State

Mo’s Place: A little piece of ‘Cheers’ on the Kansas plains

The tiny town of Beaver in Barton County can barely claim two dozen residents.

But the population inside Mo’s Place easily swells to at least double that on Friday and Saturday nights.

The owners — Austin Bell and Dale Kaiser – are prodigal sons with roots going back in the area for at least three generations.

Think of this friendly little oasis as the “Cheers” in the middle of nowhere.

It’s filled with seven kinds of crafted beers, great food and camaraderie where customers seldom leave without hugs and everybody knowing your name.

“It’s real different for where it is at,” said Seth Bittel of Hoisington, who was a college roommate of Bell’s. “It’s worth driving for. The food is great.”

He and his wife, Stefanie, drove 15 miles from Hoisington that night. No great distance by western Kansas definitions, but out here, friendship and loyalty matter.

“It’s the first time we’ve been here since they had their draft beers,” Stefanie Bittel said. “So last time, we ate the good food.

“This time we came for the beer.”

How Mo’s began

In 1999, Mo’s began as a dream.

That’s when Leonard (Len) and Linda Moeder left the madcap world of California’s Silicon Valley in search for a more creative, laid-back lifestyle.

He was from Hoisington. She wasn’t.

They realized they could buy a home for $7,000 and a bar for $30,000 in Beaver. They bought both, sight unseen.

“We didn’t start the brewery until 2004 because you had to be resident of Kansas for four years in order to get the beer license,” Linda Moeder said. “Back then, it was a local bar that served food and was a 3.2 bar.”

They thought about naming their new establishment the L&L, after the first two initials of their first names — Len and Linda.

But in Hollyrood — a town 17 miles from Beaver — there is the Big L&L Cafe.

“So, we used the first two letters of our married name and it’s also the first two letters of my maiden name,” Linda Moeder said. “That’s where the name came from.”

For years, the couple didn’t do any traditional advertising. A computer printout reading “Mo’s” was taped to one of the windows letting customers know they had arrived.

“We also did do a printout announcing the noon special for up to two weeks, and we did sponsor some of the local football and sporting things,” Linda Moeder said. “But basically, the only time we ever ran an ad was when we closed for vacation.”

But word of mouth spread that things were happening in Beaver.

“We were blessed, we had a great business,” Linda Moeder said. The couple retired and closed Mo’s in 2014. He is 71; she is 57.

“We started out slow and small and grew (the business) like a big, old monster as the years went on,” Linda Moeder said.

New hands

It was Austin Bell’s grandmother, Loretta Morgenstern of Hoisington, who first told him about a microbrewery in Beaver when Mo’s Place first opened.

“I thought she was crazy,” Bell said. “She was talking about this brewery and sure enough we got here and my grandmother was sitting at this table drinking a flight of beers, and I thought, ‘Darn, it is a brewery.’ ”

It was then, Bell said, he felt a connection. Through the next decade, he would occasionally return.

“I always liked coming out here,” he said.

But there was a girlfriend and a job teaching in Kansas City and a local bar he worked at, the Fric and Frac, in Westport. His best buddy, Kaiser, also worked at the bar.

Kaiser told him, “If you want to go out there and open that bar, I’ll go with you.”

Events began to unfold — he broke up with his girlfriend, and he became burned out in his job. A closed microbrewery in the middle of nowhere was suddenly calling.

Kaiser, who grew up in Great Bend, was anxious to return to his roots. His grandparents, Joe and Mary Kaiser, were from Beaver. He also had worked as a cook and bartender at Fric and Frac for 21 years.

“I worked really hard and had a lot of people ask, ‘Why don’t you get your own place?’ ” Kaiser said. “Well, I didn’t think I could afford a place.

“But this little brewery came up with a bar and grill and it was … at a price that would have been unheard of in Kansas City.”

And the Moeders were ready to sell. After closing the microbrewery and having it listed for 14 months, the Moeders sold the business to Bell and Kaiser in 2016 for about $60,000 and have since been teaching the two friends how to make beer.

The Moeders still grow the hops for the beer in a garden that’s kitty-corner to the bar.

A gathering spot

Mo’s Place proudly proclaims it is home of the Beaver Brewery.

Sure, you can drink iced tea, coffee and soda pop or even buy commercial beers from bottles and cans if you want — but why?

And then, there is the food – crispy homemade onion rings and hand-cut fries, friend bologna sandwiches and burgers with names like “The Tommy Rocket,” which comes with hot pepper jack and American cheese, grilled jalapenos and a hot dog on top.

Friday and Saturday nights are steak nights. The meat is local, purchased from the Ellinwood Packing Plant.

Customers come by word of mouth, some stopping in during trips from Kansas City to Denver. One Czech man was riding his bicycle from New York to San Diego and dropped by earlier this summer.

“He didn’t speak much English,” Bell said. “He had a backpack, sleeping bag and a little teddy bear

“He was riding on these two-lane roads where there wasn’t much traffic and found the place.”

Beaver is roughly a 30-minute drive from I-70 near Russell and two hours northwest of Wichita.

Loyal customers include Erika Nelson, operator of World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum in Lucas.

“I’m so glad they reopened and so glad they kept the recipes because Len and Linda worked so hard to build this place,” said Nelson, who spent a recent birthday celebrating at Mo’s. It’s roughly 40 miles from Lucas to Beaver.

When Bell and Kaiser reopened the brewery, “They honored the locals and at the same time started something new,” Nelson said. “When these guys stepped up, we were all like, ‘Please, don’t change anything unless it really needs it.’

“Their additions have been perfect. They are enthusiastic. They know their craft, and they are young.”

A culture to thrive

The population and culture in Kansas, particularly in places like Barton County during the mid-19th century, was largely European immigrants, many of whom brought their drinking customs and traditions with them. They believed a good beer at the end of a long day was a God-given right.

Those pioneering families passed the traditions on.

“I’m glad they opened back up,” Tom Prosser said of Mo’s Place. “When you get done working, it is a good place to come.

“We’ll roll in about 4 and have a beer and head on home. It’s a cool little place.”

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

Mo’s Place

To get to Beaver, turn north off K-4 at Redwing and go roughly eight miles. Mo’s Place is open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Call 620-587-2350 for more information or to make a reservation, which are encouraged. Mo’s is about 130 miles from Wichita.

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