Saying Goodbye to Bier Station

There are some iconic landmarks in Brookside and Waldo…places like Waldo Pizza, Roasterie Coffee, the Piano Room, McLain’s Bakery, Charlie Hoopers…and many more.  It’s what makes our neighborhood unique; these are not cookie cutter chains.    They are the kind of locally owned spots that you always enjoy going to; a place where you bring visitors and meet friends; often a place where the staff is consistent or you bump into someone you know.   One of our landmarks is changing hands next year: Bier Station

I first wrote about Bier Station ten years ago, shortly before it opened.  Owner John Couture was at the very beginning of the craft beer explosion: he offered 21 taps of fresh, rotating beers and hundreds of bottled options for customers to create their own personalized six packs. He and his family lived close by, and welcomed kids who stopped in with their parents, offering games and puzzles. Eventually John added more food selections and an outdoor patio.  The neighborhood embraced and supported Bier Station; it was becoming a landmark.

Naty Cardenas, left, and Bier Station owner John Couture

John did more than just sell beer; he started hosting events that supported local candidates and non-profit causes he believed in.  Bier Station initiated Q&A sessions with our local city council reps, fundraisers for Animal Rescue Alliance,  Moms Demand Action, homeless teen parents and various candidates for office; there were comedy nights, silent auctions and the infamous Josh Hawley Fun Run – the money raised from that event went to causes that the conservative Missouri senator is against.  John has always been an activist at heart, and he invited the community to participate and make a difference, as they enjoyed a beverage and conversation.

When I visited with John last week, he emphasized how much he’s enjoyed having Bier Station but it was time to move on.  “During the past decade, people’s drinking habits have changed.  There were just a couple of craft beer places in KC when I opened; now there are at least 30 or 40 options.  I’m proud to have opened the first craft beer/ tasting bar /bottle shop in the Midwest.  The bar has won many national awards and we’ve raised over $300,000 for non profit causes and civic campaigns”.  One of the events he’s most proud of:  working with the dean of Pharmacy at KU to host a COVID 19 vaccine clinic last year, vaccinating over 1000 people.  And in December 2020 when vandals smashed the front door of the building, locals came by with envelopes of money to help pay for the repair: McLain’s brought over goodies for the staff and business surged in support. “Our customers really are the best!  They are very friendly, very generous with tips and they get to know our staff.  Several close friendships between staff and patrons have developed over the years.”

City Barrel Brewery and Kitchen has purchased Bier Station and has a few changes planned: they will serve New York style pizza and redo the patio out front, adding a roof.  There will still sell beer to go and have several local brews on tap. As for John, he is taking some time off- his family is “very excited” to see more of him as he figures out next steps that will include some sort of political activism.  In the meantime, John invites you to stop in and enjoy a brew and  say goodbye before Bier Station changes hands. There is a big staff reunion on Monday Dec 19 and a final celebration on New Year’s Eve—the last night of Bier Station. Mark your calendar! Bier Station is located at 120 E. Gregory. Thank you John, and Bier Station, for all you have done for our neighborhood and community!

All Aboard for Bier Station in Brookside!

I love Bier Station.  I don’t like beer.  But I will support this new local business in Armour Hills by drinking a brew there every so often…and my husband will be a frequent visitor!  When we stopped by on New Year’s Eve to check it out, the bartender poured me a beer sample that I actually liked, after I told him I wasn’t a beer drinker.   Now that’s customer service!

John Couture (left) and beer manager Brad Isch

John Couture (left) and beer manager Brad Isch

All of Brookside is welcoming this new bar at 120 E Gregory.  Business has been great, especially on the weekends.  Local owner (and Rockhill Gardens resident) John Couture is very excited about his new beer crib and so thankful for the enthusiastic reception from the neighborhood. It’s not a huge bar, but that works to it’s advantage–just the right size to mingle with those you don’t know, strike up new friendships and talk about the ever-changing beer product. I think eventually it will be like Target–every time you stop in, you see someone you know!

This is a craft beer/tasting bar/bottle shop operation where the big attraction is the rotating inventory.  Sign up for their updates on Twitter and Facebook to stay on top of what’s new and fresh–it changes daily, several times a day.  The bar offers 21 taps, including a ‘wild’ tap that specializes in sours and wild ales.  John has hired people who know the product and you might recognize their faces:  employees  from SRO Video and Waldo Pizza.  Sitting at the bar, you’ll see many style of glasses, each one suited for the individual beer’s character, so it’s served in the correct glass for maximum flavor.  Brad Isch is the full-time beer manager. 

There are a couple of things I really appreciate about Bier Station–and I suppose this comes from my female perspective.  The first is the place isn’t overrun with televisions.  There are two posted on either end of the bar–enough to keep up with the game, not too distracting.   In the upstairs beer garden–no TVs!  Just long picnic tables with a relaxed feeling, perfect for conversation (check out the wall mural–it’s a photo  of the Heim Brewery in Electric Park, in KC’s East Bottoms, circa 1900).  During the warmer months, John will open up the large windows, creating an open air second story patio.  And the second thing I like is the vibe:  John or his staff greets everyone, asks patrons for their opinions, children are welcome before 8pm (yep, he stocks juice boxes!) and it has that true neighborhood small bar feel…almost like a corner pub in England or Chicago.  You’ll find beer drinkers of all ages here–John says he sees customers range in age from  25-65, and all fit in.

Upstairs beer garden with mural

Upstairs beer garden with mural

A few other quick notes:  local business Farm to Market supplies the fresh pretzels — they are delicious!  Customers can create their own 4 or 6 pack of beer to go from the huge cooler that takes up a full wall–allow plenty of time to check out the selection before you buy.

Welcome Bier Station, to Brookside!  Another home-grown, local business we look forward to supporting!

Locally Owned Craft Beer Bar Proposed for Brookside

John Couture

Remember this face?  Longtime Brookside residents will…it’s John Couture, former employee  of SRO Video.  It was so much fun to stop in that store, let the kids play with the rubber animals and browse the videos.  The staff was always friendly and knowledgeable.  SRO has been closed for a few years…but John is proposing an exciting new operation for Brookside–a craft beer bar/restaurant at the intersection of Gregory and Rockhill.

John met with the Armour Hills Homes Association board last night as the venue would be in Armour Hills at 120 E Gregory. He wanted to explain the concept, answer any questions we had  about his proposed operation and hear our opinions on a few issues.  Although it is the position of the AH board to not take a  position on  issues such as this, we all were impressed with John’s enthusiasm and commitment to being a good neighbor in Armour Hills. 

The Bier Station will offer high quality craft beers for purchase and consumption on site.  John described it as a ‘tasting bar /bottle shop’ — similar to a wine bar, with international beers on tap and some packaged beer for take out purchase. He’s committed to partnering with locally owned businesses, such as Farm to Market Bread Company for the soft  pretzels.  Other menu items will include  cheese plates, sandwiches and desserts.  Capacity will be under 100 persons, proposed hours are Monday-Thursday 11am-11pm and Friday – Saturday 11am-midnight.  There will be a partially enclosed rooftop area, possibly some lighter live music, and a ‘contemporary and European art deco’ decor with long picnic tables to encourage conversation with other beer drinkers.  John  hopes  neighborhood residents to walk or bike to the Bier Station, welcoming kids too  as the parents stop for a cold brew.

The concept sounds great, something different for the area:  a casual, comfortable  place for beer lovers to grab a beverage, enjoy a light meal and chat with friends.  He promises  all  employees will know about the craft beers served, and which beers pair up with various menu offerings.  It’s not a done deal yet, though.  John is asking KCMO for a parking variance for the site (although he does have the ok from nearby Townsend Publications to use their parking lot evenings and weekends) and he is still working out a lease agreement with the landlord.  If all goes according to plan, the Bier Station will open in December.

John grew up in KC, is a Rockhill Gardens resident and a graduate of the Kaufman Urban Entrepreneur program.  And he is committed to not only providing a quality, service oriented establishment but promises to ‘always’ be responsive to any neighborhood concerns.  Even though I’m not a beer drinker, I’m always supportive of locally owned, neighborhood friendly businesses and look forward to welcoming John and the Bier Station  to Brookside!