The Kansas City Bier Company, a new German-style microbrewery and tasting room at 310 W. 79th St. in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood, opened Tuesday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by owners, investors and employees.
“We are a brewer of authentic KC German-style beers,” said founder and majority owner Steve Holle, 55, a Kansas City native who formerly worked in commercial real estate. “We are hoping to deliver those at the peak of freshness here in Kansas City to give our customers beer just as if they were in Munich, Germany.
“We’re very happy to be one of the newest businesses in Waldo. We’re also very happy to be the newest member of a growing Kansas City brewing community.”
The $1.8 million location consists of a 2,500-square-foot public tasting room in front, featuring long wooden tables and benches, and a 7,500-square-foot brewery in back. An adjacent 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden is to be constructed this spring.
“I love this location, because we’re on the trolley trail,” Holle said. “That’s going to bring a lot of people to the beer garden.”
The Kansas City Bier Company brews its beers in eight tanks with a production capacity of 4,000 to 5,000 barrels a year. But there is room for a total of 23 tanks that could produce 15,000 barrels a year, Holle said, “so we can triple the capacity we have now.” Plans also call for eventually installing a bottling line.
Holle grew up in south Kansas City and learned about German culture from his father. He took German language classes in high school and college, and he studied abroad for a semester in Germany, where he became directly acquainted with the accessible pleasure of German beer.
“I like that it is a really clean, but flavorful beer,” Holle said, holding a glass of his favorite variety, a Munich-style lager dubbed “Helles,” which means light or bright. “I compare this to homemade bread. It’s just simple. And when it’s fresh, it’s really, really good. In Germany, beer is considered food—liquid bread.”
After a more than 20-year career in Dallas with the real estate department of Northwestern Mutual Life, Holle took early retirement last year so he could move back to Kansas City and create the Kansas City Beer Company. In Dallas, he hosted a radio program called “The Beer Show.”
“I loved real estate, but now I’m starting a second career,” he said.
Holle became a home brewer in 1992. He has a diploma from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London, a self-study program, “which I understand is roughly the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in brewing,” he said. “It’s part of my personality. If I’m going to do something, I want to understand it.”
The Kansas City Bier Company has about 35 mostly local investors, with an individual minimum required investment of $5,000, “but we have some six-figure investors, too,” Holle said.
The investor with the second-greatest holding in the company is co-owner Juergen Hager, 51, a native of Munich, who became friends with Holle in Dallas.
“This is my long-term dream to open a brewery and to have a little tasting room with a beer garden where people can meet to drink and eat and have fun,” Hager said. “I’m the cultural adviser here, as Steve calls me.”
One of Hager’s responsibilities is to define the food menu, which includes a Bavarian cream cheese dip, “which you cannot find (elsewhere) in the city, I think,” Hager said. “We have our pretzels imported from Munich. And we have the white sausage, which is unique in Germany.”
Sherry Turner, 54, founder of OneKC for Women, which supports female entrepreneurship, was one of the investors on hand to celebrate the business on its first day. Why did she invest in the Kansas City Bier Company?
“I’ve known Steve for 30 years, and he’s one of the smartest people I know,” Turner said. “If you’re going to follow somebody, you really want to invest in the person that you know can take it to market and commercialize. He’s a finance guy. He’s a real estate guy. He really understands the numbers. So if he says we’re going to be able to make it, I trust that.”