- October 20, 2020
Getting By With A Little Help From Their Friends
The Beer Yard in Wayne is a hidden treasure – and not just because the local Starbucks blocks the view from the street. When owner Matt Guyer took over in 1998, the store quickly became a haven for lovers of hard-to-find beers, with such luminaries as Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Rob Tod of Allagash and Dan Weirback of Weyerbacher dropping by to host tastings. We sat down with Matt in August to talk about beer education and how travel (and a friendly attitude) go a long way.
Heady Times (HT): How did you get started in beer?
Matt Guyer (MG): I had a job where I traveled a lot and no one else on the crew wanted to go out. I started going to brewpubs because everyone was so friendly. That’s how I got introduced to all the different styles out there.
I started working here for [former owner] Buzz Ordonio in August of ’97 and bought The Beer Yard in June of ’98.
HT: The Beer Yard has always been focused on craft & imports. What was the inspiration there and how do you stay competitive?
MG: The imports really came from customer requests. People would come in looking for a beer and I’d make a few calls. If I could find it, I’d order a case for them and a case for the store and it snowballed from there.
Buzz had a nice selection of local crafts when I bought the place. But then I started going to places like Monk’s Cafe and Sly Fox, tasting and learning about beer. I’d read about it too. It kind of grew from there.
A lot of our success comes down to our reputation. We’ve got a really good staff. But it’s definitely more difficult than even 8 or 10 years ago. Then, if something special came in, there were probably only four of us that wanted it. Now 400 people want it.
HT: You and your staff are known for your beer knowledge. How do you encourage them to keep learning?
MG: We taste a lot of beer. I’ll buy [the staff] gift cards to different breweries and restaurants in the area and tell them to go experience these places. We have customers who will bring us back beer from their travels. A couple of the guys on my staff went through the Cicerone Certification process on their own. We’re very fortunate to attract a lot of good people.
Personally, I travel quite a bit, to Belgium and Germany. But it’s just going out, trying things, visiting new places. Things like that are important because I’ve become friends with the people at these places, and they send me customers. I don’t do it for that reason, that’s just the way I am. I’ve had people in Belgium send me customers. People tell me, “I was at this little bar in Bruges and someone told me to come to you.” It’s a very personable business.
HT: How has the Beer Yard adapted to the era of COVID-19?
MG: We do a lot more curbside orders (which the customers love), phone orders and a little bit more delivery. We limit the number of people in the store, we sanitize at night, wear masks and request that customers do too (99.9% of them do). We reach customers on Facebook and Instagram to let them know what we have. We don’t do first come, first serve on special releases anymore, everyone goes on a list, they get a number.
We’ve had to make adjustments, but in comparison to other businesses, I think beer distributors got off pretty easy. And I have so much sympathy for the on-premise.
HT: Are you planning for the holidays yet?
MG: It’s tough right now. We just have to watch, but nothing too crazy. Staff up a little more, work a little longer. There are a lot of the great regular holiday beers coming out. The oddballs are a little tougher to find, but hopefully that’s something that’ll change.
HT: How has Origlio helped your business over the years?
MG: It’s their personnel, that’s how they help. I’ve had very good reps. Linda [Ashbee]’s great. If there’s ever an issue, I just call her up. Ethan [Peiffer] worked for me when he was in college, and Bryan Griffin started the same week I did. The people in the office have been great, the drivers are very helpful. They make it easy. Usually. [laughs].
BeerYard.com • 218 Lancaster Ave., Wayne • 610-688-3431