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Interview Tue Feb 27 2007

Dr. Beer Geek

As far as titles go Culinary Attaché isn’t a bad one. (In fact, it’s pretty freaking badass.) The PhD on Jim Javenkoski’s business card isn’t anything to sneeze at, either. As the Chicago based Culinary Attaché for the Canadian brewer La Brasserie Unibroue, he spent a fair amount of time throughout the month of February conducting beer and chocolate tastings around Chicago. He paired the Belgian style beers with chocolates from chocolatiers Vosges Haut-Chocolate and the locally based Katherine Anne Confections, as well as Scharffen Berger chocolates out of California. As Valentine’s Day and the attendant chocolate season recedes, Javenkoski will be turning his attention to beer dinners over the next few months, including on one Thursday, March 1st at Cooper’s in Lake View.

His interest in beer developed with a beer can collection as a child, and before he was old enough to drink he decided that he wanted to be a Brew Master. Brewing schools proved to be intimidatingly expensive, so he turned to Food Science and headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his B.S. Javenkoski later earned his doctorate in Food Science from U of I at Urbana-Champaign.

His interest in beer clearly survives, though, and he is very much a beer geek’s beer geek. To the extent that his first Chicago apartment was very calculatedly a block away from Sam’s Wine and Spirits and Goose Island’s Clybourn outpost.

Many wine professionals can tell you about the first wine they had that made it click, that made them get wine. Javenkoski is no different, quickly waxing poetic about being served a goblet of Westmalle Dubble, a Trappist ale from Belgium. Furthermore, he remembers when (February 1994), where (Blind Pig Co. in Champaign) and by whom (Jim Creason, “barmaster extraordinaire”). (He also blames the Blind Pig Co. for his extended stay in grad school.) Nor does he hesitate when asked about those pairings that are so brilliantly seamless and inextricably intertwined that they verge on the sublime and transcendent. “Unibroue’s Trios Pistoles and Scharffen Berger’s Nibby Bar (semisweet chocolate with cocao nibs) are to me the ultimate pairing,” he told me.

Javenkoski started with Unibroue on a part-time basis in 2004 hosting tasting events and doing “market intelligence” by scoping out which Unibroue beers were in which stores. He still only moonlights for Unibroue. He spends his days, like most of the people I know (I know a lot of actors), working at a job with very little relevance to his degree, but finding tremendous satisfaction in his off-hours gig. And being a beer geek isn’t a bad part-time gig. Especially when you’ve got such a cool title.


Jeremy / March 9, 2007 2:16 PM

Beer often takes an unfair backseat to wine as far as food pairings (Wine says "Don't make me pull this car over!")and it's always nice to see someone place the spotlight on such an underestimated beverage. Nice work Tim.

Martin Erikk / December 29, 2010 7:57 AM

Javenkoski started with Unibroue on a part-time basis in 2004 hosting tasting events and doing “market intelligence” by scoping out which Unibroue beers were in which stores. He still only moonlights for Unibroue

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