Just as a plate of Irish nachos at a pub won’t impress Dublin natives, simply offering your customers a few pretzels doesn’t make you an authentic brewhaus. But when the owners of KC Bier Co. talk about their reverence for German beer, it’s not about a menu – it’s a lifestyle.
“We are very focused on making authentic German-style beer,” says owner Steve Holle. “That is all we do. We import all of our ingredients from Germany and use only traditional German brewing methods. We follow tenants of the Reinheitsgebot purity law - only malt, hops, water and yeast and naturally produced CO2. Our beer is unfiltered and naturally carbonated. We use long cold aging times – typically at least 6 weeks total fermentation and lagering times to produce our lagers.”
Just how authentic is the beer? One of their proudest first-year highlights came at the International Beer Competition, where they entered 5 beers and left with three silver medals. Their hefeweizen even topped the longtime powerhouse, Weihenstephaner.
But their passion for emulating the German experience goes far beyond what’s on tap. “In Germany, bier drinking is a community event done in the open in public spaces with families with children and grandparents, neighbors, and friends -- people of all ages. We have a children's playhouse in our biergarten and games for the adults. We have large tables with benches and open seating. You are encouraged to sit at tables with strangers and meet new people.”
Looking around the packed brewery at 4:45 on a rainy Wednesday, that fellowship is obvious. There are no phone addictions on display at the bar, only conversations – the one exception being a gentleman reading a book. Stories are shared of one retired woman who had lived in the Waldo neighborhood for 14 years but has met more neighbors in the year since the brewery opened than the previous 13. Two recent house-hunters mention that proximity to KC Bier Co. was a priority. And Jack Umbach eagerly tells you how he gets some exercise – the barstool he sits on is seven tenths of a mile from his front step. “That’s a mile and a half walk each day, with a nice break to chat with friends.”
Umbach built the playhouse in the biergarten, and his craftsman’s pride shines through. “We have a little cash register, plastic cups and a mini tap,” he says, “and the kids love to play. I didn’t even know whether it would work, but we just put it together to try. It’s fun to see. The place is so family-friendly. You’re not pounding beers elbow-to-elbow; you’re situated that you can sit and watch the kids play.”
While many new bars try to be exciting, KC Bier Co strives to be inviting.
“One major factor for choosing our building,” Holle explains, “was its location on the Trolley Track Trail (a popular hike and bike trail) and the fact that there was a side yard that could accommodate a biergarten next to the trail. We want people to walk or ride their bike to our biergarten. Americans eat and drink too much in their homes or dark taverns. Beer was made to be drunk under God's sunny blue skies.”