Occasionally you stumble upon an idea so grand and yet so simple that you wonder why or how no one had pulled it off before. A combined liquor store and bar happens to be one of those ideas. Beer for here … and beer to go? Some brewpubs have growlers to go. Some bars can sell some beer to go. But a full-fledged tasting bar and liquor store? Perfect.
John Couture had that idea, and he calls it Bier Station. His concept for a one-stop beer Mecca — right in my neighborhood at Gregory and Rockhill, no less — has me giddy. When I passed along the info to the other Beer Scouts, most of whom also live between the Plaza and 85th Street, their reaction was much like mine.
This isn’t completely novel, but Kansas City certainly hasn’t seen it before. Dr Roxxo lived in Arizona for a number of years, and when I paid him a visit, we drank at a similar establishment named Papago in Scottsdale. Featuring a limited food menu, cooler cases full of craft beer spanning the rear wall to drink there or take home, and a modest number of draft beers, it was an exotic beer paradise. It also resembles much of what John has in mind for Bier Station.
It hasn’t been an easy track, though. The city council had to change the liquor laws to allow more than 20 percent of the beer sold to leave the premises. That was done in August. Signatures from neighbors had to be gathered for the new license. That’s done, too. From his recent Facebook posts and the Beer Scouts visit in early December, there’s not a whole lot left to do.
When we met with John, the tap wall inspired by a German U-Bahn station had just been installed, and a fresh coat of polyurethane had been applied to the bar. The tiles of the wall were created by hand at the KC Clay Guild, just down the street in Waldo. The benches were handcrafted by a neighbor. The logo designed by a friend. The local community feel will extend to the food options that include locally sourced charcuterie and cheeses, and pretzels from Farm to Market Bread.
The rest of the locals will be able to leave their stamp on the Bier Station, also. Two “social taps” will be designated and filled by the patrons. One of these will be voted on via social media. Some choices will be offered up within some sort of category (say, California IPAs) and the top vote-getter will roll in. The other social tap will come via a drawing. Put in your name, and if you’re drawn, you pick the next beer. Oh, and you get pints at a discount while your keg lasts.
Above the bar will hang an electronic board announcing the current beers. Think the arriving/departing boards at a train station. So no more searching thru outdated menus where you never know if they actually have what’s printed. (I’m looking at you, Swagger.) When a keg blows, the next arriving beer will flip onto the board. The Bier Station will also offer a bier garden. It will be in a semi-covered space on the roof with long tables and a mural of Electric Park. The bier garden may not be ready when the gates open on Bier Station, but once it is ready, the garden will be open year round.
The service will be a bit different. There will not be any wait staff, just “beertender geeks,” who will be serving up draws at the bar, or walking the floor with mobile-checkout devices. That way, there won’t be a long queue at the bar to buy a sixer to go. They cannot sell growlers to go, unfortunately. So only packaged beer can leave the Station. The initial stock will be about one-third imported beer and two-thirds American craft beer, with one case full of yellow fizzies. Hours will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. There will be free wi-fi for any freelancers or stay-at-home parent who might need a pretzel and hefeweizen for lunch.
Bier Station has a few more inspections to pass before they open their doors. As soon as they do, there will be one more good beer destination in what is becoming a fully stocked area in Brookside and Waldo. It also immediately becomes the go-to bottle shop between Gomer’s Midtown and Royal on 103rd. These are two more reasons the Beer Scouts will be frequent travelers to the Bier Station.