BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- V. Richard's Market, based here, will host its first beer class at its in-store eatery, the Loft Cafe, on April 6.
While most supermarkets seem to focus on wines when hosting a tasting, V. Richard's has expanded its special-events calendar -- which features multiple-themed wine tastings throughout the year -- to include a beer class. The idea for the session was actually generated by guests at the wine tastings who expressed an interest in learning more about beers as well.
The store hosted a beer dinner about 18 months ago that featured Lucy Saunders, author of "Cooking with Beer," and Dan Carey of the New Glarus Brewery, based in New Glarus, Wis. The dinner's success coupled with customer enthusiasm prompted the decision to incorporate the beer class.
"The class is a great opportunity for someone who has never tasted a lager or stout or any variation," said Beth Proeber, V. Richard's assistant beverage manager. "It gives them the opportunity to sample a variety of brews in one sitting and provides them with an understanding of how the different varieties are achieved."
Participants will have the chance to taste at least 10 beer variations during this year's class. Proeber said the selection will include domestic, imported and microbrew labels. The event will also feature foods specially selected and prepared by the store's various departments.
"We always offer food that is prepared in-house at all of our tastings," said Proeber. "We may get cheese and fruit platters from our catering department, antipasto from our deli or breads from our scratch bakery, but it is always handled by our own departments."
According to Proeber, the class will focus on the brewing industry as a whole, providing background on its history and moving into a discussion of options available in today's market.
Guest speakers for the event will include Jim Klisch of Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery.
The idea is for customers to walk away with an understanding of brewing methods, taste, alcohol levels and ingredients used, and be able to apply this knowledge when making a selection in the liquor department or in a restaurant.
Proeber said the class is also helpful for consumers who are simply looking to learn more about their favorite brew and how its uniqueness is achieved.
In addition to the beer class and wine tastings, V. Richard's store features a coffee and wine bar, which selects a coffee and a wine of the month and offers a wide selection of wines by the glass.
At Laurenzo's Italian Center, located in North Miami Beach, Fla., the wine aisles are a major attraction.
According to Matt Adler, wine manager/buyer for the store, the shelves are stocked with about 6,000 wines in all price ranges. And he believes the most effective promotional results are achieved through wine tastings.
"We hold several wine tastings throughout the year and one major one, which is always in mid-December," he said. "This is great merchandising."
During that pre-holiday season -- for the 12 years Adler has been with Laurenzo's -- the company hosts a wine tasting featuring 150 to 200 wines. The tastings are primarily held at the Cotillion catering hall, owned by Laurenzo's and located across the street.
Once again, food prepared by Laurenzo's staff is always a big part of the tastings and, for the December event, 15 to 20 vendors are brought in to offer samples of everything from caviar to olive oils to specialty meats and cheeses, showing guests the plenitude of foods that can complement a bottle of wine.
"Our tastings are always successful," added Adler. "But the December show has earned us quite a reputation. Consumers really enjoy the opportunity to sample and to learn."
"Customers like to make informed decisions when they shop," agreed Proeber. "The classes and tastings make it possible for them to do just that."