Beer Wall on Penn

December 18, 2019
A self-serve beer joint acing customer service.
West Reading’s newest bar features self-serve beer, but don’t let that fool you, customer service is their number one priority. “The concept brings people in and great food brings them back, but customer service is what makes them regulars,” says co-owner Josh Stenchever. Heady Times sat down with the crew at Beer Wall on Penn to find out a little more about their business.
Heady Times (HT): How did you get into this industry?

Josh Stenchever (JS): I’ve always loved craft beer. I lived across the street from a craft beer bar in college that had a mix-a-6 option, and that was back in the day when not every bar had a lot of craft beer. When I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I ended up taking a job at that bar. I eventually transferred to their sister location in Reading and worked on becoming a Cicerone. While I was barbecuing for some friends one summer, my mother said, “You look happiest when you’re hosting and talking about beer.” So I ended up getting a job at a brewery.
HT: How did the idea for Beer Wall come about?
JS: The idea came from my business partner, Josue Matos. He was a business major at Albright College and had to create a business plan for a project. Someone in the class had just come back from California and had been to a self-serve bar, so Josue took the idea and ran with it. He ended up creating an LLC, turning his project into a business. I was at a crossroads with my job and I had the industry experience, so I joined him.
HT: What are the pros and cons of self-serve draught beer?
JS: This a bartenders’ draught beer system and if you’ve never poured on something like this, it can be difficult. If you don’t open the tap all the way, you’ll get a foamy beer. People can be intimidated at first.
I wanted the bar to be right by the door so everyone that walked in could be greeted by the bartender and given a little intro on how to use the system. The biggest issue is when it’s busy and we’re short on staff, it’s tough to show every single person how to pour a beer. That being said, the pros outweigh the cons.
Customers can pour a small amount of beer to sample before they commit to buying a whole beer. There are so many bars carrying a large variety of beers, and a lot of consumers are worried they won’t like what they get. The fact that people can control how much they pour means they don’t have to sit with a warm beer. They can pour 6 or 8 ounces, sit and enjoy it, then go back up and pour more when they are ready. Lastly, keg efficiency is a big plus. I’ve been working for bars for a long time. Most bars are at 85% keg efficiency at best. Our efficiency is 90-95% – everything that’s poured is accounted for. This allows us to maintain a fair price for what we’re selling.
HT: What is your beer selection like?
JS: We have 38 taps – 28 downstairs and 10 upstairs. We like to maintain a diverse selection. We have a series of domestics, because if you’ve been drinking a lager for 30 years, who am I to tell you to start drinking IPAs? Our goal was to make everyone who walked through the door feel comfortable that there was something for them to drink. We also offer consistently priced craft classics, like Dogfish Head. Finally, we have one-offs and limited releases. Staying well-rounded is important in today’s craft beer platform because no two beer drinkers are alike. • 619 Penn Ave, West Reading • 610-743-5744
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