Reviving Rieger history with new destination experience

 

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

Snug between Chestnut and Montgall in the East Bottoms, the old Heim Brewery bottling house sits overlooking the Union Pacific Railroad railroad tracks. On the outside, vines are growing thick along the walls and the former Local Pig meat shop across the street sits abandoned. When the tracks are empty, everything is quiet.

But on the inside, a revival is happening.

An idea, sparked by local craft cocktail connoisseur Ryan Maybee, was pitched to the only remaining descendent of Jacob Rieger, the founder of J. Rieger & Co. to bring back the old distillery that had been closed for 90 years.

Jacob Rieger, an Austrian immigrant, settled in Kansas City in the early 1880s and began his operation of creating alcohol at 1529 Genesee Street in Kansas City’s West Bottoms neighborhood. He founded J. Rieger & Co in 1887.

The area, which included the Livestock Exchange building, the Union Depot, as well as several saloons and liquor retailers, was known as the “wettest block in the world.”

With no signs of slowing down, Jacob Rieger turned over operations to his son, Alexander. Under his leadership, the company became the largest mail-order whiskey house in the United States, shipping whiskey to over a quarter million customers nationwide.

Five miles northeast, the Heim Brewing Company Bottling Plant, created in 1901 and designed by Charles A. Smith, a prominent Kansas City architect, was the largest brewery west of St. Louis, producing nearly 125,000 bottles of lager beer daily.

Easy access to the train tracks gave the brewery easy transfer and distribution to their refrigerated fleet of railroad cars.

It seemed as if nothing could stop the growth, success, and nationwide reach of both J. Rieger & Co. and Heim Brewery.

But in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, outlawing the sale, production, and transport of intoxicating liquors. Alexander Rieger and the Heim brothers were forced to close their doors.

The Heim brothers were also known as the creators of Electric Park, two amusement parks built in Kansas City. The first was constructed next to the Heim Brewery. Open from 1899 to 1906, it was one of the world’s first full-time amusement parks, featuring a shoot-the-chutes ride, and a beer garden, with beer being piped directly from across the street.

Eventually, the park outgrew the small space, and moved to a new location on 46th Street and The Paseo in 1907. This park featured band concerts, Electric Fountain, an alligator farm, chutes, penny parlors, a scenic railway, a pool room, boat tours, soda fountain, shooting gallery, and much more.

Walt Disney would later cite Electric Park as his primary inspiration for the design of Disneyland.

Fast forward nearly a century later. Ryan Maybee, a restaurateur with expertise in the fields of wine and spirits, began his  career as a bartender in Kansas City. Founder of Manifesto, a small, intimate cocktail lounge in the basement of the Rieger Hotel, he opened a new restaurant, The Rieger, on the main floor of the Rieger Hotel.

In April 2010, on opening night of The Rieger, Maybee met Andy Rieger, the great-great-great grandson of Jacob Rieger, the original founder of J. Rieger & Co.

It was then that Maybee pitched the idea to “bring back the old distillery” to Andy Rieger.

 

In October 2014, the brand was relaunched. The core product line includes Kansas City Whiskey, Midwestern Dry Gin, Caffe Amaro, and Premium Wheat Vodka

Exactly one hundred years after J. Rieger & Co. was forced to shut their doors due to prohibition in 1919, the company is opening the new distillery destination experience in the old Heim Brewing Bottling Building, located in historic Electric Park.

Rieger and Maybee plan to weave the rich history of the companiesand the neighborhood into the 60,000 square-foot space.

The building will include daily tours and tastings, cocktails on tap, lounge space overlooking the distillation production floor, two full-service cocktail bars, a custom whiskey bottling station, a 3,000-square foot KC history exhibit, a 40-foot slide between floors, a gift shop, classes, and private event space.

Guests will also be able to enjoy two distinct bar experiences with The Monogram Lounge, a cozy and refined cocktail lounge overlooking the distillery production floor, as well as the Hey! Hey! Club, a dark and swanky underground cocktail bar with live Jazz.

Named after Kansas City’s rich cocktail history, the bar spaces have entirely state-of-the art programs complete with draft cocktails on rotation and 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.

When asked if there were any specific plans to honor the Heim Brothers, Andy Rieger said KC Bier Co. is developing an exclusive beer, a traditional German-style Export Helles Lager called Heim Beer, to pay homage to the location and history.

The public opening is expected mid-June 2019. For more information, visit jriegerco.com.

Comments are closed.

  • Riverfront Homeless Camps in Harms Way

    March 21st, 2019
    by

    For the section of Kansas City’s homeless population that live along the banks of the river, the rising river levels spell trouble in a big way.


    Residents can now visit Canady’s campaign office to sign the Paseo Petition

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Residents who are interested in signing the Paseo Petition can stop by the campaign office of Alissia Canady for Mayor


    St. Joseph’s Day preparations

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News Thousands of cookies, pastries, various dishes, and fruits were prepped for this year’s Saint Joseph’s Day […]


    City Council candidates address pressing community issues

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Elizabeth Orosco Northeast News Ten candidates vying for 3rd and 4th District City Council seats attended the Northeast forum Saturday, […]


    Fourth District Candidate Guide

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Six candidates are running on the April 2nd ballot for the 4th District City Council seats. At-Large candidates include current […]


  • Save the Paseo Petitioners officially hit the streets

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Northeast News Following the contentious legislative session of Kansas City’s City Council January 26, 2019, that saw the passage of […]


    Northeast residents make further clean up efforts in Kessler Park

    March 20th, 2019
    by

    Johanna Pounds Editorial Assistant Northeast News On Friday, March 15, many Northeast residents gathered to do another trash clean up […]


    Kansas City Police searching for suspect in Family Dollar robbery

    March 19th, 2019
    by

    Kansas City Police are trying to identify this man who robbed the Family Dollar last month.


    KCPD respond to shooting in Northeast Kansas City

    March 19th, 2019
    by

    Kansas City Police Officers responded to a shooting Tuesday, March 19, around 7 am in Northeast Kansas City.


    St. Joseph’s Tables, part 1 & 2

    March 18th, 2019
    by

  • What’s Happening

    CID: Around The World In 80 Minutes

    The Old Watts Mill

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News You might visit the area around 103rd Street and State Line Road if you were interested […]

    retorts illustrated by bryan stalder