The J. Rieger & Co. distillery was originally founded in 1887 in Kansas City’s West Bottoms, Missouri. As the distillery grew it produced well over 100 alcoholic products and distributed them across the United States. Like the majority of distilleries of the time it was shut down in 1919 when the 18th Amendment was passed and Prohibition took effect. The family distilling name stayed dormant for 95 years until 2014 when the founders Great-great-great-grandson Andy Rieger and his business partner Ryan Maybee, a nationally acclaimed hospitality entrepreneur, revived the business in Kansas City’s East Bottoms in the historic Electric Park neighborhood.
J. Rieger & Co. 1st Announce Expansion Plans
In September of 2018 Reiger and Maybee announced plans to expand their four year old startup business and to shift from a production facility to a hospitality destination. The growing distillery had already expanded distribution of their bourbon, whiskey, vodka and gin to 20 states and was ranked as one of the top 10% of craft spirits distilleries in the country by sales volume. They wanted to expand from their original 15,000 square foot facility and move into the nearby 60,000 square foot space of what was once the Heim Brewery bottling house. The historic building is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a landmark of pre-Prohibition industrial construction. The stylish building is known for its soaring, vaulted windows and elegant façade. As much of the original building was preserved as possible including much of the original flooring and brickwork in the interior. The long vacant building was about to get new life.
“This project is a true catalyst for change at our distillery and for the once vibrant Electric Park neighborhood,” said Andy Rieger. “Our expansion allows us to continue to meet increased production demands, while also hosting the many spirits lovers in our community and beyond who want to participate in our brand story. We’re not just restoring a building; we’re reviving a long-forgotten legacy in Electric Park and inviting visitors to enjoy world-class spirits and hospitality while celebrating the past.”
J. Rieger & Co. Celebrate the New Distillery and Destination Experience
Back in 1900 the Heim Brewery sat on the outskirts of Kansas City. In order to attract locals to the brewery the Heim family built Electric Park, an amusement park modeled after Coney Island. It was the first electric powered amusement park in the U.S. featuring a roller coaster, carousel, skating rink, swimming pool, theater, bandstand and more. With an eye toward bringing some of this electric spark back to this somewhat blighted neighborhood the new J. Rieger & Co. set out to not just build a distillery but to build a destination that would attract today’s craft spirits fans.
Harkening back to its amusement park days the new distillery features a two story 40′ tall slide that takes visitors on a joy ride through the distillery from the second-floor Monogram Lounge to the first floor. The new distillery also features innovative cocktails and craft spirit experiences including a whiskey bottling station, a 3,500-square foot Kansas City historical exhibit, two full-service cocktail bars, The Monogram Lounge and The Hey! Hey! Club, educational seminars, on-site events and daily tours.
Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting
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J. Rieger & Co. hosted their new distillery grand opening with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this month. The many honorable officials in attendance included Mayor Sly James of Kansas City together with representatives of the Kansas City Council and the Economic Development Council of Kansas City. The team also acknowledged key investors and influencers for their profound contributions, including: The City of Kansas City Missouri, the Economic Development Council of Kansas City, MoBank, U.S. Bank, Alt-Cap, and Great Southern Bank.
Co-Founders Rieger and Maybee shared their enthusiasm for the next chapter in Kansas City’s history by saying, “We are proud to be at the forefront of a modern spirits renaissance. Our focus has been to create the highest quality whiskey, gin and other spirits inspired by our vibrant history. We are extraordinarily driven by the national growth and recognition that we have accomplished and will apply that same high standard to shaping the future of our new home here in Electric Park. With this expansion and the incredible talent of our new hospitality team, we can add a visitors’ experience to our story while investing in our city and community.”
Bill Carson, Business Development Officer with U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, added: “U.S. Bank is proud to be a New Markets and Historic Tax Credit investor in this project. We’re excited about J. Rieger & Co.’s expansion in the community and thrilled it will be bringing new life to the former Heim Brewery bottling plant. It not only restores the historic brewery building but brings an economic boost to the re-emerging Electric Park community.”
Spirits Production Quintupled
Now completed, the distillery expansion project will quintuple average daily production capacity of J. Rieger’s signature Kansas City Whiskey, Midwestern Dry Gin, Caffè Amaro, and Wheat Vodka spirits. They anticipate the new brand experience that celebrates the history and legacy of both J. Rieger & Co. and Kansas City will host up to 100,000 guests annually.
If some of the distillery equipment design looks familiar it should. The J. Rieger & Co. distillery expansion was one of the last projects the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell worked on before his passing in November of 2018. And for that, we’ll raise a glass.