Friday, October 26, 2012

Bier Station - Raising the Bar

If the law doesn't allow you to do what you want, then make the law change. Though it sounds like a bad Western movie tagline, that’s the attitude Kansas Citian John Couture took as he conceptualized, planned and jumped through hoops to create Bier Station, soon to be Kansas City’s newest and potentially most innovative beer bar yet.

Couture envisioned a unique dual bottle shop and beer tasting bar, but Kansas City ordinances capped ‘to go’ beer sales at 20% for bars. Couture pressed on. After pleading his case and pushing the powers-that-be, he was able to influence them to amend the ordinance, increase that cap to 40% and create a new combination liquor license that allowed the Bier Station dream to become a reality, and for Kansas City to be the home of the Midwest’s first bottle shop and tasting bar.

But the big ideas for Bier Station don’t end at the ability to drink on-site or take your beer to go. Couture envisions Bier Station as a location that puts major focus on the customer and beer drinkers as a community. For example, one handle will be designated the ‘Social Media Tap’, and the beer rotation for that tap will be decided via customer votes on Facebook polls, tweets, etc. Couture plans to fully utilize social media to keep his customers informed, up-to-date, and interact to get feedback and suggestions.

Bier Station will start with 20 taps, with the ability to expand up to 40, while 11 cooler banks will house various large format bottles and packaged beer. Two price points will be available for cooler products; a standard retail price if you are taking the  item(s) to go, and a higher “for here” price if you want Bier Station to open your bottle to allow you to enjoy it on premises. Staff will be able to ring up “to go” customers via a mobile tablet system, to avoid a bottleneck (pun kind of intended) at the bar area register.

And rest assured the beer list for Bier Station was not simply thrown together. In fact, Couture enlisted the help of local Royal Liquor beer manager Brad Isch to help plan what Bier Station would initially offer. If you know Brad and his passion for beer, then you know that this is an excellent sign of what’s to come. It was noted that one of the ideas that came courtesy of Brad was to have a constant “Wild Thing” tap, which will always house a sour/wild ale/Brett beer. Couture said that there will be an emphasis on rotation and having beer on tap that you normally wouldn't see in beer bars around KC.

And don’t worry about outdated paper beer lists, or skimming the tap line to see if it actually matches up with what’s printed. Bier Station will feature a large, digital tap list displayed on an LCD screen that will update instantly when beers are pulled or switched out. It’s worth mentioning that though the phrase ‘tasting bar’ might get thrown out to describe Bier Station, take it with a grain of salt. While the bar/shop WILL offer 4 ounce “tasting” pours, patrons aren't limited to small tasters or flights.

Visually, Couture is determined to set Bier Station apart as well. His idea is to design the space to resemble a German train stop (get it, Bier STATION?). A wall map will point out notable cities in Germany, while the previously mentioned digital tap list will be designed to look like an arrival/departure time board. Expect to see handmade communal tables made from recovered wood, and there will be an upstairs beer garden with garage doors that can be opened up in warmer weather.

Additionally, Couture plans to offer a small selection of food items that will feature products like Farm to Market flavored soft pretzels, cupcakes from 3 Girls Cupcakes, and more. Couture intends to work with a chef consultant to develop a specific pairing menu.

Couture continually emphasized the fact that he wants to be receptive to any customer suggestions, comments and feedback. He’s even encouraging future patrons to make suggestions now, before Bier Station is officially open, so he can make sure the bar is truly created for the people, by the people. To directly quote John, he wants Bier Station to be “approachable for everybody.”

When can you actually head to Bier Station (which will be located off Gregory and Main, a couple blocks west of Governor Stumpy’s) and enjoy all this amazing stuff I've rambled on about? I asked John what his realistic open date would be, while emphasizing the word realistic and giving him my ‘serious’ look. He expects mid-December to be a realistic potential opening time, possibly early December if things go especially smoothly during the last parts of construction, line set-up, etc.

So it looks like Kansas City will be getting an early Christmas present in the form of an innovative, community-driven beer bar and bottle shop that is the first of its kind, not only in the city, but in the region. For once, I can say that Santa will definitely be bringing me what I wanted.

Make sure to check out Bier Station on Facebook and offer up any suggestions you have. I promise, John asked for them!


  1. I thought Pat was writing Doogie Howser 2012 style on his phone at the bar last night, turns out he was writing this. Unless it was his mobile diary.

  2. I was actually writing a Xanga post, Mayson.

  3. I suspected that based on your neon font. Bier Station sounds awesome. Can't wait until it opens.

  4. As long as Swagger's isn't in anyway involved with this place, it could turn out to be super awesome!

  5. I have known John a number of years and can attest to the following:

    he is a class act;

    he is also a dedicated hop-head; his backyard parties have long featured 1.) his dad on banjo and 2.) his own excellent home brews;

    he is as professional as they come - i predict bier station will become a kc institution within 2 years.

    kansas city - you have no idea how lucky you are about to get.

  6. As a big fan of railroads, bier and Waldo, this is great news! If the prices are reasonable and the food pairings are good, count me in!

  7. Been to joints like this in Austin and Knoxville, TN of all places. The laws in TX are so nutty, I'm surprised they were able to pull it off down there before KC.

    It's a cool concept. Looking forward to it.

  8. Interesting concept. I like the idea. Now to have a legit and proper micro brew pub open too. Free State in Lawrence is the closest thing to the metro. Their beer is well above average. Not smash hit or stellar but pretty good. Food is quite delicious. Bring that to KC and we've got a winner.

    I was in Sioux Falls, SD over the weekend. They have this place there called Monk's. Best beer bar of its kind I am aware of. When was the last time you went to a local pub that had actual casks. Casks on tap? An oud bruin on tap? A place selling growlers?

    Some place ballsy enough to not even carry an InBev product either tap or bottle. That's my dream.

    I hope the Bier Station vision pans out. That's awesome.

  9. Anonymous, you are aware that McCoy's and 75th Street exist, right? McCoy's has been experimenting with cask ales (that they even serve on tap), sours, and other special releases in recent years- much more than Free State. They also sell growlers! Want an Oud Bruin on tap? I've seen that style at many bars around town. Lots of places also tap firkins regularly.

    I know our local options don't compare to St. Louis, or many cities for that matter, but we aren't completely devoid of brewpubs and beer bars. It seems your KC beer journey has been somewhat misguided. That, or you just haven't been going to any of the beer bars in town that regularly offer the very products you long for.

    With all that said- I'm really looking forward to visiting this addition to our city!

  10. 12:55, no I wasn't aware of this. They should advertise better. Seriously. I never heard of it.

  11. It's almost mid-December. Any update on their opening date?

  12. Beerbo, last I heard from one of the employees there was that they were looking at a soft opening next week, I'll check with John and verify!

  13. Pat, I just rode by the place this afternoon and it's not open yet. I didn't stop in to ask when opening day is.

  14. At this point its up to the city. John can't predict when there permits will arrive, but as soon as they do I'm sure he will post opening info on the Bier Station Facebook account. No one is more excited to get this place open than John. Until he has a Liquor License, there's not much he can do.