Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bier Station taps into Armour Hills

Bier Station taps into Armour Hills.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Bier Station is hoping to be your next stop.
You want a taste?" John Couture asks, gesturing to a line of 21 taps. He reaches for a small, silo-shaped glass.

I do. And I'm not alone - there has been a constant flow of curious drinkers at Bier Station, the Armour Hills bottle shop and craft-beer bar that Couture opened in late December.

"We opened on a Saturday, and when my wife pulled into the parking lot, there were people sitting in idling cars waiting to get in," Couture says. "It's been steady during the day, and then as soon as people get off work, it's, like, boom."

Part of why the place feels busy is that the bar itself - with its meadow-green backsplash and an appealing look designed to mirror Marienplatz, a train station in Munich - is the only place to get service here. Bier Station has forsaken waitstaff in favor of full-tilt beer geekery. A hand-lettered chalkboard explains how the shop works: Draft and bottled beer are poured on-site, and bottled beer is also available to-go.

The bottles are stored in a row of coolers, with laminated tags on the shelves providing descriptions of each beer and recommended food pairings. Beer by the glass is priced as it would be at most other bars around town, and six-packs to-go cost what they might at a liquor store, with one exception.

"We've really focused on trying to keep our pricing down for our bombers and 750 ml bottles," Couture says. "We want people to be able to sample and share."

What you sample or share falls to Brad Isch. Couture has hired the former Royal Liquor manager to help curate the beer coolers and taps. Isch's longstanding relationships with distributors and breweries have already brought Bier Station limited releases from regional breweries, such as St. Louis' 4 Hands Brewing Co. The 21st tap, which Isch has nicknamed "the wild one," isn't listed on the rotating menu board. He intends to stock it with small-run barrels and styles meant to push beer drinkers' boundaries. The tap system, installed by Boulevard, is built to hold as many as 40 taps.

"Our goal is to have fun, rotate the taps and make sure you can always find something new," Isch says.

"Brad has a fantastic eye for the unusual," Couture adds.

So do the customers so far.

"The craft-beer demographic is much wider than I expected," Couture says. "We had this die-hard beer-geek grandma in here the other night grabbing these obscure Belgian beers."

Couture mans the board at Bier Station.
Bavarian-style pretzels hang from opaque pegs behind a Lucite window in the small kitchen just off the bar, a display made by Farm to Market, which also makes the edi-ble pretzels that can be ordered here. A jalapeño-cheddar version is an early top seller, as is a dipping sauce made with Deschutes Obsidian Stout and Dijon mustard. (The other dips: cheese, garlic aïoli, and yellow mustard.) Bier Station also has a cheese-and-charcuterie plate, designed by Paris Brothers. Couture says he plans to add a few light lunch options.

On a January Thursday, Couture hands me a tulip glass of Evil Twin Über Tart, a Shirley Temple - colored sour beer. The half-dozen or so patrons in the room are putting off their after-lunch return to work or conducting a deal over a cold one. Couture and Jake Iversen are behind the bar pouring samples, eager to find out about their customers and the beers they prefer.

It's a little after 4 p.m., and Bier Station is starting to get crowded. Between pours, Couture chats with a woman from Pittsburgh. Her husband is interviewing with the Kansas City Chiefs, and she's here on a recommendation from a Flying Saucer bartender. A few seats down, two men in baseball caps lament the Chiefs' performance this season. All of them could be sharing a bench in a busy train station. The men move on from football to debate the hop profile of what they're drinking. It's the kind of conversation you can have when there's no train to catch.

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