BREAKROOM A one-on-one conversation with an industry impresario
Jon Springer: You’re the first certified
Cicerone in the Breakroom. Can you
explain to readers what that means and
how it’s useful in your job and/or life?
Chris Kline: A certified Cicerone has
demonstrated through rigorous testing
a level of mastery in the field of beer.
Knowledge of beer styles, brewing
techniques, draft systems, food pairings, off
flavors, history and many other subjects are
all requisites. There is a blind taste-testing
portion of the exam that even the most acute
palate can struggle with. What a certified
Cicerone does with his or her designation
varies greatly. Some are draft list curators,
brewmasters, beer distributors or retail beer
category managers. I was never any of those.
For me, it was simply a personal passion for
which I wanted to demonstrate my acumen.
What I learned about beer in my journey to
becoming a certified Cicerone has helped
me in my greater understanding of the
culinary side of the grocery business.
Whose idea was to start the
@SchnucksBeerGuy account? And how,
if at all, has it helped the company gain
equity as a beer seller?
It was actually my idea right after earning
my certification back in 2012. It was
something I wanted to do, in addition
to writing a weekly blog, in order to
communicate with customers. I have
worked closely with our director of beverage
alcohol, Chris Wong, for more than seven
years and have had hours upon hours of
conversations with him about our business.
Chris is the real expert on selling beer but
he definitely has incorporated some of my
ideas and insights. We have collaborated
to make Schnucks the dominant craft beer
retailer in the markets we serve. Using the
@SchnucksBeerGuy Twitter handle allowed
us to reach our most passionate customers
to share many of the cool things we have
done with beer, such as our collaborations
with local brewers like 4 Hands and Schlafly
or the launching of our Fresh Pour growler
What has Schnucks learned from the four
Fresh Pour beer stations so far?
Fresh Pour is an awesome concept, but it
has its challenges. Having a knowledgeable
staff that can talk beer is critical. Offering a
healthy mix of esoteric beers and beloved
standards is key as well. You don’t want to be
caught with too many slow movers at once,
but you also want to be showing a slightly
different lineup every day and a totally
different lineup every week or so. Fresh
Pour won’t work everywhere, but choosing
a few destination locations has proven a
sound business decision and a competitive
What cool things will we see at
Schnucks in deli/bakery this year?
Just recently our bakery department did a
collaboration project with 4 Hands Brewing.
We produced a 4 Hands Chocolate Milk
Gooey Butter Cake that was an ode to their
winter seasonal staple beer. Gooey Butter
Cake is a St. Louis thing, and Schnucks
happens to have the best one in town. We
made a version that tasted just like 4 Hands
Chocolate Milk Stout, and they brewed a
Belgian white ale with blackberries called
Berry White that was meant to be the
perfect beer to pair with the cake. It worked
out well and was a very cool project. This
year, our deli department is working on a
“beer can” version of our rotisserie chicken
that will use the flavor profile from 4 Hands
Chris Kline, director of bakery
and deli for Schnuck Markets,
is also a certified Cicerone who
tweets as @SchnucksBeerGuy.
“Paul Goldschmidt” sounds like the name
of a 19th century St. Louis beer magnate.
How are you feeling about the Cardinals’
chances this year?
We’ve got to get Goldy eating plenty of
Mojo Salsa ASAP. It will be back in stores for
opening day. If so, we win the pennant.
What do you believe is the coolest thing
coming out of the Anheuser-Busch
They have Budweiser powder that we are
incorporating into some signature buns for
The great beer-food pairing nobody talks
Schnucks Fried Chicken and Urban Chestnut
Stammtisch Pilsner. Read the full conversation at WinsightGroceryBusiness.com.