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Craft Beer Craze Hits Mainstream Hotel Business

Four Points by Sheraton may have been here first, but now it seems as if everyone craves craft beers.

Friday, July 19, 2013
Steve Pike
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As the saying goes, “It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.” What “it” is these days is resort and hotel food and beverage executives tasting the hundreds (if not thousands) of craft beers in order to select what ones fit best with their properties and restaurants.

Craft beer, generally defined as being produced by a small, independent brewery with an annual production of six million barrels or less, is the new darling of beer consumers and restaurateurs. It’s difficult to go into almost any hotel restaurant and bar and not find a craft or “micro” beer on tap or in a bottle.

The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla., for example, has 10 craft beers on the menu at its new HMF eatery. Most of the selection, such as Florida Lager and Orange Blossom Pilsner, are brewed in Florida.

“When we first set out to create the beer menu, we wanted to make sure - just as we do with our wines – that everything is unique,” said Nick Velardo, Director of Food and Beverage at The Breakers. “We started with that in mind and contacted our distributors and said, “Bring us all your craft beers.’

“We went through relentless tasting until we got down to the 10 we thought pretty much represented light, full-bodied and represented style.”

That’s not as easy as it might sound because, Velardo said, as craft beer consumers become more sophisticated, they’re always looking for new flavors.

“Everyone is striving today to make small-batch beer that they can sell and market commercially,” Velardo said. “At end of day you want to provide the guest with best beer but also have to have the supply. Some of the really small guys can’t keep up.

“What we did was find a middle ground with special beers that aren’t found everywhere – no bulk brewing – but when guests some in they know they will be able to get it again.”

“I think people like craft beer because it’s something local and regional,” said Tisha Bastedo Downes, restaurant manager for Edgar Bar & Kitchen at the Mayflower Renaissance in Washington, D.C.

The Edgar re-opened this past December with three taps of craft beer – one from DC and one each from Maryland and Virginia.

“We feature a lot of advertising on our restaurant around our craft beers,” Bastedo Downes said. “Our client base is a combination of guests and the community. Our community clients typically go from restaurant-to-restaurant tasting the different craft beers on tap, so it’s kind of an exploration thing for them.”

It’s not clear when and where and when the craft brew craze began at hotels and resorts, but it covers the nation and beyond. At Sun City Resort in South Africa, for example, one of the newer amenities is called “Maze of the Lost City.” At the end of the Maze is Pilanesberg Craft Brewery that sells six to eight of the country’s top craft beers at any time.

There are plans to expand the brewery to be able to make craft beers on site. The Micro-Brewery is scheduled to be fully operational and open for brewery tours and viewings in 2014.

Back in the U.S., Phil Baxter, general manager of the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport, knows where the craft brew craze started – at his property in 2000 with the opening of Brewster’s.

“There were five tap houses in Los Angeles in 2000, now there are more than 100,” Baxter said. “We were definitely pioneers on the hotel bar scene.”

Brewster’s, which started Four Points’ “Best Brews” program, has 16 craft beers on top, including six poolside taps, dedicated to local breweries such as Strand Brewing in Torrance, and Tustin Brewing in Tustin.

“We don’t put anything on there that isn’t good beer - nothing that’s not legitimate craft beer or a really good European beer,” Baxter said.

Southern California has a thriving craft brewing scene that goes from San Diego north to near Santa Barbara.

“We have so many breweries in the San Diego area – from La Jolla to downtown to the beaches – that we’re known as the ‘beer capital,’’ said Patsy Bock, area director of sales and marketing for Omni Hotels & Resort in San Diego. “At the World Beer Club Awards in 2010, local breweries ended up winning more than the German beers.”

To help cultivate that success, the Omni San Diego offers a “Brew with a View” package that includes a map and guide to local breweries, a beer amenity delivered to their room and a burger and beer at its McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant.

“That’s really a big seller,” Bock said.

The hotel also has a Brewmaster Dinner – available for groups on an advance notice - that pairs entrees with craft beer.

At the Vail (Colo.) Cascade Resort, Executive Chef Todd Bemis has perfected the art of pairing small plates with local craft beers. At its Atwater on Gore Creek the resort has more than 30 craft beers (tap and bottles) from Colorado and around the world that Bemis pairs with such items as Colorado Lamb Meatballs, Fried Goat Cheese and Wild Game Poutine.

Vail Cascade and Atwater on Gore Creek has hosted events at the annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival for the past five years.

“We looked at the reception we were having during that festival – and the profiles of our customers – and decided to do a craft beer program,” two years ago, said Bemis, who works with the resort’s beer specialist Laura Lodge. “Beer sales are down across the country generally about eight or nine percent, but craft beer sales are up 15 to 18 percent depending on what report you read.

“It’s becoming more prevalent in the dining industry among casual and even upscale restaurants, so we thought it would be fun to pair craft beer with food and see how we could push it.”
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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