Bier, Bavaria and more: Kansas City’s Oktoberfest celebrates both German and local traditions

Jill Toyoshiba/jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Steve Holle, the founder of KC Bier Co., has been to Oktoberfest in Germany plenty of times. In fact, in a couple of weeks, he’s venturing back for a smaller version, similar to what Kansas City will see this weekend.

The first weekend of October marks the start of KC Oktoberfest. Running Friday and Saturday, Crown Center will transform into the “Munich of the Midwest” for visitors to enjoy authentic German beer (or bier), Bavarian dishes, games, competitions, live music and more.

KC Bier Co. was Holle’s second calling after a three-decade career in banking and real estate. With German in his blood, he wants to share the culture with Kansas City.

“What Oktoberfest is I think is people coming together in the community and celebrating with music, food and beer and having fun,” Holle said. “I think we’re going to have a real cultural experience for everyone to enjoy.”

Get your tickets now. It’s $10 for general admission on both days.

HOW DO THEY MAKE THE BEER?

The local brewery prides itself on making authentic German beer.

Holle said KC Bier Co. follows the 1516 law passed by the ruler of Bavaria, known as “reinheitsgebot,” which means they only use four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. The malt, hops and yeast KC Bier Co. uses are also imported from Germany.

The 1516 law also aims to do the following:

  • Protect drinkers from high prices.

  • Ban the use of wheat in beer so more bread could be made.

  • Stop brewers from adding toxic and even hallucinogenic ingredients as preservatives or flavorings.

“People don’t know how good German beer can be,” Holle said. “They’ve only had the chance to buy stale beer in the store, and we’re going to do something different and expose people to what real high-quality fresh tasting German beer is like.”

KANSAS CITY’S BREWING LEGACY

Kansas City has quite a history with beer-making. Boulevard, KC Bier Co. and a bunch of other craft breweries lead the way now, but people have been brewing in KC for almost two centuries.

The Star’s collaboration with the Kansas City Public Library, What’s your KCQ? has explored some of the stories that make up the city’s beer history.

A German immigrant named Martin Keck operated a popular beer garden in the 1870s. A century later, the property he developed would become the site of one of the city’s most iconic destinations: Crown Center, which just so happens to be the site of KC Oktoberfest.

And the Heim Bier, found at J. Rieger & Co., is an homage to a pre-Prohibition family-run brewery that used to operate at the site of the distillery. You could even ride a Ferris wheel when enjoying their beverages.

OTHER DETAILS TO KNOW ABOUT OKTOBERFEST

Parking is free at Crown Center after 5 p.m. on Friday, and it’s free throughout the weekend. You can also take the streetcar from downtown to the stop at Main and Pershing on the east side of Union Station, which puts you just a block away from the festival grounds.

It’s $10 for general admission, but if you want to reserve a table, that’ll cost anywhere from $155 to 225 to reserve for up to six people.

The festival is open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. If you went last year, bring your tokens and KC Oktoberfest-labeled mugs. Those are allowed, but you can’t bring mugs from home, since Crown Center doesn’t allow glass or ceramic mugs on site.

Take a look at the map here, which shows you where the live performances, kids’ section, beer, games and entrances are located.