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If you have even a passing knowledge of Milwaukee’s comedy scene, you’re probably aware of Tim Higgins. The humorist has been teaching and performing improv in the region since 1992. Along the way, he’s dabbled in stand-up—even opening for the late, great Barry Crimmins—acting in a variety of projects, and has been a semi-recurring part of “The Gang” over at Red Letter Media. Perhaps you’re also among the millions of people who have seen him elaborately passing and receiving cans of Old Milwaukee in the viral “Hey Pass Me A Beer” videos.

When Higgins isn’t on stage or in front of a camera, he’s helping to make sure the beer you drink is fresh and free of bacteria. By day, this accomplished improviser serves as a “Line Tech” for Milwaukee Draft Works. This unsung profession brings Higgins behind the scenes to flush the tap lines and clean the draft systems of more than 70 clients throughout Milwaukee and as far away as Oconomowoc and Franklin. If you drink draft beer, cocktails, coffee, kombucha, at the link, there’s a decent chance you’ve reaped the benefits of his work. As fans of his comedy and the clean beer he helps provide Milwaukee with, Milwaukee Record asked Higgins to tell us more about the ins and outs of being a Line Tech.

Milwaukee Record: How did you get started in this line of work?

Tim Higgins: I first got interested in cleaning lines while working at the Milwaukee Brewing Company. I crossed paths with Anthony Rosenthal while I was cleaning the lines at the Ninth Street location—now Pilot Project. Anthony was cleaning the lines for the restaurant next door, and we got to chatting, and comparing cleaning techniques. On my last day at the brewery, he was there and offered a job if I was interested, and I was.

MR: Can you outline some specific job duties?

TH: In my duties as a Line Tech, I flush and clean draft lines with a cleaning solution that removes scaling or “skins” that build up as beer is in the lines. I make sure that the equipment, such as couplers and faucets, are clean. I keep an eye on the CO₂ pressure on the kegs and make sure they are at the right levels. I also take care of minor maintenance.

MR: Without naming names…unless you want to, what’s the toughest job or worst draft system you had to clear?

TH: There is a lot of gross stuff that can make my day interesting. There are places where we get calls for a cleaning and they have no idea when the last time something was cleaned—even as far back as the shut down. Kegerators that mysteriously appear in basements of venues that need to be redone. Restaurants that keep produce and other foodstuffs on half barrels.

MR: What are some things people should take note of when drinking draft beer in order to avoid drinking from dirty lines? Are there certain noticeable flavors? Sediments?

TH: Customers should be aware of the smell of the beer. If it smells like a basement, you might want to put it down.

MR: Are there any misconceptions about draft beer you’d like to clear up here?

TH: Some say that sediment can be a telltale sign, but some beers have sediment or yeasts that naturally occur in the beer, so it is important to know what you’re drinking. Always ask the bartender if you don’t trust it. Don’t freak out and start posting shit. And we offer signage to our customers to let their patrons know they take care of their product.

MR: How often should businesses clean their lines? Is it a matter of the passage of time between cleanings or is it the volume of liquid that passes through them that’s more important?

TH: Beer is a natural thing that has sugars and other ingredients that cause bacteria build up in beer lines. Bacteria starts building seven to 10 days after a cleaning, so we really recommend cleaning every two weeks. It may seem like a waste in the beginning, but you are ensuring your customers that what they are drinking is clean, and they shouldn’t get sick from drinking. Responsibly.

MR: Do things like coffee, kombucha, and pre-batched cocktails on draft lines require different care than beer lines do?

TH: Even if you aren’t moving any beer, allowing anything to sit in the line will cause bacteria. Kombucha, coffee, wine, and anything that is plant-based or has a mother should be cleaned.

MR: Are there any parallels with your main gig doing this and your other identity as one of Milwaukee’s most accomplished improvisers?

TH: The only parallel between improv and this job is that I’m around beer. In Improv you get to work with others. Line cleaning, for the most part, is a solitary line of work. I am in and out of most places before any other employee shows up. It’s so sweet.

MR: Do you find it ironic that videos of you passing beers have been seen by millions and now you have a business where you help beer pass through draft systems?

TH: It is ironic being in this position after “Pass Me A Beer.” With PMAB, we wanted as much waste and explosions as possible. People ate it up. I would hate my job if I had to deal with that on a daily basis.

MR: Are you taking on new clients? If so, how can people get in touch?

TH: We are always getting calls from possible future clients, they can always find us online or reach us by calling 414-622-0990.

MR: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

TH: Support your local bars and restaurants. More importantly, support local comedy. They usually perform at places with clean beer.

Tim Higgins co-hosts Voyager, a comedy show that takes place in the Moon Room at Landmark Lanes the second Tuesday of each month. Follow Voyager on Instagram to stay up to date on that recurring showcase.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.