German Gastrodiplomacy in the Midwest
Brewing Consensus: The Role of Beer in Gastrodiplomacy
As the Bavarians say, “beer is liquid bread.” But how is beer used as a diplomatic tool in the US-German relationship? In this blog, I’ll talk about how beer diplomacy supports the promotion of mutual understanding between Germans and Americans and share insights from my interview with the KC Bier Company, a pioneering German-style beer company in Kansas City, Missouri.
By Julia Pataky
In my first blog post, I laid out the significant ambassadorial role of food and drinks in cultural and public diplomacy. Since beer is an integral part of Germany’s culture and nation brand, I wanted to take a closer look at German beer diplomacy and its potential in the Midwest. My research led me to the Kansas City Bier Co., a local beer company brewing authentic German-style Bier.
As an avid homebrewer and a Diploma Brewer from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London, Steve Holle first developed the idea of starting his own brewery in 1996. Growing up as the great-grandson of German immigrants, beer always played a community-building role in his family and shaped his German identity during his childhood and youth. As such, it became his mission to introduce and promote authentic German-style beer in Kansas City, which he realized by founding KC Bier Co. together with his partner Jürgen Hager, a native from Bavaria. Ever since KC Bier Co. opened its doors in February 2014, they have been “putting the i back in Bier” by brewing authentic German-style beer with ingredients straight from Germany.
But Steve, Jürgen, and the team of KC Bier Co. aren’t just brewing beer, they’re also brewing consensus and promoting cross-cultural dialogue between Germans and Americans. By introducing the concept of the Biergarten to their local communities in Kansas City, they are creating a space where German culture can be lived. And by offering this space to their visitors and guests, they are bringing people from all walks of life together to experience and learn about German culture. When Kansas Citians visit KC Bier Co.’s Biergarten and beer hall, they immerse themselves in German culture by, for example, learning about the long-lasting tradition of the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law which regulates the ingredients that can go into German beer. They also get a taste of what the annual Oktoberfest – the world’s largest folk festival traditionally held in Munich since 1810 – looks like by drinking Lager and eating Weißwurst at long tables at which everyone sits together. You might even spot guests wearing Trachten, either Lederhosen or Dirndl, while enjoying one of the many lagers, wheat ales, or seasonal biers brewed by head brewer Karlton Graham.
The bottom line: KC Bier Co., recently recognized with multiple prizes at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival, has been extremely successful not only in introducing Kansas Citians to authentic German-style bier but also in using German beer as a tool of soft power in the US-German relationship through local, cultural community building. And on that note, Prost!