Profiles

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Point of Brew

Alums offer a glimpse into the art and science of making beer

Arguably, beer is second only to cheese when it comes to commodities most associated with the state of Wisconsin. A preponderance of breweries operating through the 19th century—including iconic names in brewing such as Miller, the Point Brewery, Schlitz and Pabst — begat that reputation. Being home to steadfast giants such as Molson-Coors and Leinenkugel, combined with the rise and significant contributions of smaller commercial and craft breweries, has cemented the state’s claim to fame as a hot spot for “suds.”

Is it any wonder, then, that so many University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point alumni have wound up with brewery experience on their resumes? The following represents a sample (or a “flight,” if you will) of Point brewers and their experiences with vat and barrel.

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Brad Gorzek ’15 
Biology and Spanish major
Brewing experience:
Brewer, Fox River Brewing (2017)
Pilot brewer, Bare Bones Brewery (2018)
Sales Rep, Badger State Brewing Company (2019-20)
SQF-PCQI Coordinator & Quality Coordinator, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. (2020-22) 
Current position: Food safety and quality mgr., Blended Waxes, Inc. (2022-present)
“I moved into food sciences for upward growth and a new challenge.”

How long have you been working in this field? 
I worked in beer professionally, in some way, for about 5 years. I homebrewed since I went to UWSP, so about 10 years. 

What drew you to brewing in the first place?
I’ve always loved cooking and science, and eventually came to love beer. Brewing was a great mix of a lot of my passions. You get to make a little biome, a habitat for your yeast, and then consume it with friends and family. As you experiment more, your beers hopefully get better. Not to mention, it’s economical, once your original investment in gear pays off. 

Describe the best part(s) of your job.
The best part about brewing, for me, was making products I loved and knowing someone else would love them, too, and hopefully allow them to have an enjoyable time with their own kin. It’s a liquid art form, which is why “craft” beer is so fitting. 

What type of training—formal and informal—do you have in the art of brewing? 
While at UWSP, I worked for WIST, where I performed many experimental replicates and practiced aseptic techniques. Those techniques applied to most of my career pursuits and gave me a leg up. In that lab, I also performed enzyme hydrolysis of sugars for ethanol biofuels production. It was the same basic concept in brewing. You convert starch to sugar in the mash and lauter, to make available for your yeast. That sugar becomes alcohol through consumption by your yeast. In this instance, it’s a social “biofuel” we are interested in. 

How do you account for the proliferation of brewpubs and growth of micro/craft/home brewing?
I think it differs with regionality, which formats are most popular - be that the outdoor spaces, trendy taprooms, or a food-centric brewpub. But I think overall craft success had a lot to do with the entrepreneurial aspirations of a few generations who had resources to use and a more connected and aware population to sell to. It seemed that people started sourcing locally in the early 2000’s more than ever, whether that was due to reducing your footprint for global climate change, or getting to know your neighborhood haunts better. People became more interested in the terroir of their surroundings, and craft beer became a big part of that identity. The rest is history. 

What would you say to a newbie or wannabe looking for advice on getting started in brewing?
“How to Brew” by John Palmer. Start small, read that book and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 

When you’re in the mood for a beer, what type are you most likely to crack open? 
I have to admit that I always counter this question with a vague answer: It totally depends. In the heat of summer I might run for a Gose, or a Pale Ale, or even a fruit beer. In the spring I might be looking for something hoppier, or a Mexican lager that promises summer on the horizon. In the winter I go for more spirits and heavier stuff like barley wines, but ironically I might dabble in Coronas or Stella’s, too. Fall is my favorite time for beer. I love the toasty stuff. A good Oktoberfest can’t be beat. I guess I would say nutbrowns are my favorite style, though. I brew many but buy few, since they seldom meet my expectations/hopes (mock beer snob tone). 

In honor of Halloween, imagine you are a mad-scientist brewer. (“Already there… .”) If you could concoct a beverage that would succeed regardless of the laws of chemistry or sales projections, what brew would you create and why?
Caramel Apple Barleywine. I used to get caramel apples from an old lady down my street as a kid, which kids nowadays will never understand, and that item always “sticks” out (they were on sticks and sticky). Blend those flavors into a Barleywine and I think you have a lovely night-capper.

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Paul Graham ’98
Geography major
Brewing experience:
President, co-owner and former brew master, Central Waters Brewing

How long have you been working in this field? 
(Since) 1998

What drew you to brewing in the first place? 
I was a passionate homebrewer throughout college, so getting a job in the industry was like a dream come true!

Describe the best part(s) of your job. 
The challenges – the industry constantly changes and evolves. You have to continually strive to stay relevant in both the product you are producing and the techniques and equipment used to do it. 

What type of training—formal and informal—do you have in the art of brewing? 
I don’t have any real formal training in brewing or small business, it has been more of a learn on the fly experience. The brewing community is pretty tight knit though, so there are always peers to lean on.

How do you account for the proliferation of brewpubs and growth of micro/craft/home brewing? 
Everyone is finally seeing what I saw back in 1998! The growth of our industry in the last 10 years has been really amazing. It is great to be a part of!

What would you say to a newbie or wannabe looking for advice on getting started in brewing? 
A good understanding of microbiology will help you succeed in the industry!

When you’re in the mood for a beer, what type are you most likely to crack open?
It depends on the season – hoppy beers in the warmer months, big stouts in the colder months.

In honor of Halloween, imagine you are a mad-scientist brewer. If you could concoct a beverage that would succeed regardless of the laws of chemistry or sales projections, what brew would you create and why? 
A Czech Style Pilsner. On the surface they are simple beers, but challenging to perfect and easy to enjoy anytime. 

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Tim “Pio” Piotrowski ’05
Business Administration major; minor in Youth Programming & Camp Management 
Brewing experience
Packaging tech, Oskar Blues Brewery (2010; through apprenticeship) 
Assistant brewer & head brewer, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (2010-13)
Head brewer, The Freehouse (2013-17) 
Current: “Chief Beer Officer” & Founder, Delta Beer Lab (2017-present) 

How long have you been working in this field? 
Thirteen years 

What drew you to brewing in the first place? 
I was attracted to the science that converts four simple ingredients into a wide variety of craft beer styles. 

Describe the best part(s) of your job. 
Sitting down for a fresh beer – that I made – after a hard day’s work. 

What type of training—formal and informal—do you have in the art of brewing? 
My specialized education was through the American Brewers Guild in 2010. This program offered an intensive study of the chemistry, physics, and engineering involved in brewing. This training also incorporated my Brewery Apprenticeship at Oskar Blues in Colorado. Most of my day-to-day knowledge came from on-the-job training with head brewers at several Rock Bottom [locations] being instrumental. As I moved into management, I certainly utilized my UWSP education in business administration on a regular basis.

How do you account for the proliferation of brewpubs and growth of micro/craft/home brewing? 
The rapid growth of the craft brewing industry gave me employment and growth opportunities, and then I added to the size of the industry by opening my own small craft brewery and taproom. The association of small brewers has created platforms for collaboration and the free exchange of knowledge and experience. 

What would you say to a newbie or wannabe looking for advice on getting started in brewing? 
It’s not glamorous—mostly cleaning, heavy lifting, hot and cold environments—but the reward is in a glass where you crafted the beverage with your own hands. Seek some form of advanced education, and be prepared to start “at the bottom” and work your way up. Don’t think about opening a brewery business before you understand each element required to craft quality products with the consistency that your consumers deserve. 

When you’re in the mood for a beer, what type are you most likely to crack open? 
West Coast IPA 

In honor of Halloween, imagine you are a mad-scientist brewer. If you could concoct a beverage that would succeed regardless of the laws of chemistry or sales projections, what brew would you create and why? 
You know how beer can lead to an inebriated state … . Imagine if this new beer would cause an intoxicating level of equity in the consciousness of all consumers. We would be brewing change where all people would be equal.

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Jed Petrie ’14
Biochemistry major
Brewing experience
Lab Technician, O’so Brewing Company (Plover, 2012-2014)
Brewmaster, Titletown Brewing Company (Green Bay, 2014-2022)
Current: FSQA Manager at Cher-Make Sausage
 
How long have you been working in this field?
I was in different levels of the brewing industry for a total of 10 years, and home brewed for about three years before that.

What drew you to brewing in the first place?
I started helping my dad with his home brewing when I was about 12. Mostly just rinsing bottles at that point, but still had a lot of fun with it. Later I got very interested in the biological reactions behind it and making my own recipes.

Describe the best part(s) of your job.
The second best part of working in a brewery is getting to end every day with a nice, refreshing beer that you made yourself, how you wanted to make it. The best part is getting to work with other breweries to help each other make the best beer that you can and collaborating on recipes together.

What type of training—formal and informal—do you have in the art of brewing?
I never got any kind of formal training in the brewing field. I learned a lot from my dad in homebrewing, and from my MicroBiology Professor, Dr. Terese Barta. Everything else was on the job with some of the great people I’ve gotten to work with throughout the years.

How do you account for the proliferation of brewpubs and growth of micro/craft/homebrewing?
Beer has kind of time-traveled back a couple hundred years to a time when every town had their own brewery and every person supported their hometown beer above all else. As breweries pop up in more and more places, people get more and more interested in what their area has to offer, and people visiting want to drink beer that is from their destination and a little outside of their comfort zone.

When you’re in the mood for a beer, what type are you most likely to crack open?
There are many beers for many moods, but I can never go wrong with a nice crisp funky sour or something big and barrel aged.

What would you say to a newbie or wannabe looking for advice on getting started in brewing?
It is definitely an industry that you have to love. It is a fun and exciting work day, but it is also very hard work. Not many people have jobs that others actually want to come and tour, but this is sure one of them. I have since moved on from the industry, mostly just to try something new after being in the brewing industry for almost a third of my life.

In honor of Halloween, imagine you are a mad-scientist brewer. If you could concoct a beverage that would succeed regardless of the laws of chemistry or sales projections, what brew would you create and why?
I always wanted to make a Port-Style Stout. Just a huge-thick-sweet stout, fortified with brandy and aged in a barrel. I hope to try it on a home-brew scale at some point just to see if it would work, but it definitely has a high chance of disaster.

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Troy Rysewyk ’95
Biology major
Brewing experience: 
Bottling Line Operator, Leinenkugel Brewing Company (1995-96)
Quality Manager, Leinenkugel Brewing Company (1996-2000)
Pilot Brewing Brew Master, MillerCoors (2001-13)
Manager, Beverage Technology and Innovation, MillerCoors (2014-20)  
Current: Sr Process Innovation Specialist

How long have you been working in this field?
Twenty-seven years.

What drew you to brewing in the first place? 
The passion for brewing starting during my time at UWSP. Biochemistry was explaining biochemical/enzymatic processes that happen during brewing, and suddenly biochemistry was much easier to understand 😊. This lead me to head down to the Stevens Point Area Co-op and buying ingredients to start brewing. 

Describe the best part(s) of your job. 
The beer of course! That seems like the obvious answer, but in truth in my current role I get to work on ways to give my company an innovative edge over the competition when comes process of brewing and other beverages. 

What type of training—formal and informal—do you have in the art of brewing? 
Yes, I have formal training in brewing. (Diploma in Brewing Technology, Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago; Postgraduate diploma in brewing and distilling, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland; National Association of Cider Makers certification, Northwest Agriculture Business Center in Mount Vernon, Washington.) 

UWSP gave me a solid scientific background which, of course, helps to understand the complexity of brewing process. This process heavy leans on engineering but a key pillar of brewing is understanding how treat single-celled organisms properly. Happy yeast is needed to have great tasting beer. Also being at UWSP it gave me awareness of how important it is to combat climate change and need to work towards a more sustainable future. This influence and knowledge of sustainability help motivate me to find ways in my current role to minimize the impact my company has on the planet. Like reducing the water or carbon footprint needed to make our products. I’m also exploring options for valorization of brewer's spent grain and brewer's spent yeast, waste to worth.

How do you account for the proliferation of brewpubs and growth of micro/craft/home brewing?
I think what draws interest in craft beers is the appealing flavors, as well as a story behind them that consumers can connect with. Craft breweries often experiment with different ingredients to give their beers a unique taste. In addition, consumers have shown that preference to support local products is important. This is happening in many food and beverage industries, from coffee to pizza and beyond.

What would you say to a newbie or wannabe looking for advice on getting started in brewing? 
First of all, I think this is the best industry there is and there are no better people in the world than brewers. With that said, being a brewer to a great extent is an elevated custodian’s job. Brewers generally clean. Once you understand the science behind beer you realize how imperative sanitation is. It can be tough work, and you experience extremes; it is hot, it is cold. The brewery environment can be unpredictable and more dangerous than you may realize. So, understanding safety requirements, having a solid work ethic, and the ability to handle stress is required. 

One piece of advice that I do give is keep your expectations and goals flexible. Being a brewer gets the greater part of interest, but there are numerous other jobs essential to run a brewery. Whether it could be a microbiologist, sales or marketing position, packaging lead, health and safety, HR or a position you didn’t expect enjoying. Follow your passion and keep the thirst for learning. 

When you’re in the mood for a beer, what type are you most likely to crack open? 
I am a lager guy, for the most part. Kölsch and Helles are two of the most refreshing & balances beer styles. Otherwise, my choice is driven by the occasion. 

In honor of Halloween, imagine you are a mad-scientist brewer. If you could concoct a beverage that would succeed regardless of the laws of chemistry or sales projections, what brew would you create and why? 
The inspiration comes from Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. This invention will use an app called Silenus. It is AI-powered mood tracker that recognizes your mood by your front camera with scanning your face and tracks your emotions. The Silenus software will be able to calculate the perfect beverage for you at any given moment. This information can then be sent to home-base machine, Reconstitute-Inator. The data sent to Reconstitute-Inator will allow it to design and formulate your own custom mood perfect drink in just seconds. The Reconstitute-Inator only uses a single cassette to create over 100,000 customized beverages such as beers, sports drinks, coffee, tea, wine, cocktails, and more. This cassette only contains 100 percent natural ingredients. The Reconstitute-Inator will fit on most kitchen counters and soon a crowdsourcing will be started for a mobile version for tailgating, camping, etc.