Cheers March 2015

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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Page 46 of 59 47 March 2015 • in attitude toward domestic premium and import beers and a more interested and better informed consumer. "Winking Lizard [Tavern] has been around for 31 years; back then there was no such thing as American craft beer—at least not in Cleveland," says John Lane, owner/vice president of operations for the Bedford Heights, OH-based chain of taverns. "We originally built our reputation on our imported beer selections." Moving with the times, the 19-unit company now has an impressive domestic craft beer list, but still maintains a reputation for its import selection. About 39 out of 98 bottles are imported, and six drafts out of 33 taps are devoted to imports. But, Lane notes, "you have to build programming around imports to move them." Indeed, "the rise of American craft beer has taken away from import beer sales slightly," concedes Cody Jackson, marketing and beverage manager for South Bend, IN-based Hacienda/ La Senorita Mexican Restaurants. "But the real victims of craft beer are the heavy hitters of domestic premium beer." At the company's 13 Hacienda locations in Indiana and five La Senorita locations in Michigan (with one additional franchise location), Corona and Corona Light continue to dominate beer sales, according to Jackson. "We are one of the biggest destinations in the area for imported beers," he notes. Although the chains' list relies heavily on Mexican imports, they do offer stalwarts such as Guinness and Heineken. The restaurants carry about three Mexican lagers on draft and around 10 to 15 in bottles. Prices range from $4 to $5.50 for 14-oz. drafts and $4 to $5 for bottles. Imports garner 15% of sales on draft and 25% of bottles. FOREIGN DESTINATIONS Because American craft and domestic premium beer dominate the bar and restaurant scene, focusing on imports is a way for some operators to build a unique selection and draw more customers in. "There is no place in the Capital District area that offers the beer selection we do," points out Sam Leamy, general manager of Wolff 's Biergarten in Schenectady, NY. As the concept's name implies, German beers dominate 24 taps and 20 to 30 bottles, with Belgian ales also getting substantial representation. Of the lagers, Spaten and Hof brau are the most popular, as is the Czech Pilsner Urquell. Most drafts are served in ⅓-, ½- and 1-liter sizes. Belgian selections can include St. Bernardus Abt 12, Rodenbach Classic and Saison DuPont. Wolff 's Biergarten serves these in 12-oz. goblets, ranging from $7 to $12, "because they are full-flavored, high-end and often higher in alcohol," says Leamy. The first Wolff 's Biergarten opened in Albany, NY, about five years ago and its Teutonic reputation has grown. "We are an established brand now," notes Leamy, "People come in looking for German and Belgian brews because they know we serve some unique beers." Still, Leamy gets a few customers asking for IPAs, and he offers one or two American crafts because Germans don't brew that style. "We have regulars who come in just for the Italian beers," says Domenic Trueman, general manager at Ariano Restaurante Italiano in Media, PA. "And they pair well with our Southern Italian cuisine, especially seafood." About 60% of Ariano's beer list is Italian, with standards such as Peroni on draft. But the real draw is the curated list of Italian crafts from notable artisanal breweries such as Le Baladin, Birra "People come in looking for German and Belgian brews because they know we serve some unique beers." —Sam Leamy, general manager of Wolff's Biergarten, Schenectady, NY. Wolff's Biergarten holds an Oktoberfest event every year, as well as a month-long party during the World Cup soccer tournament.

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