Exactly one hundred years after J. Rieger & Co. was forced to shut their doors due to prohibition in 1919, they opened their doors to the newly-renovated distillery for the first time Thursday night.
Showcasing the massive renovation of the old Heim Brewing Bottling Plant located in historic Electric Park, the 60,000 square-foot space is now home to a large-scale destination experience.
Guests lined up around the building and entered on the north side, overlooking the Union Pacific Railroad. Live music from Knuckleheads Saloon was heard from directly across the tracks as guests filed in.
Inside, guests were greeted by Co-Founder Andy Rieger, the great-great-great grandson and only remaining descendant of Jacob Rieger.
Positioned in the center of the building as the hub and heart of the operation, the sweeping view of the Pickerell Production Floor is immediately visible behind floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
The production floor sits in the same location where the Heim brothers bottled their beer in the early 1900s.
From both floors, guests can watch bourbon, rye, gin, vodka, and Kansas City Whiskey being distilled daily.
After being greeted at the front desk, guests can visit the 4,000 square-foot historical exhibit to the right of the entrance.
J. Rieger & Co. pays homage to Electric Park and the Heim Brewery by offering large displays of original artifacts, maps, bottles, souvenir programs, hand-written letters, ads, and photos of the rich history of the space.
A stately photograph of Co-Founder Ryan Maybee’s blue Great Dane, Moose, is framed and hangs next to a shelf of Cafe Amaro.
On display is also a replica wagon that would have been used to distribute Heim beer and J. Rieger spirits throughout Kansas City pre-prohibition.
After weaving through the historical exhibit, guests can watch a short J. Rieger & Co. history video before making their way onto the production floor.
Behind the roped-off portion, 27-foot column still and 3,000-gallon fermentation tanks were added to help exponentially increase production.
Just south of the newly-renovated Heim Brewery bottling plant is the Barrell Rickhouse, the original warehouse J. Rieger & Co. used for production.
Inside, barrels line the walls. Jacob’s Barrell Dining Room, a private dining area that seats sixteen people, sits in the middle of the space with large glass windows.
Once the Rickhouse is filled, the dining area will be surrounded by 5,000 barrels of whiskey.
Guests continue to the east portion of the building to the Tasting Room, where each spirit will be available for sampling.
In true Electric Park fashion, a 40-foot slide spirals from the ceiling to the left of the entrance, allowing guests a quick route back to the first floor.
While Maybee, Rieger, Head Distiller Nathan Perry, and Beverage Director Andrew Olsen painstakingly ensure the quality of the product, Maybee notes that they don’t want to take themselves too seriously.
Next to the slide is the Mercantile Gift Shop where guests can purchase bottles of spirits, shot glasses, coasters, keychains, t-shirts, flasks, and more.
On the second floor, visitors can enjoy the Monogram Lounge, a cozy and refined cocktail lounge overlooking the distillery production floor.
This space offers a full-service bar, shuffle boards, private dining spaces, Alexander’s Board Room, and access to the slide.
Here, six draft cocktails are offered including Horsefeather, Gin and Tonic, KC Ice Water, KC Chinotto, Negroni, and Bottoms Cup.
Tipping their hat to the Heim Brothers, whose rich history is in the entire space, J. Rieger & Co. offers Heim Beer on tap.
This exclusive, traditional German-style Export Helles Lager is brewed by KC Bier Co. and cannot be found anywhere else in Kansas City.
Joe Hines, general manager, said the new space is important to the rich history of Kansas City.
“I think it’s important for it being such a historical neighborhood and inviting [guests] down here for those who might not know the history and educating them about what this place once was and reviving it back to its original glory.”
After taking the slide back down to the first floor — the only acceptable method — guests can visit the Hey! Hey! Club in the basement.
This dark and swanky underground cocktail bar is a tribute to the original Hey Hey Club, a 1930s jazz night club located at 4th and Cherry.
Patrons of the original Hey Hey Club sat on hay bales, ordered 25-cent shots of whiskey, and enjoyed melodies by Lester Young, Count Basie, and more.
Also on-site is a dedicated ice-cutting room, able to churn out 200 pounds of crystal clear ice daily.
In keeping with J. Rieger & Co.’s long record of collaboration with other local brands, and to encourage patrons to work, stay, and play in the new space, they will continue the working relationship with Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters by offering coffee service starting at 9:00 a.m. daily.
The building will also offer multiple event spaces, including flexible space options from corporate meetings to private celebrations, ranging from small groups, to parties of 200 in the Tasting Room, The Monogram Lounge, Jacob’s Barrel Dining Room, and Alexander’s Board Room.
Andi Ryan, hospitality director, said the new space speaks to the spirit of pride in every Kansas Citian.
“We are so proud of our heritage and what Kansas City has done,” she said. “It’s important for Kansas City to remember where we came from and why we were an important hub of the midwest. Our history is tied in so tightly with this building and we want Kansas City to be even more proud than they already are.”
J. Rieger & Co. is now fully open to the public seven days a week. Visit www.jriegerco.com for more information.