STEVEN INSKEEP, host:
On Wednesdays, we look at the work place. And today, we follow up on a story that we reported earlier this year, one that got a lot of attention. It was one hotel chain's search for a chief beer officer. This is a real job. When Sheraton's Four Points hotel chain posted the position, thousands of people applied. And our report generated so much interest, we sent our reporter to meet Scott Kerkmans. That's the lucky candidate who is now the company's - and perhaps the country's - first CBO.
From member station KUNC in Greeley, Colorado, Kirk Siegler reports.
KIRK SIEGLER: A lot of people work for decades before they score their dream job, if they ever do. Scott Kerkmans landed it just a few years after graduating from the University of New Mexico.
Mr. SCOTT KERKMANS (Chief Beer Officer, Four Points by Sheraton): You know, at first, I thought they would be happy for me. I thought my friends would be happy for me. But, it turns out they're just jealous.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGLER: As far as anyone can tell, Kerkmans is the world's first CBO. He's an ordinary-looking guy with a good sense of humor who works out of his house mostly, a non-descript bungalow in west Denver. The only thing unusual about the place is its basement.
Mr. KERKMANS: What your head. This would be the beer cellar. As you can tell, I have several beers here. I have…
SIEGLER: This is where Kerkmans stores dozens of his finest beers, and in some cases, ages them. Wait - aged?
Mr. KERKMANS: A lot of people think that beer can't be aged or doesn't age well. But some of the beers actually age incredibly well. This is one of those.
SIEGLER: Kerkmans is proudly holding a smoked porter from the award-winning Alaskan Brewing Company, where he worked as a brewer. He got his first job in the industry as soon as he could legally drink. Then just seven years later, at 28, he became the Sheraton's CBO. He beat out 7,800 applicants for the gig.
Mr. KERKMANS: Most beer drinkers that are a little bit older have always had only, you know, one or two styles to choose from, and so it's really the younger beer drinkers that are really, kind of, revitalizing the idea of beer drinking.
SIEGLER: That's what Kerkmans' company is banking on. The hotel chain's Best Brews program aims to attract guests who appreciate craft beer. Microbrews account for just under 5 percent of all the beer consumed in the U.S., but they're growing steadily. Look at Colorado, where there are 75 breweries within a two-hour drive of Kerkmans' house.
Mr. KERKMANS: Really, the best reason to be in Denver is that it's the Napa Valley of beer. There's really more going on here in the craft brewing world than just about anywhere else in the U.S.
SIEGLER: Kerkmans visits breweries monthly and holds tastings and beer dinners at hotels throughout North America. His mission, he says, is to educate the masses about beer. And if you drink a beer in a Four Points by Sheraton these days, chances are it was chosen after one of Kerkmans' rigorous morning tasting sessions. That's right, morning.
Mr. KERKMANS: Something just seems a little bit wrong about drinking beer at 8:00 in the morning, every morning, for me, so I often will wait until about 10 on the days that I'm tasting. Not to say that there's anything wrong with having a beer for breakfast. I do that sometimes, too.
SIEGLER: In the morning, your taste buds are evidently most alive.
(Soundbite of pouring beer)
(Soundbite of clinking glasses)
Mr. KERKMANS: Cheers.
SIEGLER: I look at my watch. It's 10 a.m. on the dot, and I take a sip.
I have to say, I probably haven't had a beer this hour since college.
Mr. KERKMANS: I'm lucky enough to have been drinking them at this hour since the start of college, or since the start of my job and college.
SIEGLER: Unlike a wine sommelier, Kerkmans always swallows because the hops in the beer register best with the taste buds at the back of your tongue.
Mr. KERKMANS: Ah, that's a good beer. It has a really smooth malt flavor, and not too harsh of hops. It's always important to take note of the hops and make sure that they're not too sharp on your tongue.
SIEGLER: The Maui Brewing Company's American Pale Ale is a hit with Kerkmans, but he's careful not to drink too much. After a few sips, he pours out the rest and moves on. After all, he has three more beers to try. And it's not even lunch.
For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler in Denver.
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