Hotel happy hours are hopping.
A number of hotels are getting into the brewing business, either heavily promoting craft beer at social hours or working with local breweries to have their own beers made.
•The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia this month released Cherry Verbena Saison, its third collaboration with Dock Street Brewing. The beer was brewed with lemon verbena harvested from the hotel's rooftop garden.
•Four Fairmont hotels have partnered with breweries to create their own house microbrews using honey from their onsite beehives. "The Fairmont San Francisco Honey Saison," for instance, was crafted in partnership with Almanac Beer Co. and will be offered on draft in the hotel's Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar.
•The Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Airport recently appointed a new director of brewer relations, created a beer advisory board and has customized in-room beer fridges. The Four Points by Sheraton has a brand-wide "Best Brews" program that features a variety of local, regional and imported craft beers.
•And at Kimpton's Hotel Solamar in San Diego, Christian Graves, executive chef of the Jsix restaurant, will host "Craft Beer hours," during which he'll provide tips on home brewing.
"It's a major thing in Los Angeles and around the country," says Justin Blake, the LAX Four Point's director of brewer relations, or D.B.R. for short. "There are so many different breweries popping up."
Craft beer sales grew by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the Brewers Association. Adding their own brews to their menus is another play by hotels to try to lure customers with trendier happy hours that build upon the popularity of specialty beer or wine.
Sheraton, a Starwood chain, in the spring launched a brand-wide "social hour." They teamed with Wine Spectator magazine to offer guests high-end wine tastings. And the Renaissance Hotel Dupont Circle this summer is transforming the lobby into a private screening room with selections from local independent film festivals and specials on local brews.
"A way for hotels in a local market to distinguish themselves is to create experiences," says Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's hospitality school. "Guests will say when I stayed in that hotel there was something. It could be an artist, a wine tasting, it could be meeting with managers."
Hoyt Harper, global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, credits the social hour for higher food and beverage sales. "It energized our lobbies and brought more guests morning, noon and night," he says.
Wayne Toddun has become a regular at the Four Points by Sheraton LAX's beer happy hours, during which brewers discuss their craft.
"To me," he says, "it makes a real difference to find out what's behind these beers and to get to meet people in the industry."