VERSAILLES — A business trip to the Czech Republic and a gift of a homebrewing kit set one cattle ranching family on the road to opening their own ale house.
Chris and Pam Byars, who owns Byars Angus Farm north of Versailles, opened Bee’s Knees Ale House about four years ago. Chris brews the beer while Pam runs the restaurant.
Chris said while working in the Czech Republic in 2007 he fell in love with the Pilsen beers brewed in that country. When he came home he couldn’t find any beers stateside that tasted as good and he decided to brew his own.
“The Czech region is where what we call the Pilsen, the light beers, that’s where they evolved,” he explained. “Because the water over there is so soft it just lent itself to brewing a light beer.
“I was never much of a craft beer or beer connoisseur at all,” he continued. “But I was really impressed with them.”
For Christmas one year his wife bought him a homebrew kit and he began the journey
into brewing craft beers.
“I started brewing beer myself, and the first ones were absolutely horrible,” he said with a smile.
Through a process of elimination, problem solving and talking with other brewers, Chris’ beer brewing began to improve and Bee’s Knees Brewing Co. took flight.
Chris now has eight craft beers on tap: All Bee Bock, Six-Feet Below IPA, Electric Nectar Honey Blonde Ale, Low Voltage, Hazy Hive Hefeweizen, Colony American Pale Ale and Angus Sweat Bee Sweet Stout. A new seasonal beer, Ozark Coffee Co. Stout, is made with coffee created by Justin Koehn, owner of the coffee company located in downtown Sedalia.
Chris brews some beers in the 300-square-foot room behind the restaurant and brews others in a second 900-square-foot location on the west side of Versailles. Bee’s Knees beers are on tap at Craft Beer Cellar and Kehde’s Barbeque in Sedalia and are distributed around central Missouri by County Distributing Co. Inc., also in Sedalia.
As for the ale house business, Chris said they are “formally known as a brew/pub.”
“So, in the eyes of the brewing industry, a brew/pub has both a kitchen and brews beer on site,” he noted.
The most popular beer at the ale house is Electric Nectar Honey Blonde Ale (5.1% ABV).
“It’s one of the lighter beers,” Chris said. “It’s yellow in color and very lightly hopped and (has) a nice crisp finish to it. And it has just a bit of sweetness to it at the end due to the honey malt that I put in there.”
Pam said her favorite is the Angus Sweat Bee Sweet Stout (5% ABV). This stout is dark, with a “chocolatey,” smooth taste.
“I used to brew this back in my home-brewing days, it’s dark and rich and malty,” Chris explained. “This one really surprises a lot of people, because they’re used to having some dark beers … this one is a lot smoother than people are used too.”
Pam said they serve a variety of homemade pizzas in the restaurant.
“Pizza is our specialty,” she added. “And we also have sandwiches, salads. We’ve kind of catered some to the gluten-free. So, we have gluten-free crusts, any of our sandwiches can be served in a lettuce wrap instead of on a bun.”
Specialty pizzas include Chicken Bacon Ranch, Hawaiian, Buffalo Chicken and 5 Meat plus several others.
“Our most popular one is the Chicken Bacon Ranch,” Chris said. “We make both the pizza sauce, the marinara base and the ranch dressing for all the salads and pizzas in-house.”
The couple, who employs 20 people at the restaurant, said they are thankful for their staff. The staff recently came up with innovative, creative pizza recipes: Jalapeno Popper Pizza, Sweet and Sour Chicken Pizza, Bacon Lovers Pickle Pizza and a Nacho Taco Pizza.
Bee’s Knees Ale House, 106 W. Jasper St. in Versailles, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Sunday offers an all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta buffet. For more information, call 573-539-2525 or visit beeskneesalehouse.wordpress.com.