Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

At last: A hotel chain with a chief beer officer

By William Brand
Tuesday, November 13th, 2007 at 8:31 pm in Uncategorized.

Ever been stuck somewhere in one of those corporate hotel, on a business trip or while traveling. It’s evening, you finally have an hour free. The hotel’s by a freeway or an airport. There’s no place to even walk to — but the hotel has a bar.

So you wander in, hoping for perhaps a great local beer, even if this is hell-and-gone. What do you get: BudMillerCoors, served in a frozen glass.

Well, here’s a breath of fresh air: 4 Points at Sheraton, the nationwide mid-priced hotel chain has hired a “Chief Beer Officer.” Honest, this is true. He’s Scott Kerkmans, a former brewer at Alaskan and at Kelly’s. a brewpub in Albuquerque.

Scott Kerkmans, 4 Points Sheraton Chief Beer OfficerHis role: Travel the nation, making sure that east 4 Points hotel has a decent beer selection. His rule: Each hotel bar must have four draft selections and 12 bottled beer selections. Half of the six bottles must be regional beers, brewed in the area where the hotel is, the other half can be beers from other places, but they have to choose from Kerkmans’ approved list.

The list, he said, includes Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Chimay, Duvel, among others. “We’re not going to be the best beer bar in any given town, per se,” Kerkmans says. “But we will give our guess the opportunity to enjoy a good beer. Why should our guests have to drive around a town to find a decent beer?”

Whew. This is corporate America. Things have loosened up. Indeed, Scott says. 4 Points created his position because people – 4 Points guests – have been clamoring for it; they’re interested in good beer but don’t know much about it.

His job is to educate the wait staff and make sure there’s good beer on hand. He also does beer dinners and makes recommendations about pairing beer with food.

Scott says the big hotel chain – there are 74 Four Points in the U.S., 20 in Canada and many more around the world – placed an ad for a Chief Beer

Scott Kerkmans….he’s not drinking Budweiser.

Officer in the Wall Street Journal. “A buddy called me and said, ‘You’ve got to apply.’

Each applicant had to prepare a five minute video, Scott says. There wre over 7,800 applicants from 31 countries and he was one of the final four. Know how he aced it?

He took a bottle of 2005 Alaskan Smoked Porter with him to the interview in New York. “My favorite was the 1996,” he said. “But I helped brew the 2005.”

Meet the new Chief Beer Officer. He’s 28, a native of Albuquerque, lives in Denver and travels the 4 Points world. He got into beer though his brother, who brought home a homebrew kit on his 21st birthday. It didn’t work out for his brother, but Scott says he loved brewing, did research and got involved in commercial brewing. “My parents never would have imagined this,” he says.

He’s just completed an online beer school and all bartenders at 4 Points bars have to take the course. The course covers many aspects of the beer world and gives the men and women serving the beer the background and education to talk intelligently about beer and recommend the right beer.

Iced glasses? Oh sure for BudMillerCoors and their tasteless, light companions.

Sheraton Chief Beer Officer opens the NYSE

Scott and friendsring the closing bell at the NYSE.

To publicize their new hire, Scott got to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, among other things; he got a lot of applause. But there was no beer, he said. Everybody got beer openers.

So how’s he doing? I went to the closed 4 Points by Sheraton, the Four Points Sheraton San Francisco Bay Bridge in Emeryville. It was 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon and the bar was closed. It opens at 5, I was told. I called tonight at 5 and got somebody at the desk, who WAS NOT INTERESTED. He said there was nobody at the bar, but he read off the list of beers on tap: Sierra Nevada.Pale Ale, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Big Daddy IPA from Speakeasy, San Francisco, and Pyramid Hefeweizen.

Not too shabby. He wouldn’t read off the bottled beer list and referred me to the food and beverage manager, who wasn’t in. Ah hell, it’s only beer, huh.

Later, I got a much more courteous guy at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel & Suites San Francisco Airport, South San Francisco. They had Bass, Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale on tap.

Hats off to 4 Points by Sheraton. It’s a big step in the right direction, but there’s a long road ahead for Scott Kerkmans. I wish him god-speed. Also, Scott’s started a blog. Check it out here.

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