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Hotels tap into growing craft-beer market
February 21 2013

Hotel bars are taking advantage of the rapid growth of the craft-beer industry in the U.S. to provide a product that keeps guests spending money in the hotel and not heading down the street.

Highlights
  • All Cambria Suites locations must have two local craft beers available in bottles.
  • The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon, is a beer destination for many guests.
  • Brewster’s at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport features 10 craft beers on tap and more than 100 bottled craft and specialty beers from around the world.
By Eric Stoessel
HNN contributor

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The addition of craft beer to Cambria Suites new food-and-beverage program didn’t come from an idea born at Choice Hotels’ corporate headquarters. It came from the beer cooler behind the bar at the Cambria Suites in Columbus, Ohio. Michael Murphy, Choice’s senior VP of upscale brands, was on a tour of meetings with chefs, executives and owners to discuss ways to improve the brand’s F&B offerings.

“I looked over the bar and down into the beer case and saw a strange bottle,” Murphy said of his stop there. “They had kind of hid it from me because it was off standard, but the bartender said it was a local craft beer that everyone was asking for.”

When Cambria Suites rolled out its new program last May, it included a new standard: All locations must have two local craft beers available in bottles.

Hotels are taking advantage of the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in the U.S., which has more than doubled from $5.7 billion in sales in 2007 to $12 billion last year, according to Mintel, a global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence.

Connecting with customers
The Cambria Suites in Columbus offers two local brews—a pale ale from the Columbus Brewing Company and the Bleeding Buckeye Red Ale from Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus, as well as several options from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company.

“‘What kind of local beer do you have?’ is the first question we get from customers,” said Dean Rump, the property’s GM. The goal is to provide a product that keeps guests spending money in the hotel, not heading down the street to another bar, Murphy said.

Hotel Indigo, a boutique brand from InterContinental Hotels Group built around connecting to its local neighborhoods, has also embraced craft beer. The San Diego Gaslamp Quarter property partners with the nearby Karl Strauss Brewing Company to offer four of its beers on tap. All eight of its taps feature local beers, said Curtis A. Crawford, the property’s executive chef and director of F&B.

“San Diego is one of the top microbrew cities in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s who we are and it is a great story to have. It’s a great icebreaker with hotel guests and a way to connect.”

Drafting partners
The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon, a trendy 80-room boutique, takes its beer partnerships a step further. With 32 breweries in city limits, and approximately 11 in walking distance, the locally owned hotel really is a beer destination for many guests.

It’s why the hotel offers several packages centered on beer, including two that come with a bucket of four beers in the room, either Miller High Life or Dead Guy Pale Ale from local brewer Rogue. But the best promotion is yet to come, said Shannon Pratuch, the hotel’s PR and marketing manager.

The Jupiter is partnering with the local authors of “Hop in the Saddle,” a book about two Portland passions: craft beer and biking. The book is a comprehensive guide to the city’s breweries and offers five bike routes to explore them all. The Jupiter’s upcoming Hop in the Saddle package will include a room, the book, a bike rental and some local beers (guests should navigate the ale trail responsibly, said Pratuch).

Across the country in a more traditional hotel, the Four Seasons Philadelphia has also embraced craft beer in its local community. In 2011, the hotel partnered with Dock Street Brewing Co., the oldest microbrewery in the city, to brew beers only available at the hotel’s Swann Lounge.
 
In January 2012, the “Beer Four All Seasons” series was announced with the debut of the winter beer, Truffled Old Ale, which was followed by Caliente Golden Ale (Spring), Cherry Verbena Saison (Summer) and Spanglish Fly (Fall). Spanglish Fly has doubled as this year’s winter beer and is on the verge of selling out, said Tomas Vlasek, the F&B director. A new spring beer will debut in April.

Not only are hotel guests embracing the beer, but outside customers come to the Swann Lounge to try the exclusive flavors from one of the city’s top breweries.

“People are more knowledgeable about beer today; it’s not just lager or ale anymore,” he said. “They want to know who the producer is, what makes it so special. We’re getting more customers because of the beer.”

A beer destination
For guests who want to order a Budweiser at Brewster’s, a Beererie at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport, they have to ask for it special. Mainstream beers aren’t on the menu, which includes 10 craft beers on tap and more than 100 bottled craft and specialty beers from around the world. In the summer, six more taps are added at the pool bar, and all feature small local brewers.

Brewster’s at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport features 10 craft beers on tap and more than 100 bottled craft and specialty beers from around the world.
 

Phil Baxter, the GM who helped open the 566-room property in 2000 for the previous owner, has seen firsthand the growth of the craft beer industry. Brewster’s opened as a beer bar, with six taps and a large selection of bottles, and was named one of the top five beer bars in Los Angeles.

Since returning to the property in 2010 after several years away, Baxter has again elevated Brewster’s to a renowned beer-drinking destination. It starts with Justin Blake, the bar manager whose title is actually director of brewer relations.

“I needed someone with real relevant beer knowledge, to be connected locally,” Baxter said. “Except for buying beer, all his time is spent in the bar and restaurant. He helps pair beer with people, food and occasions.”

As an airport hotel, the bulk of weekday business comes from business travelers. “So many people come for drinks from hotels across the street and then stay here the next time they’re in town,” Baxter said. “It’s a way for us to steal share.”

Last May, the hotel asked for help from Californians to join its new beer advisory board. Ninety-eight beer aficionados applied and 10 now help develop special events and choose what beers are offered. It has helped draw area residents and those from the local brewing scene. Baxter estimated 40% of business comes from locals, with that number rising to 95% for the monthly beer events.

From two beers in bottles to more than a 100, hotels are embracing craft beer and building partnerships and promotions to quench consumers’ growing thirst for it.

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