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PUBLISHED: 9:48 AM on Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Former Alaskan brewer now the chief of beer
Beer drinkers around the world wish they were Scott Kerkmans. Many just don't know it.

The former Alaskan brewer and New Mexico native on Wednesday celebrated the one-year mark since being named the world's first Chief Beer Officer (CBO). The 28-year old expert on all things brewed now works for Four Points by Sheraton Hotels.

These days Kerkmans job is to talk, think, and sometimes even drink beer.

"I get to go to different hotels and host happy hours and educate guests about the beers they're drinking and flavor profiles," Kerkmans said. "I also put together events for the staff so they are knowledgeable about the beer they serve.


photo courtesy of Scott Kerkmans / Illustration by Anna Millard
  Scott Kerkmans, a former brewer at Alaskan Brewing Company, just celebrated his first year as the world's first Chief Beer Officer. Pictured above: Kerkmans enjoys a brew at Oktoberfest in Germany. "I thought my friends would be excited for me but they were mostly jealous the first few months. But they're coming around and are glad I'm doing good for the beer drinking community," he said.
"I think one of the best aspects is working with chefs to match food and beer pairings ... for the guests' entire dining experience."

And sometimes Kerkmans is forced to drink on the job, although never too much. He is, after all, a professional.

"About once a week I'll sit down and sample beer," he said. "I may sample five different brews, but usually only two or three ounces at a time. I also get beer shipped to my house and I get to go around the world to different beer festivals and cultivate and promote what the hotels offer."

Until Kerkmans heard about the position from a friend he was skeptical if he could, or would, make a career out of beer. Kerkmans was one of out 7,800 applicants for the job.

"Getting the position was very exciting," Kerkmans said. "I first heard about the position from a friend who saw the posting in the Wall Street Journal. Once I heard there were over 7,000 applicants, though, I was hopeful but not necessarily expectant that I'd get the job."

The ABC's of ABC Geoff and Marcy Larson started Alaskan Brewing Company in 1986. Geoff and Marcy are still hands-on with the business. The Larsons were home brewers before creating ABC.

ABC started as a small craft brewery, which it still considers itself. The Larsons' first task was to recreate a Gold Rush era amber produced by Douglas City Brewing Company. After several test brews Alaskan Amber was created.

ABC, a 100-barrel brew house, produced 114,200 barrels of beer in 2007 and expects to brew 132,200 barrels in 2008. Each barrel holds 31 gallons of beer.

The brewing company produces seven full-time beers along with several other seasonal brews, such as the Smoked Porter. It still uses the original 10-barrel system from 1986 to concoct Rough Drafts that are brewed in limited batches.

This spring, ABC will brew a Coffee Brown Ale and Jalapeno IPA, both part of the Rough Draft series, which will be available on tap in Juneau and other areas in Alaska for a limited time.

To learn more about the Alaskan Brewing Company visit www.alaskanbeer.com.

The nearly 8,000 applicants were dwindled down to five and the finalists each had a five-minute video posted online telling why they were the perfect fit for the position, leaving the decision in the hands of 12,000 online voters. Half chose Kerkmans.

"At any other point in my life in the brewing industry, I never knew if I was doing it for a career or having fun in the industry, and the (position) made me realize I could do it professionally and what better way to do that than reaching thousands of guests," he said. "I wanted to share my knowledge and show people ... what a laid-back time beer drinking can be - simple and uncomplicated."

And so it was ... what started as a hand-me-down home brew kit from his brother seven years ago led to a gig as the worlds first CBO. The rest is beer history.

"My brother got a home brewing kit and for my 21st birthday he gave it to me," he said. "I delved into the science and art behind it, and it was something I was very passionate about. Then I started working my way up into breweries. And my brother brewed horrible beer," he joked.

Kerkmans took a job at the Alaskan Brewing Company (ABC) in Juneau in October 2004; a position he held for just 13 months but said helped him become CBO.

"It was a small time of my brewing world but very influential, and I think having that experience was such a big help for me," he said.

His friends at ABC rooted for Kerkmans and many voted online for him to get the position, said Curtis Holmes, Alaskan Brewing Company plant manager.

"A bunch of us voted for him so he could win," Curtis said. "He was up against some brewers that are very well-known. Of course, some of us are jealous. I mean, how did he luck into that? But it's pretty cool. Some brewers here say 'good for him' and others say 'how do I get that job?'"


photo courtesy of Scott Kerkmans
  Four Points by Sheraton Hotel's Chief Beer Officer, Scott Kerkmans, on the job with a flight of beer.
Kerkmans former coworkers aren't the only ones a little envious.

"I thought my friends would be excited for me but they were mostly jealous the first few months," he said. "But they're coming around and are glad I'm doing good for the beer drinking community.

"I'm trying to get rid of biases. Most people think they do or don't like certain types of beer ... but some just need to overcome initial objections. I hear women say they don't like beer, but they've probably never had a beer they liked. You don't have to commit to a full beer; you can have several small samples."

His parents have come around too, and realize their son has made a "career in beer."

"I don't think my parents ever expected me to make a career of it," he said. "They never would have thought eight years ago I'd still be in the industry, let alone given the best job I ever cold have imagined. At first they were in shock, but (the position with Sheraton Hotels) validated everything I'd done during the past five years.

"Really, I just want to add something to the beer drinking community."

To learn more about Scott Kerkmans and his thoughts on beer, visit his beer blog at www.fourpoints.com/beer.

Tips from the pro

Kerkmans is all about providing a service to the beer drinking community and has some helpful tips to enhance the beer drinking experience.

• "An important thing to remember is you have to follow beer when you're tasting it and analyzing it. The hops are tasted at the back of your tongue so take a full swallow."

• "Instead of mindlessly drinking your beer, go through the proper steps like a judge would do ... and analyze it. Smell it before you do anything else."

•"After you've analyzed it, take your first drink and try to associate the flavors you've had before and which of those you can find hidden in the beer. Some people might taste raisins in a beer, or even plums."


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