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The First Chief Beer Officer

MATT MARTINEZ: Oh, no, no, no. There's one more.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Oh, there's one more. Sorry. Matt Martinez, that's right. You're on the other studio. I almost forgot you.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, I know. Out of sight, out of mind.

STEWART: News from 10 feet away.

MARTINEZ: It's always been my problem. Yeah. I have the number one most e-mailed story at npr.org. It is the story that NPR has covered extensively. MORNING EDITION has covered it. When I worked on WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY, we covered it there, too. It's about the Sheraton Four Point hotel chain. And their search for a chief beer officer. It's as awesome as it's sounds. Yeas, chief beer officer.

STEWART: Beer Czar.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. And you can imagine when they posted the job, thousands of people applied for it.

STEWART: Who wants to be a CEO when you can be a CBO?

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

STEWART: Come on.

MARTINEZ: Exactly. Well, a guy named Scott Kerkmans got the job and I'm pretty sure he is the country's first CBO. And…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: …here's a report from Kirk Siegler from one of our member stations KUNC in Greeley, Colorado.

KIRK SIEGLER: A lot of people worked 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.

SIEGLER: As far as anyone can tell, Kerkmans is the world's fist CBO. He's an ordinary-looking guy with a good sense of humor who mostly works out of his house, a non-descript bungalow in west Denver. The only thing unusual about the place is its basement.

Mr. KERKMANS: Watch your head.

SIEGLER: Okay.

Mr. KERKMANS: There should be the beer cellar. As you can tell I have several beers here.

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 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 Alskan Brewing Company where he worked as a brewer. He his first job in the industry as soon as he could legally drink. Then just seven years later, at 28, he became 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 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 five 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 o'clock 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 liquid)

Mr. KERKMANS: Cheers.

SIEGLER: I look at my watch, it's 10 A.M. on the dot and I take a sip.

Mr. KERKMANS: I have to say I probably haven't had a beer at this hour since college. I'm lucky enough to have been drinking on at this hour since the start of college - every since the start of my job in 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: Ahhh, 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.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: That's Kirk Siegler reporting. This story is number one on npr.org right now, And you can find this and all of our most e-mailed stories, everything you heard today at The Most at out blog, npr.org/bryantpark. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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