COPLEY TWP. — At the BrewWall, there's no waiting to order a drink.
Want one? Just walk over to one of the 45 stainless steel taps filled with craft beer, cider and wine and pour it yourself.
"We call it freedom to pour," co-owner Vince LoSchiavo said. "We want it to be an experience where it's not coming here to just drink beer and eat pizza."
The self-serve bar-restaurant — it's connected to an Antonio's Pizza, 3161 Heritage Center Drive, and was launched by the LoSchiavo family behind the Brunswick-based pizza chain — is the first of its kind in the Akron area. It quietly opened last week and has been entertaining customers with its unusual pour-your-own concept, not to mention its no tipping policy. A private grand opening is set for Saturday.
The BrewWall name is appropriate.
The centerpiece is a giant wall of taps that employs an iPourIt system. Underneath the taps are different styles of glasses ready to grab. Above each tap is an electronic display showcasing the brewery and beer, the alcohol content, the international bitterness units, the type of glass that should be used and the cost per ounce.
Yes, customers don't pay by the glass, but by how many ounces they pour. Each beer has a different cost per ounce.
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold goes for 0.333 cents or $5.28 a pint. Melvin 2x4 Double IPA sells for 0.516 or $8.25 a pint. The BrewWall Light — there's no Bud Light or Miller Lite on the wall — is a thrifty 0.19 cents or $3.04 a pint. (The LoSchiavo family declined to say which local brewery is producing the BrewWall Light for them.)
While wines such as Moletto Pinot Grigio and Diseno Malbec, ciders, liquor and craft sodas are available, the king at the BrewWall is craft beer. The beer wall will offer a rotating selection of brands and styles.
How it works
Here's how the self-serve process works: Customers are greeted and have their credit cards linked to a wristband, which looks like a watch. After being seated at either the high-top communal tables, low-top tables or on the outside patio, they are free to order food from a counter, look over the "beer wall" or turn to a "tapologist" — a term Antonio's made up — with any beer questions.
LoSchiavo, who launched the concept with his father, Fred, and brother Anthony, likened the tapologist to the "Genius Bar" at an Apple Store. The tapologists, who wear black aprons, are being trained as certified cicerones, beer experts who are similar to sommeliers for wine.
When customers choose a beer, they grab the right glass, wave the wristband in front of the electronic display and pour. The wristband keeps track of the amount.
People can pour a full glass, half a glass or a couple of ounces — and repeat the process whenever they want. It gives customers the freedom to sample as many different beers as they want or stick with their favorites.
The wristband limits customers to 32 ounces at a time because the BrewWall wants to make sure people are not over-serving themselves. A tapologist can increase the amount when the cap is hit.
At the end of the visit, customers hand over the wristband and pay by credit card or with cash.
So far, the pour-your-own experience has been a big hit.
"It's a neat idea, having all the choices and being able to have a full glass or half glass," customer Ian Stringer, 33, of Cleveland Heights said this week as he sipped on a Masthead Falling Fruit.
He said he liked the option of not having to order a full glass.
The pour-your-own concept isn't the only unusual experience at the BrewWall. The bar-restaurant also has a no tipping policy.
LoSchiavo said the BrewWall pays its employees more so customers don't have to tip. Those potential tips can be used to buy more beer, he said.
"Some people won't care and they'll say this guy took care of me and they'll throw $5 or $10 and we're OK with that but we want the customers to know you don't have to tip," Fred LoSchiavo said.
The LoSchiavo family is so high on the concept that they envision more BrewWalls opening in the future.
"It's the prototype for what we want to do," Fred LoSchiavo said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickabj.