Cheers January/February 2013

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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"We chose the MBAA Beer Steward program because I felt it was the most pertinent for my serving staff when dealing with our guests," Lane says. The training sessions were also focused on the Winking Lizard's menu to create memorable pairings. "Sales are certainly a measurement, but we are known as the place to go to get a quality beer—clean glass, proper glass, best tasting draft beer, proper pouring techniques, proper hygiene techniques," Lane says. And according to the Ambassadeur title for Orval, Winking Lizard Taverns must properly pour the Trappist pale ale, he adds. Rick Seemueller, a brewer for Anheuser-Busch for 38 years, is now an instructor for the Beer Steward program. "We start with the premise that everybody has a different palate, and nobody is wrong in their preferences," he says. "After tasting liquids that are sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, trainees discover their own thresholds of sensitivity." GETTING DESCRIPTIVE Good training gives staffers the right words to convey the character of a beer. "The beer geek wants to know that there are Centennial hops in the IPA," says Ockert, "but the average consumer needs to know that the beer is hoppy and bitter, with pineapple aromas." The Beer Steward program teaches descriptors that are recognizable and delicious for four basic flavors of beer: malty, hoppy, fermentation-forward (yeasty) and flavored (such as fruit or spices). New brewing techniques have expanded the range of fermentation flavors, from lambics and sour ales, as well as blended and barrel-aged beers, from breweries such as Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales (Michigan), Russian River Brewing Co. (California) and Jester King (Texas). Sour beers are popular with the most discerning beer drinkers. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium focuses on "knowledgeable— but not snobby—service," says Wynne. "The geeks are only about 10% of the market, so chasing people away by making them feel like they don't know enough won't help the cause." Jen Eller, corporate trainer at the Flying Saucer and its sister restaurant Meddlesome Moth, notes that the company has 15 Flying Saucer locations, and trains about 15 to 20 people per unit, per year. "The Saucer environment is funky and friendly, the kind of place where you can hang out. We are huge supporters of local brewers and often host brewer visits." Off-the-shelf tools that Eller chooses for staff education include the Brewers Association's website, the just-published World Atlas of Beer by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb, and tapping the knowledge of more seasoned staff such as Wynne. "We use Skype to test the presentation skills of servers at 30 and 90 days post hire, to assess how well the employee describes and sells beer, face to face," says Eller. "If an employee's answer to a beer question isn't the traditional response, but is correct and something that the customer could understand, we love that too." Samuel Merritt, founder of Civilization of Beer and one of about 650 certified Cicerones in the U.S. GUIDED SERVICE What sets the Flying Saucer and Meddlesome Moth apart from others, Eller says, "is our staff's ability to tell you about any beer on our wall, top to bottom. We know what it looks, smells, tastes, feels, and finishes like, and we can find beers for even the pickiest guests!" Guest service is at the heart of the Best Brews program at the Four Points by Sheraton brand, which consists of over 160 mostly franchised hotels in nearly 30 countries around the world. Each hotel has differing formats for bar size and seating, but in the U.S., the Best Brews draft averages $5 to $7 per pint. According to Jeremy Cooper, director of food and beverage, specialty select brands for Starwood Hotels, "the Best Brews program can be an attraction for business travelers—such as knowing that in our Nashville-Brentwood hotel bar, there's always Yazoo [local craft] beer on draft." Hotel general managers are encouraged to visit local breweries and develop relationships for seasonal promotions, including Oktoberfest. The Siebel Institute's Beer and Food: A Hands-on Encounter program stands out for its guided tastings with Jared Rouben, a professional chef turned brewmaster at the Goose Island Clybourn Pub, Andrew Hroza, chef and Cicerone at the Goose Island Clybourn Pub, and Randy Mosher, partner in the 5 Rabbit Cerveceria in Chicago. (Mosher is also author of Tasting Beer, which is used as a textbook in the Cicerone program.) In this course, the emphasis is on pairing, and what makes a beer's flavor compatible with chocolate, cheese, salads, main dishes, desserts. It also covers beer that's blended with fruits or wines to make beer cocktails. Given the accelerated growth in craft beer, staff training is a smart investment. "We have seen a correlation between our P4B training program and growth in share of sales," Libonate says. "Since launching, we are up 25% in accounts where the staff has been trained, and in some accounts, sales of Heineken draught are up by 50% or greater." Lucy Saunders is the author of The Best of American Beer and Food, and is based in Milwaukee, WI. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 | 27

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