Kansas City Bier Company is the only area brewery that specializes in brewing artisanal German-style beers. Founded by Steve Holle in 2013, the Waldo-based production brewery houses a German-style tasting room and beer garden where guests can enjoy fresh beer brewed on site. Popular styles include Dunkel, a brown lager, Hefeweizen, a pale Bavarian wheat ale, Helles, a golden Munich lager, and Der Bauer, a farmhouse ale.
The brewery’s kitchen prepares traditional German foods including Bavarian pretzels with sweet or spicy mustard, German potato salad, dried sausages, charcuterie plates, and various wursts. Live accordion music on weekends, brewery tours and weekly trivia events add to the social atmosphere.
KC Bier Co.’s beers can also be enjoyed on tap at more than 400 bars and restaurants throughout the Kansas City metro area and Lawrence. The brewery focuses primarily on producing its beers for distribution. Demand has steadily grown since the brewery launched.
Earlier this summer, the brewery announced a $1.5 million expansion to double its production capacity. The investment will go toward equipment such as fermentation tanks, a bigger refrigeration system for cooling tanks, a new keg line, more kegs, boilers and a bottling line.
“We have cellar capacity of 600 barrels (bbl) now. That will increase to 960 bbls by late summer,” says Holle. “We plan to install a bottling line in the first quarter of 2016 and deliver bottled beer by around April 1, 2016. To handle the anticipated bottled beer demand we will expand our cellar again, probably to about 1,300 bbls.”
By next year, production capability will increase from 9,000 bbl. a year to 12,000 bbl. According to Holle, KC Bier Co. brewed approximately 2,000 bbl. in 2014 and anticipates brewing more than 4,000 bbl. this year.
The bottling line should be operational by April 1, 2016, and will begin filling 12-ounce bottles with Dunkel, Hefeweizen and Helles. Bottles will be sold year-round in six-packs. The planned introduction of packaged beer comes in response to increasing draught beer sales and retail store interest in offering KC Bier Co.’s beers on shelves.
From the beginning, Holle concentrated on brewing German beer for several reasons. Namely, he wanted to offer an alternative to the English- and Belgian-styles of beer found in the craft brewing market.
“Very, very few breweries are devoted to brewing German beer styles,” he said. “I thought people would welcome the increased variety of beer that we could bring to the market.”
Holle, who studied German as a second language in high school, double majored in business and German in college, and spent a semester in Hamburg, developed a taste for fresh, high-quality German beer while traveling overseas. He sought to introduce fresh German beer in Kansas City made in an authentic style, using ingredients imported from Germany.
He hired brewer Karlton Graham, a graduate of the Seibel Institute’s Master Brewer Program that also studied at the Doemens Akadamie in Munich, Germany. Graham manages KC Bier Co.’s production with keen attention to process as well as quality.
“German beer styles are not constantly being reinvented like many Belgian and British styles,” said Graham. “German beer-making is obsessed with perfecting rather than changing things. The main beers we make are our attempts at making the best possible version of those beers as they are made by the masters in Germany.”
Graham introduced Der Bauer, a farmhouse ale also referred to as saison, earlier this year to the brewery’s lineup.
“This is a German interpretation of a beer style that is not traditionally German, a farmhouse ale that originates in southern Belgium,” said Graham. “Ours is made with all German malt and hops. The water is treated the same way as we would when making German beer. It was allowed to mature longer and at colder temperatures than a typical farmhouse but which is a normal German technique.”
Holle added, “Although KC Bier focuses on making traditional German styles, our brewery has brewed American interpretations of German styles that have included dry-hopping and oak-aging. Der Bauer is more of a German interpretation of a Belgian style.”
Graham and Holle visited many small breweries in Bavaria and especially Franconia. They were inspired to make Der Bauer based on their travels.
“Since saison was historically a beer brewed by the farmer to nourish ‘seasonal’ workers or ‘saisonniers,’ we figured that German farmers, like their Belgian counterparts, must have done a similar style for their workers,” Holle explained.
Holle and Graham reasoned that the Germans would be restricted to using only malted grains, hops, water and yeast, without the raw wheat, rye and sugar typically found in Belgian saison farmhouse ales. As a result, Der Bauer is a maltier, full-bodied saison than typically found in farmhouse ales.
Whether enjoying Der Bauer or a Helles in KC Bier Co.’s tasting room, or ordering a pint of Dunkel on tap at an area bar or restaurant, take a moment to toast the brewery and others nearby in true German style. Prost!
Kansas City Bier Company 310 West 79 Street, Kansas City, MO | kcbier.com