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"I love German beer for its simple depth of flavor and approachability," he adds. "I think there's a niche in the middle between light and really extreme beers. It's simple beer, like eating fresh bread. If it's served fresh, it's always good."
Holle's name is well-known in the beer community. His A Handbook of Basic Brewing Calculations can be found in countless craft breweries around the country (Boulevard among them), and he's a regular judge at the Great American Beer Festival. He also has developed a Beer Steward Certificate Program for the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, a way to teach wholesalers and retailers how to talk about and serve beer
And he has seen this formula work. Urban Chestnut — the St. Louis brewery that counts Holle as an investor and a board member — is in the midst of a $10 million expansion after opening its doors only two years ago. So after a 20-year career in real-estate finance, the Hickman Mills graduate moved here in January from Plano, Texas, to open a German-style brewery in his hometown.
The day that KC Bier Co. opens, in November, it will already be tied with Mothers Brewing Co. as the fourth-largest brewery in Missouri, behind Anheuser-Busch InBev; Boulevard; and the Saint Louis Brewing Co., which makes Schlafly. Like Mothers, KC Bier is using a 30-barrel system. (A barrel is equivalent to approximately 31 gallons of beer; Boulevard, the 12th-largest U.S. craft brewer by sales volume, expects to produce about 188,000 barrels this year.) KC Bier's Munich-style lagers, dry German Pilsners and a hefeweizen (made, Holle says, with a strain of yeast from a monastery brewery in Bavaria) will be poured in-house and sent to taps around the city. Holle is considering adding bottling in the second year.
"Craft-beer drinkers aren't like my father," he says. "We don't just order the same beer. We're always looking for something new."
What's new may well come from a few ambitious craft-beer devotees, thanks to an unlikely beer ally: the Missouri General Assembly.
Last month, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law that allows home brewers to legally share their batches outside their immediate families. (In Kansas, a pair of similar bills have stalled.) Now, your beer-brewing neighbor can bring her suds to festivals, contests or dinner at your house (as long as money doesn't change hands for a taste).
The legislative shift could lead to a deluge of nanobreweries. The American Homebrewers Association estimates that there are 13,000 amateur brewers in Missouri. Each can now produce 200 gallons per calendar year, in a household with two adults of legal drinking age (100 gallons for those who live alone).
"This taps into our foodie culture, and people that just love making," says Clay Johnston, chief marketing officer for Brew Lab, a brew-on-premises business set to open in August in downtown Overland Park. "Now people that have been doing this for years don't have to worry about it being legal."
As Johnston offers this opinion, he is joined by Brew Lab CEO Kevin Combs, who has just finished cutting a hole in their shop's floor, making way for a hoist to lower beer into a basement fermenting room. The make-your-own operation acts as a commissary, giving home brewers access to commercial equipment, staff advice and recipes so they can leave with two cases of beer that they've brewed and bottled themselves.
Johnston and Combs and their two partners, CIO Matt Hornung and CFO Justin Waters, took over the former video-production space in April, tearing out tile and carpet to reveal a concrete floor, and removing a drop ceiling to expose wooden rafters. The aluminum-clad brick walls and concrete floor give the place a Chipotle feel. A pair of brewing stations can be seen through the front window. A matching set of stainless-steel sinks and prep tables toward the rear serve as the bottling area. Malt and barley, the building blocks of beer, line another wall, waiting in rows of plastic dispensers like those that contain nuts and cereal at Whole Foods.