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!

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