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Southern Wine & Spirits Sharpens Its Focus On Beer

August 16, 2013

Southern Wine & Spirits, the country’s largest spirits and wine distributor, is increasing its investment in the craft and imported beer segments. Southern’s Nevada unit recently added two high-profile beer experts who will work with accounts on beer education and selling practices.

Russell Gardner has signed on as director of craft beer at Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, while Samuel Merritt has joined as director of on-premise beer and non-alcoholic beverages. Gardner, a certified Cicerone, previously was at the Public House at The Venetian. Merritt, also a certified Cicerone, had his own consulting business following a tenure at Brooklyn Brewery.

The two beer experts have launched an in-house Cicerone training program at SWS of Nevada. “We plan to train all SWS-Nevada beer personnel to a minimum of the level-one Cicerone server,” said Southern Wine & Spirits president and COO Wayne Chaplin.

Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada holds about a 16%-18% share of its beer market, Chaplin says, adding that it’s now the only statewide wine and spirits distributor with a “dedicated, full-service beer presence.” While Chaplin says the new focus on crafts is only in Nevada and South Carolina “right now,” it’s likely to expand.

Southern previously has been largely absent from the craft beer craze, despite moves in the segment by competitors like Wirtz Beverage, Young’s Market and Charmer Sunbelt.

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