The list of Kansas City’s BBQ legends reads like a baseball All-Star roster: Henry Perry, Arthur Bryant, George Gates, Jack Fiorella, among others. You don’t have to look very hard today to find the descendants and heirs and countless individuals who continue to be inspired by those storied names and familiar sauces.
As two guys born and raised in KC, we always tip our hats when we drive by Gates, Arthur Bryant’s or LC’s BBQ location, where we cut our teeth on ribs, brisket, beans, and fries (extra crispy, please).
So from time to time, KC Natural would like to honor those little known and praised for their contributions in this blog KC Naturals BBQ All-Stars. In this entry, we praise the late Dr. Harry Berrier, who proved that you don’t have to win contests to build a reputation, you just need a good sauce…
Dr. Harry Berrier – the Original DIY BBQ Guy
When a consumer cannot find what they are looking for on the shelf, they often have to take matters into their own hands. Such was the case with our own KC Natural BBQ Sauce, and our first KC Natural BBQ All-Star, Dr. Harry Berrier. Dr. Berrier was a professor of veterinary studies at the University of Missouri in the early 1970’s when he began experimenting in his kitchen to make a different kind of BBQ sauce. A scientist by passion and profession, he was unsatisfied with the selection of big manufactured sauces on his local grocery shelves. He is quoted as saying that BBQ sauces of today are full of “junk” fillers such as cellulose and corn starch. Wanting to make a simple and sustainable BBQ sauce, he mastered his challenge by perfecting a ph level that would inhibit bacterial growth and still preserve his sauce. Legend has it that he was inspired by a trip to Kansas City to start making his own blend. He continued to teach at the University of Missouri by day and then focused on making and bottling his BBQ sauce at night. He employed the help of his wife Lina, and neighborhood kids, who helped turn his basement into a solid business by gallons at a time for the next 30+years.
Dr. Harry Berrier proved to not only be a great professor turned BBQ saucer, but also a natural salesman. Along with local and regional grocery sales, Harry performed direct marketing sales by COD to customers all over the states and as far away as Japan. His “Show-Me-BAR-B-Q” sauce was rumored to have toured nightly with The Greatful Dead, and was a favorite of playwrite Neil Simon. Through all of Harry’s success he never paid for advertisement, accepted credit cards for payment, or entered a BBQ contest. By turning down requests for distribution and acquisition by the same big manufacturers that motivated him, Berrier proved the Little Guy can be successful armed with nothing more than a great product.
Dr. Harry Berrier continued to make and distribute BBQ sauce from his basement until his passing in 2013, at the age of 95. “I only use pure ingredient’s” Dr. Berrier is quoted as saying. Show-Me-BAR-B-Q is still fondly remembered for its unique sweet and smoky balance from the mouths of those lucky enough to have gotten a bottle of Dr. Harry Berrier’s Internationally praised home batch BBQ sauce.
As we continue our journey, making BBQ sauce recipes that start in our kitchen, we won’t forget Harry’s mission to keep the “junk” out of our sauce varieties. Stay tuned for more stories about BBQ All-Stars from the Kansas City area, and all over the world. If you have a story about a BBQ hero – famous, or your mom or dad, use our contact page to let us know! We would love to share more stories about unique people who have made an impact from behind the grill or through a haze of hickory smoke!
Jason & Brendon