The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 22 of 119

{ }  23 { beer } AMONG DISTRIBUTORS, SOUTHERN WINE & SPIRITS OF Nevada is known for its leading-edge beer focus and training program and stewards Southern's largest beer portfolio. We recently interviewed Sam Merritt, Director of Beer Education & Quality Assurance and Certified Cicerone Beer Sommelier, about what makes SWS of Nevada's beer emphasis so unique. SJ: How important is beer to SWS? Is it a growing part of your portfolio? Sam Merritt: Beer is very important to Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada (SWS of Nevada). Our entire beverage portfolio is expe - riencing growth—and beer is no exception. Nationally, specialty beer is growing a bit faster than wine, liquor and domestic beer, and we're experiencing this trend in Nevada as well. Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada is the longstanding leading distributor of wine and spirits in the state—and we employ sales and service best practices to the beer category just like wine and spirits. Do different beers demand different types of service? All of our brands are significant and important in their own unique way. Some of our brands need the added care of our reps to explain and provide samples, while many of our brands are high volume and don't need to be hand sold. Curation of the deepest portfolio in the market demands that each brand have its own strategy and support within the context of the market How is SWS implementing beer training for its employ - ees? What is the goal of this program? We are currently running internal programs and an onboarding course for all reps working with the beer portfolios at Southern Wine & Spirits. The goal of the Cicerone Training is to be the top-rated educated beer sales force in the country, period. We do this through seminars, brewery trips, breakout meetings and even hands-on experience making beer. We just made our first batch of home brewed beer in the kitchen here at SWS; the yeasty smell of fresh beer brewing has raised a few eyebrows— and noses—around the office! What training materials do you use? Books, courses, seminars/webinars? Yes, we leverage books, courses and seminars. We are sparing no expense. A hands-on experience is crucial to hand selling spe - cialty beer—and even fine wine and spirits, for that matter. We tapped our amazing mixologists and wine sommeliers to design a brand new, one-of-a-kind training facility in Nevada. It's a trainer's dream come true. The facility opens up in late summer, and we're excited to break it in! I'm a firm believer in the traditional teach - ing platform of classes and homework—while also embracing a more hands-on approach. We have a huge beer, wine and spirits library that is continuously being added to. This is a great training resource for us. Do you also provide beer training for your on-premise accounts? What does this involve? Our training for our on-premise accounts takes on a few forms, and we customize as much as possible to the restaurant's specific needs. When a new hotel with several outlets wants to train their entire opening staff, they turn to us and our facility. We also go to our customers and provide any beer training they need—from a 15-minute pre-shift meeting, to a full-day seminar, to preparing servers and bar professional to preparing customers to pass the Cicerone Certified Server Exam. With training, everyone has dif - ferent requirements, and we cater to those needs. Where Beer Enthusiasm Foams Over HOW SOUTHERN WINE & SPIRITS OF NEVADA STAYS AT THE FOREFRONT OF BEER FOCUS AND TRAINING Certified Cicerone Beer Sommelier Sam Merritt, Director of Beer Education & Quality Assurance for Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, in the distributor's warehouse in Las Vegas. Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: interview by David Gadd / photo by Vanessa Rogers

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