Kansas City craft beer drinkers have been waiting a long time for the craft beer revolution to sweep through our streets, curing our thirst like a brewing Messiah shooting thunderbolts out of his palms while riding a cloud. As a resident of Waldo, and a thirsty Kansas Citian, I am observing the holy temple being built daily, the green stone monolith known as Kansas City Bier Co., slowly rising each night into the bitter roasted barley night sky. It is easy to think we are on the cusp of a brewing revolution here in Kansas City. Two breweries in midtown (me & McCoy’s), two in Waldo (KCBC & 75th St), two in Northtown (Big Rip & Bucky’s Cinder Block), one in Libery (Rock & Run Brewery), one in Martin City (helped along by a brewing trailblazer), as well as resourceful start-ups like Bourgmont Brewery; this veritable pantheon of new brewing deities is watched over by love and grace by the mighty Boulevard, our Zeus of breweries. There are apocryphal legends of a Flying Monkey, but I have yet to see it with my own eyes, although a stout brewed with instant coffee dances like sugar plums in my head.
Mr. McDonald and Boulevard have done a wonderful thing by evoking the legend of Muehlebach Brewery. Their original pilsner branding was evocative of the successful Kansas City brewery. A visit to their tasting room will reward you with Muehlebach memorablia, as well as the feeling that they are guardians of this brand.
There are other breweries, dozens of them, with an untold story.
The Ferd Heim Brewery operated in Kansas City from 1887 until 1905, producing fine products such as Scharnagel Select, “Which finds its greatest companions among the ladies”. Other brands included Wisconsin Club and the longest tenured, Heim’s Select.
To counter the mounting prohibition movement, their marketing shifted to accentuate the nutritious aspects of beer. This resulted in their final brand, Our Pride, a premium Bohemian lager, “derived from perfect hops, imparts vigor to the system, aiding the tired brain and strengthening the nerves.”
The Heim family had many economic interests across the country, and their attention shifted away from Kansas City with the passing of Ferdinand Heim. The Heim building was torn down in 1894 for a carriage factory. The family would continue its influence through the newly created Kansas City Breweries Company, a merger with the Rochester Brewing Company.
This new mega company, the old KCBC, bought the famous Imperial Brewery Building in 1905. The original president inherited a company with bad finances, bloodthirsty creditors, and an unpaid mortgage note. With the acquisition , the $50,000 building soon started churning out several labels with the guidance of the Heim family: Imperial Seal, a pale lager, and its most famous brand, Mayflower. For a time, it was producing more barrels of beer than the rest of KC combined.
If any corporation in Kansas City is reminiscent of the old KCBC, it is KC Hopps Ltd, owners of Barley’s, Blue Moose, 75th St. Brewery, O’Dowd’s Little Dublin, and 810 Zone. Although more of a restaurant group, this mega corporation does own KC’s longest tenured brewpub.
In memoriam, I will part with a listing of KC historic breweries that lasted
less than a few years not long enough:
Barrett & Barrett Brewing Company
Bremer & Thoma Brewery
Doodle Brewing Company
Geo W Deegan Brewery
Grand Avenue Brewery
Guttenberg Ale Brewery
Kansas City Brewing Company
Kansas City Brewery
M. Schandler Bottling Company Brewery
Mill Steet Brewing Company
P. Setzler & Sons Brewery
Pony Express Brewing Company
Power Plant Restuarant & Brewery
Smith & Dick Brewery