Tiger Woods is inching closer to an iconic record. His 74th PGA Tour victory last week means he is only eight away from Sam Snead's all-time mark of 82 victories.
But Tiger still trails in the all-important licensed beverage category. Arnold Palmer has already turned his favorite drink, ice tea mixed with lemonade, into a national brand drink (Arnold Palmer's Half & Half) and this week at the Greenbrier Classic, another legend will get into the act.
Now comes Slammin' Sam Beer, a new brand that will be sold this week at the tournament, and it will initially be available in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
Slammin' Sam beer will also soon be available at the World Golf Village adjacent to the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.
To note this historic moment, I did a Q&A with Casey Bierer, founder and CEO of Slammin' Sam Beer Co. and a former Golf Channel producer-reporter.
Nobody ever enunciated your name correctly before, did they?
No, it was always Buy-er Be-air-er or something. My name has always been unpronounceable so now I'm the happiest man on the planet because I can just say, My name is Casey Beer. Technically, it's Bierer with two syllables. It's German, and in an old Bavarian dialect, it translates into kegmaker. Which is a crazy thing. When I went on air at Golf Channel, nobody could pronounce my last name so I said, the path to least resistance is just to say "beer." So I went with that.
Just think how your life might be different now if your last name was Vagisil?
[Laughing] Well, I went through my whole college life as Case Of Beer or Beer Nuts.
Do you believe in fate, like Ben Crenshaw? It worked out.
I've got my finger waving in the air, just like Ben.
So you're a graduate of Golf Channel back in olden times when they still used "The" in their name?
I was there for almost six years. I worked as a producer for a year, then they decided to put me on the air, which probably almost destroyed The Golf Channel. I'm a TV producer by profession, for over 25 years. Somebody decided I might be good at interviewing so I did that. I wasn't a trained journalist. My approach was to be like anyone else out there who'd be in awe of talking to these celebrities.
Did you have a memorable question moment?
The only time I got nervous was when I interviewed Jack Nicklaus for the first time at the ceremonial first tee shot and clinic at the opening of the course that he shared with Arnold Palmer. It was on tape, the cameraman was getting ready. Jack was next to me. He must've noticed I was nervous. The thing about Jack is when he's with you, he's really with you. He's very sincere. He grabbed my elbow and said, "This is an absolutely beautiful day. Don't worry about anything, we're going to have a good time together." That was one of the best moments I had in TV.
What a nice gig talking to the greats.
I never had a bad experience-Jack and Mr. Palmer and Tiger and Gary Player and Tom Watson. It was surreal.
So how'd you go from golf producer to beer baron?
I was actually interviewing Mr. Palmer at Bay Hill about Arnold Palmer Half & Half in the can probably six years ago. I was doing a business report on his product. I was in his office, he was answering a question at length, and I looked at him and thought, geez, "I love Arnold Palmer Half & Half but Mr. Palmer, where's the beer?" I'm like "Golf, beer." They're synonymous. They go together. Why hasn't anyone put one of these golfers on a beer?
Bartender, I'll have another Gil Morgan Lite, please.
My favorite player of all-time was Sam Snead, who had the greatest swing of all time. I think he had the greatest nickname of all-time, Slammin' Sam, so I started to formulate this idea to create Slammin' Sam, the Smoothest Beer in Golf. It took a long time, I eventually met with the Snead family, and I was able to make a licensing deal with them.
So now you're learning the wonderful beverage business and the distribution business.
It's a big learning curve. The U.S. government and the assorted states don't make it easy to get into the beer business.
How did you come up with your trademarked phrase, Smoothest Beer in Golf?
Mr. Snead had the smoothest swing in golf, and I like a smooth beer. To me, it seemed like a natural.
I've come up with a couple other marketing slogans that you might want to trademark, which you can have for a nominal fee. It's Slammer Time!
Let the big dog drink.
Oh, wow. That's a good one.
How about, Slammin' Sam Beer-the best beer by par?
I like that one, I do like that one.
Here's another: Drink all 18.
Oh, OK. Gee, you've really put some thought into this.
I have one more that's kind of for golf insiders. Slammin' Sam Beer: Choke on this, Hogan!
[Laughing] Oh my gosh.
I've done all your marketing work for you, so you're welcome.
And you're from Wisconsin, too, right?
That's right. And I see you've got a Wisconsin connection because the Stevens Point Brewery makes your beer for you. When I was in college, Point Beer was right up there with Leinenkugel's and Old Style.
They're one of the brewing stories in the U.S., since 1857, quite a pedigree, and they still truly hand-craft beer there. It was a perfect fit for us. As a new brand, I wanted to make sure our brand was treated with kid gloves. We got a famous brewmaster, Ray Klimovitz, to create our recipe. I can't wait for you to try this beer because it's not just another beer. It's so easy for any brand to be kind of a novelty act.
You mean like Three Stooges Beer, which I've seen in the store?
This is really, really good beer. It's a premium quality beer. It tastes fantastic. Its recipe is designed specifically for the active lifestyle consumer. It's not too strong but it does have body. It's not a watered-down light beer. You know you're drinking beer but don't start walking sideways after half a bottle, either.
You know Wisconsin residents are pretty discerning when it comes to beer. If you can answer one question correctly, they'll drink it. And that question is: Is it beer? If the answer is yes, then it's good.
I think we're OK then.
So what's it like being a beer baron?
It's fantastic. I'm looking forward to this journey. I've gotten to know the Snead family, I take very seriously the responsibility that goes along with protecting the integrity of their name and the brand.
And you've probably become a Sam Snead honorary historian, right?
It's great to have access to some of the images from the family's private photo collection. We're focusing on that period of his career in the late 1950s and early '60s. He never photographed any better than that time of his life.
How can people find Slammin' Sam beer?
We're launching in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and to a limited degree in Florida. The Greenbrier, for obvious reasons, since Snead called it home for over 60 years, and they're introducing the beer for us this week. Also at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., which is the town where Sam grew up and caddied and became an assistant pro. Also Pinehurst, where he had a storied history. And the World Golf Village complex, where there's a golf course named after him, The Slammer & The Squire.
When I was in college a million years ago, guys who went on ski trips to Colorado during Christmas break would fill their cars with exotic Coors beer, which was supposed to be legendary and the best ever, because you couldn't get it nationally. It was a big deal then. But it was just beer.
We've been lucky so far. You can only be successful if you have support from distributors. The way the law works, distributors control the beer industry. We've been lucky that the distributors see this as an opportunity and they've been supportive. I sat down with my first West Virginia distributor and she said, "I'll take your whole truck, every bit of beer you can give me." They're not buying just 10 or 15 cases, they're taking truckloads. So we hope we can keep growing this.
Maybe you'll get some free publicity when Tiger gets closer to reaching Snead's record of 82 wins. That'd be sweet.
How lucky are we? Every time he tees it up now, wins or comes close, Snead's name is in the same sentence. So I want Tiger to get real close, but I hope it takes a couple years so we can get ready for it.
Who's going to be the first player on the PGA Tour to have the honor of carrying a Slammin' Sam Beer logoed golf bag? It's gotta be John Daly.
No, I can't go there. Carl Pettersson has a pretty good gut on him, I don't know if he drinks beer.
He's from Sweden. He probably does. Tim Herron would be a good choice. He's from Minnesota, and they probably down almost as much beer as those folks in Wisconsin.
Ooh, Lumpy. He would be good.
And on the other side of his bag, you could emblazon my suggested slogan: Choke on this, Hogan!
Thanks. I'll think about that.