When traveling in the US you should know the laws surrounding alcohol. Since each state can set its own beer laws, there are a lot of variations. What do Iowa’s beer and alcohol laws look like in 2023?
In Iowa, you can buy beer from on- and off-premise retailers between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. every day of the week. During these times, you can buy beer, wine, and liquor from any licensed retailer, including gas stations. Growlers and alcohol delivery are legal in Iowa.
There are plenty of peculiarities of Iowa’s alcohol laws. Let’s go over what you need to know to get a beer in the Hawkeye state.
Topics We Cover
Is Iowa a dry state?
The concept of a dry state isn’t used much anymore. Since Prohibition, there has been no federal outlawing of alcohol. Some states took longer to overturn their prohibition laws but, as of today, there are no dry states.
Iowa does not prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol. This makes Iowa a wet state.
However, many states let their cities and counties decide if they want to be dry.
Does Iowa have any dry counties?
Iowa is slightly different than most states in this case. The localities within Iowa do not have the power to vote upon their wet or dry status. They must all follow the state-wide laws.
There are no dry counties in Iowa. The state’s alcohol legislation does not permit it.
Some small towns may not have as many alcohol retailers, but you should be able to buy beer throughout the state.
When can you buy beer in Iowa?
One thing that practically every state does is limit the times when alcohol may be sold. These laws are meant to protect the general public.
In Iowa, you can buy a beer 7 days a week from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the following day. The hours are the same for both on- and off-premise retailers.
Since localities must follow the state laws these hours will be the same wherever you go in the state. That said, not all retailers will be open or serving during these hours.
Can you buy beer on Sunday in Iowa?
Iowa has not prohibited Sunday alcohol sales in several decades. Licensees do need a Sunday permit to sell alcohol on Sunday though.
You can buy beer on Sunday in Iowa from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. as long as the retailer has a Sunday sales permit.
Licensees without Sunday sale privileges must remain closed from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. on the following Monday.
When do bars close in Iowa?
There’s nothing worse than having the bar you’re at unexpectedly close. Don’t let this happen to you by not knowing when bars close in Iowa.
In Iowa, bars must close by 2 a.m. every day. They can reopen as early as 6 a.m. should they so choose.
Of course, the last call will be a little earlier than 2 a.m. This way, customers can wrap up their evenings or make final arrangements.
Where can you buy beer in Iowa?
Another aspect of alcohol laws that Iowa doesn’t quite align with other states is where you can buy it. Most states are pretty lax with where you can buy beer.
The places you can buy beer in Iowa include:
- Bars and restaurants
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Package and liquor stores
- Breweries and taprooms
Liquor is usually more restricted. Not in Iowa though. Of course, there are a few regulations that each location must follow. I will go over each in the sections below.
Bars and restaurants
Iowa bars and restaurants can sell beer, wine, and liquor any day of the week from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. All sales must be for on-premise consumption except for a few cases. Beer can be sold in cans, bottles, and on draught, though the cans and bottles must be opened.
The permitted off-premise sales include growlers and mixed drinks to go. The to-go beverages do not count as open containers since they are required to be sealed in some way.
Gas stations in Iowa can sell beer, wine, and liquor from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. 7 days a week. All sales must be for off-premise consumption. Additionally, all alcohol must be in its original packaging with the exception of growlers.
Unlike in other states, you can buy any type of alcohol at practically any strength in a gas station. If the gas station decides to invest in the equipment they can also fill growlers.
Iowa grocery stores can sell beer, wine, and liquor 7 days a week. The times they can do so range from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the following day. All alcohol sales must be for off-premise consumption. The alcohol must be in its original packaging except when filling growlers.
Like gas stations, if grocery stores purchase the equipment, they can fill growlers.
Package and liquor stores
Package and liquor stores in Iowa can sell all types of alcohol between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. 7 days a week. These retailers may only sell alcohol for off-premise consumption.
Aside from growlers, all alcohol must be in its original package.
Breweries and taprooms
Iowa breweries can sell beer, wine, and liquor for on and off-premise consumption. They can do so from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. any day of the week.
They can also fill growlers for customers.
Can you get beer delivered in Iowa?
In recent years, many states have made alcohol delivery easier for everyone involved. Iowa allows alcohol deliveries from licensees and third-party services like Drizly. However, there are some regulations.
The laws that cover beer delivery in Iowa include:
- Deliveries can only be made between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
- Deliveries can only be made by an individual 21 or older
- Proof of age must be checked upon delivery
- The delivery must be signed for
What is the minimum drinking age in Iowa?
The legal age to possess and drink alcohol is the same wherever you go in the US. Iowa is no exception.
The minimum drinking age is 21 in Iowa.
There are, however, a few common exceptions in the US.
Can minors drink beer in Iowa with parents?
The most common exception to the minimum drinking age is parental approval. This allows parents to introduce their child to alcohol in a controlled environment and demystify it.
Minors can drink with their parents in Iowa. The underage individual must be in the presence of their parents or guardians and in a private residence.
Iowa also allows medical professionals to give minors alcohol for medicinal purposes.
State alcohol laws
Iowa is considered a control state when it comes to its alcohol laws. It is not as controlling as some but more than others.
The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) is in direct control of all liquor wholesaling. Any liquor sold at retail must be purchased from the state.
The ABD used to control the wholesaling of wine when they were formed. They have since stepped back in that regard.
Drinking laws in Iowa
Now that you know the when and where of buying beer all that’s left are the general drinking laws of Iowa.
Iowa’s drinking laws are fairly standard. There are strict penalties for drunk driving and drinking in public is prohibited. The laws are there to protect the general public.
There are also a few regulations that discourage drunk driving in the first place like open container laws.
Can you buy growlers and other unsealed beer containers in Iowa?
Growlers aren’t legal in every state. Luckily, Iowa does not outlaw them.
In Iowa, growlers can’t exceed 72 ounces. Customers may bring in a growler to be filled or exchanged. After filling growlers must be sealed in some way. Employees of the licensee must be 18 or older to fill the container.
When the growler is sealed, it is not considered an open container. This means you can have it in the passenger area of a vehicle as long as the seal remains intact.
When your growler isn’t sealed or there are other open containers of alcohol, you cannot have them in your vehicle except for in a few places.
In Iowa, an open container of alcohol must be placed in the trunk of a motor vehicle. If there is no trunk, it must be placed behind the rearmost upright seat.
The are only two exceptions to this law. The first is passengers in a commercial transportation vehicle such as a limo. The second is passengers in the living area of a motor home.
Lastly, there are laws surrounding driving and alcohol. Of course, driving under the influence of alcohol is not a good idea even if there were no legal penalties.
Iowa determines the penalties and legal limits in OWI cases based on the age of the driver. Additionally, the circumstances can affect the severity of the penalties.
Under 21 years old
In Iowa, the legal limit for drivers under 21 years old is 0.02% BAC.
Underage individuals driving with a BAC above the legal limit can receive these penalties upon first conviction:
- License suspension for at least 60 days
- No chance for a restricted license
- Alcohol education course
If the individual refuses a chemical test, they can have their license suspended for a year. In extreme cases, the individual can receive the same penalties laid out for those 21 and older.
21 years and older
In Iowa, the legal limit for drivers who are of legal drinking age is 0.08% BAC.
Drivers who exceed the legal BAC can receive the following penalties for the first OWI conviction:
- Jail time of at least 48 hours and up to 1 year
- Fine of up to $1,250
- License suspension for at least 180 days up to 1 year
Depending on the circumstances, there may be more severe penalties.