Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada Launches Cicerone Training Program



Nevada’s largest beverage distributor continues statewide beer education initiative with launch of in-house Cicerone® training program

Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada (SWS of NV) recently launched a comprehensive Cicerone training program in an effort to make every employee a Certified Beer Server, the first level of the Cicerone® Certification. Providing employees a thorough background in beer strengthens SWS of NV’s education initiative and sets the platform to draw additional craft beers to the state by creating a more brew-savvy community. The Cicerone is beer’s equivalent to a sommelier.

“The Cicerone program epitomizes SWS of NV and Senior Managing Director Larry Ruvo’s commitment to innovation and employing the best-trained sales professionals in the industry, capable of supporting our clientele through progressive education, a portfolio of industry-leading products and world-class customer service,” said David Bart, executive vice president & general manager.

The two men leading this training are renowned beer experts Samuel Merritt and Russell Gardner, who recently joined SWS of NV from diverse backgrounds in the industry. Gardner was the first person in Nevada to become a Certified Cicerone, a title that indicates an in-depth expertise in beer garnered at the second stage of the Cicerone program. Merritt, New York’s first Certified Cicerone, is the founder of the Civilization of Beer, a foremost leader in beer education.

Thirty employees at SWS of NV passed the Certified Beer Server exam in its inaugural session, and more than 50 new beer experts will be certified upon SWS of NV’s second course next month.

Kevin McCracken, senior vice president of beer, said, “Having our employees at SWS of NV being formally trained by some of the brightest minds in the craft will significantly enhance the beer industry in Nevada. Every member of SWS of NV, from high-level executives, management and sales, to the company’s operation and delivery teams will have a well-rounded knowledge of beer.”

To become a Certified Beer Server, an individual is trained and tested in their knowledge in beer tasting, the brewing process, beer styles, as well as proper storage and service techniques. This ensures breweries nationwide that everyone at SWS of NV who talks, tastes and handles their product will do so with expertise.

The new initiative also will serve to educate Las Vegas’ beer market as a whole. Merritt and Gardner will provide SWS of NV employees, and eventually the Nevadan beverage industry, with real-world tools from their diverse experiences at breweries, restaurants and distributors.

Samuel Merritt, director of on-premise for beer & non-alcoholic beverages, said, “With the amazing team SWS of NV has created, we will be able to make significant strides in education for the state’s beer industry. Education is an important first step to solidify Las Vegas’ position as a top-tier beer destination.”


The Cicerone training will be available for industry professionals outside of SWS of NV beginning in fall 2013. In the meantime, Merritt and Gardner are visiting bars and restaurants firsthand to educate the industry on everything they need to know about selling and serving great beer. This includes teaching bartenders how to properly provide personalized beer suggestions, assisting with beer pairing menus, appropriate storage techniques for each brew and much more.

Russell Gardner, director of craft, said, “Pushing and expanding the education levels of everyone from bar owners to the bar patron enjoying his or her pint and everyone in between, will only strengthen and expand the beer market in the fabulous state of Nevada. We believe if people know better beer, they will want to drink it.”

The beer education movement extends beyond the industry. SWS of NV is sharing its expertise in beer and extensive collection of craft labels with the public through a series of pairing dinners and festivals.

Gardner and Merritt interact with every type of beer patron at these events to enhance their future beer experiences. Whether it’s a fanatic who wants to discuss the molecular breakdown of each craft or someone who simply wants to know the difference between lagers and ales, SWS of NV’s Cicerones are ecstatic to spread their passion for beer.

For more than a decade, Clyde Burney, SWS of NV’s vice president of beer & trade development, and his team have paved the path for the rising popularity of craft beer by offering an unparalleled selection of the most diverse international imported craft brands in the Nevada beer market.

Burney said, “I am happy to see our beer division receive the recognition and support it deserves and has earned. We have great brands, great people and great customers to sell our industry-leading portfolio to. As a result of the company’s new beer initiatives, thousands of venues supplied by SWS of NV will further strengthen their beverage programs.”

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