This morning's news from business partners Andy Rieger and Ryan Maybee about the expansion of their 4-year-old distillery, J. Rieger & Co., is “o, so good.”

The partners announced today that they plan to open a brand-new distillery and hospitality facility next door to their current production building. They have also bought the production building and plan to convert it into barrel storage once the new building is up and running.

The building was acquired from Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald and will literally bring a new spirit to the 101-year-old Heim Brewery building. At 60,000 square feet, it was once the largest pre-Prohibition brewery in Kansas City.  

Distribution of J. Rieger & Co. spirits has now grown to over 20 states, creating the need for a new space to increase production on their core group of products, which include Kansas City Whiskey, Midwestern Dry Gin, Caffè Amaro and Premium Wheat Vodka.

“This project is a true catalyst for change at our distillery and for the once-vibrant Electric Park neighborhood,” says Andy Rieger, co-founder of J. Rieger & Co., and the great-great-great-grandson of the original distillery owner. “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.”

The neighborhood is named for Electric Park, one of the country’s first fully illuminated amusement parks that dates back to 1899. In its hey-day, it featured a roller coaster, a 2,500-seat theater to host performers like John Philip Sousa, a large-scale water fountain and fireworks each night to signal the park’s closing. Relocated in 1907 to a larger site, Electric Park’s gardens, displays and fountain works entertained millions and inspired Kansas City native Walt Disney in the design of Disneyland.

Kansas City mayor Sly James said at the press conference today that “he wanted to thank the partners for their investment in this area of the city,” which he compared to being the same type of pioneer investments that have made an impact in the growth and development of the West Bottoms and Crossroads of Kansas City.

The three-floor renovation of the Heim building will include moving the distillery to the center of the new space, creating a focal point with spectacular front-row views of the production facility equipment on every floor. “We plan to vertically use every bit of space to display our working stills and a new one we will add as part of the expansion,” Maybee says.

The top floor will serve as their main bar and tasting room space, with room for an event space and meeting areas. On the ground floor, guests will enter the building through the north side, facing Knuckleheads, and will be greeted at reception to be checked in for daily distillation tours that will end in the tasting room. There will also be public cocktail spaces, a gift shop and an interactive historic exhibit.

In the basement will be a full commercial catering kitchen and separate ice room, with plans for four Clinebell ice makers, and a massive cooler specifically for their program of cocktails on tap. There will also be a private lounge that will seat 40 in the basement, providing a more upscale experience for guests.

The new J. Rieger & Co. distillery is scheduled to open in late spring 2019, with the new hospitality center estimated to host up to 100,000 guests annually.

Curious what’s on tap for J. Rieger & Co. after the big move into their new space?

“Our next big release will likely be in late 2020, when our straight bourbon and rye that has been in barrels since 2015 should be ready for bottling,” says Maybee.

J. Rieger & Co., 507 N. Montgall Ave., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.807.3867, jriegerco.com

Jenny is Feast's contributing editor for Kansas City. She brakes for chef's coats.

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