January 23, 2007

Mug Shots: Beer list should equal wine list

The Sheraton Four Pints (er, make that Four Points) hotel chain recently made headlines with its search for a Chief Beer Officer. Among the responsibilities of the job are overseeing a new beer program called Best Brews, which USA Today describes as “a selection of well-crafted local, regional and imported beer and … beer-sampler flights with 4-ounce pours.” To show that Four Points means business with the beer program, it proposes to pay its Chief Beer Officer absolutely nothing except expenses — not the best way to attract quality candidates, but perhaps quality’s not the object after all. The prospect of greater availability of good beer in insipid hotel chain bars is a positive development, although when one considers the tendency of such entities to cut product placement deals and indulge in mass-market “fix is in” skullduggery, it strikes me as unlikely that truly “local” and “regional” beers stand much chance of making it into the glasses of discerning guests. All the same, their odds of finding good beer at the Four Points remain better than at that city’s “top table” eateries, because “4-star” restaurants notoriously refuse to apply the same high standards to their beer offerings as they do to their wine lists. It is axiomatic that such dining establishments must offer a serious wine program to maintain their reputation and ranking, and lovingly detail the contents of cellars filled to the brim with stylistically diverse wines from many countries. Often they’ll offer only the best spirits: small-batch bourbon, designer vodka, single malt scotch. And their beer list? Ten overpriced, ice-cold golden lagers, and with luck, two or three vastly overrated imports. At this stage of the game, if you’re happy to see Sam Adams on a beer list, something’s definitely wrong … with the list. Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. He writes about beer for Food & Dining magazine. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.