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Kansas City’s Oldest Distillery: A Century-Old Legacy Revived

Kansas City’s Oldest Distillery: A Century-Old Legacy Revived

Kansas City is home to many historical landmarks, but one of its most unique attractions is its oldest distillery that operates inside a century-old brewery plant. This unlikely marriage between two historic Kansas City businesses dates back more than 100 years, and it’s a story worth telling.

Ferd. Heim Brewing Company

In 1884, Ferdinand Heim immigrated from Germany to Kansas City and started the Ferd. Heim Brewing Company. The brewery grew in the once-thriving East Bottoms and opened a bottling plant next door. At its peak, the brewery was producing 125,000 bottles a day, and business was booming.

J. Rieger & Co.

A few years after the Heim family arrived in Kansas City, Jacob Rieger, an immigrant from Austria-Hungary, started a distilling company. J. Rieger & Co. soon became the largest mail-order whiskey house in the United States.

Prohibition and Beyond

When the Wartime Prohibition Act was passed in 1918, Ferd. Heim Brewing Company had to close its doors. The 18th Amendment was passed a year later, cementing Prohibition for the next 13 years. In December 1919, J. Rieger & Co. also had to shut down.

Fast forward almost 100 years, and Ryan Maybee, a Kansas City restaurateur, met Andy Rieger, the great-great-great grandson of Jacob Rieger. Together, they decided to revive the old distillery, and in 2019, exactly a century after Ferd. Heim Brewing Company closed, they began renovating the company’s old bottling plant. And 100 years after J. Rieger & Co. first shut down, the reborn company relocated to its current location, planting roots to survive longer than its predecessors.

J. Rieger & Co. Today

J. Rieger & Co. now has two bars, a full-scale distilling room, and a barreling room. The space is so large that they even built a museum to showcase their history and a slide to travel between floors. The company’s slogan, “O! So Good!” is an original distillery slogan from the early 1900s.

Visitors to J. Rieger & Co. can still see details from the old Ferd. Heim beer company, such as a special German character of a crescent and the number 11 on the building’s facade. This symbol refers to an old German drinking rule, which translates to “You will drink again.” It’s a fitting reminder of the rebirth and resurrection of this historic Kansas City business.

In conclusion, Kansas City’s oldest distillery is a testament to the city’s rich history and the resilience of its people. A century-old legacy has been revived, and visitors can now experience the magic of this unique attraction and taste the products of this historic distillery.

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