Saturday, December 17, 2011
Wis. beer expert honored by his peers
With just a sip, the 75-year-old rural Chippewa Falls resident can speak extensively about the freshness, ingredients, chemistry and brewing procedure for any beer you put in front of him.
Klimovitz has worked in the beer industry for 50 years, beginning at Carling Brewing Co. in Baltimore in 1961. He has worked as a brewmaster, is a judge at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and works as a consultant for several breweries in Wisconsin.
The Chippewa Falls resident recently was given the Distinguished Life Service Award by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, an organization that dates back to 1887.
While Klimovitiz has a passion for the beer industry, it wasn't his early goal.
"I had a degree in chemistry," he explained. "I just stumbled into it."
Klimovitz landed a job at Carling Brewing Co. in 1961, where he worked in a lab as a quality control manager.
"I knew I wanted to be a brewer," he said.
Klimovitz was promoted to brewmaster in 1972, but he decided to leave Carling in 1976 to take a job with Schlitz in Milwaukee. He then went to Stroh's in Detroit in 1982, where he worked until 1999 when Stroh's shut down. At that point Klimovitz moved to the Chippewa County town of Eagle Point, north of Chippewa Falls, where he continues to work as a consultant for breweries.
"I don't make my own beer. I make enough beer for other people," he said. "I create formulas for them."
For example, a beer manufacturer will tell Klimovitz how he wants a certain new beer to taste. Klimovitz responds by asking for comparison beers with a similar taste. Klimovitz then devises a formula for a new beer with the same flavor qualities as the beers suggested by the brewer.
"It's a great profession to be in," he said.
Beer makers used to be secretive about their brewing processes, but with the growth of craft beers in the 1980s, brewers are more likely to share tips and ideas with each other, he said.
"They've brought the industry back to being fun again," he said. "You can be creative."
As a consultant, Klimovitz travels to breweries in locations like La Crosse or Milwaukee once or twice a month to check the quality of the finished product.
"It will take 1½ hours to go through a client's production," he said.
Klimovitz said that his work on tasting panels has trained him to notice the small differences in beers.
"I have a good sense of taste and smell, and that's helped me throughout my career, that's for sure," he said. "And it hasn't gone away (as I've gotten older.)"
Klimovitz isn't picky about what type of beer he drinks. He is as likely to try a mainstream, well-known brand as he is to drink a specialty beer from a small brewer. He isn't reluctant to send a beer back if he thinks it has been on tap too long.
"That's the key - beer has to stay fresh. It has to stay cold," he said.
In his refrigerator at home recently, Klimovitz had Guinness Black Lager, Alaskan Smoked Porter, a German beer named Kraftig and a California beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Klimovitz has no plans to cut back on his work. He enjoys it too much.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It keeps me involved."