into the lease?
  • Insurance: Do you have adequate insurance to cover liability for when someone enjoys too much of your great product?
  • Partnerships: Are you going to partner with other vendors (i.e. food vendors)? What does your agreement look like? Can you terminate the relationship if you are not pleased with the vendor?
  • Financing: Do you understand the consequences of the terms and conditions of your loan?
  • Employment: Do you have employment policies in place that are compliant with local, state, and federal laws? Are you equipped to train supervisors and other employees in the #metoo era?
  • Tax: Are you taking advantage of all tax available benefits? Check out this blog on the AMAZING benefits to brewers under the new tax laws.
  • Trademarks: Have you adequately protected your brand?

If you are a budding entrepreneur, a great home-brewer, or already in the brewing business, you can benefit from a relationship with a law firm, like Dickinson Law, that is equipped to handle everything from planning and zoning to corporate structure to tax to employment law. And if you want a lawyer at the firm who would also love to try your beer, contact me, Will Reasoner


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