BOLINGBROOK – For John Wyzkiewicz, beer is more than a beverage. It’s a way of life.
The Naperville man has accomplished many things in the art of beer making.
In his seven years of brewing, he has earned credentials from the American Brewers Guild and the prestigious Cicerone certification. He also has invented the recipe for Goose Island’s popular Green Line Ale and most recently earned the title of head brew master at Gordon Biersch Brewery’s only Midwest location in Bolingbrook.
The 42-year-old admits he was a late-bloomer on the professional brewing scene. It started in college then took a long hiatus, he said.
“I ordered a kit from the back of a magazine,” said Wyzkiewicz, recalling his college days at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “I concocted a batch in my basement with plastic buckets, and I was shocked it actually tasted like beer. It didn’t taste exactly like what you would buy in a store, but it was a lot closer than expected.”
After college, he ditched the hobby to invest his time in a position with a consulting group.
Something changed about the time he turned 35, Wyzkiewicz said. He no longer could stomach the long hours and weekend shifts. He once again began brewing, this time in a more refined, classroom environment.
He enrolled in an eight-month program at the American Brewers Guild, then earned an internship at Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery, fine-tuning his palate and accumulating craft beer knowledge.
As he scaled the Goose Island hierarchy from intern to brewer, Wyzkiewicz helped create the recipe for the brewery’s Green Line Ale and eventually earned his Cicerone certification – a beer mastery designation requiring advanced knowledge of serving beer, different styles, flavor and evaluation, brewing process, and ingredients and food pairing.
After four years at Goose Island, Wyzkiewicz jumped at the chance to become head brewer at Bolingbrook’s Gordon Biersch Restaurant.
He now runs all beverage-related services at the Bolingbrook location – everything from operating and cleaning the 15-barrel brewery to training staff, hosting tapping events, and invoicing and tracking orders.
“There is a massive amount of logistics that goes into being a head brewer,” Wyzkiewicz said. “I am a division of one. I brew it, I filter it, I clean it, I serve it, I educate.”
Wyzkiewicz jokingly calls himself a glorified janitor, saying the most time-consuming element – about 75 percent of the job, he said – involves cleaning and sanitizing the tanks and equipment.
The most fulfilling part is educating young craft beer fanatics and giving back to the community, Wyzkiewicz said.
In his free time, the head brewer helps grade the essay portions of the Cicerone certification test and judges the Great American Beer Festival each fall. He also will speak at Plainfield’s Midwest Brewer fest in August.
Wyzkiewicz aligns each seasonal craft tapping with a charity fundraiser, most recently raising money for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies on April 2.
“It’s important to give back,” Wyzkiewicz said. “The Bolingbrook community is what keeps this business open.”