Bold Character is more than just a catchphrase at Great Divide, it’s the philosophy behind what we brew, how we think, and what we believe. We’d like to introduce you to another Bold Character around here, Katie Cochrane.
When did you start working at GD?
What’s your favorite GD Beer?
Whitewater (get hype, everyone, it’s tasting so good this year!)
Favorite GD Icon?
Whitewater (I like bears)
What’s your favorite part about brewing at Great Divide?
The people are pretty great unless you’re stuck on a graveyard shift with Christ Depew for eight weeks straight. That guy’s the WORST.
Growing up, did you always know you wanted to brew beer for a living?
I kind of did, actually. It’s a bit of a long story, but my friends and I were taking a Saturday morning organic chemistry class our junior year of high school which included a lab about fermentation and simple distillation. We were amazed at how easy the basics were and in our industriousness started to make mead at home. The approach was actually pretty scientific. We built the formula based off what compounds we wanted into the finished product; orange juice for citric acid, black tea for tannins, a calculated amount of honey. For a bunch of seventeen year olds, it tasted pretty good!
PS Before I found brewing, I was definitely going to be the next Jane Goodall/Jacque Cousteau/David Attenborough animal whispering superhero with my tree house in the mountains by the ocean where I could safely keep my orca whale and okapi in close proximity and where I could write animal-themed novels in all my spare time. God I was such a tiny nerd.
How did you get into the world of brewing?
Penn State had a food science program, so I figured if I tried that out and applied it to my closet mead bootlegging experience, I might find a way to brew beer for the rest of my life. I guess it worked.
What’s your favorite type of beer to brew?
Mixed fermentations. I wrote my bachelor’s thesis about mixed fermentations and the flavors you get when you add Brettanomyces to Saccharomyces together or when you stagger them (one first and then the other). Later in brewing school I got to test these results with a brett wit beer that turned out better that any of us imagined it would.
When you are not brewing the sweet nectar of Great Divide, what would we find you doing?
Cooking, baking, biking, ultimate frisbee, arts and crafts (so many arts and crafts). Oh and a shout out to hockey. Let’s go Flyers!
What is it like being the one of the only girls in the brewhouse?
For the most part it’s not that different working here from when I worked in an almost entirely female lab. There’s nothing about a person’s gender that makes them any more or less qualified or well-suited for a job in the brewing industry, it’s just a matter of exposure and cultural bias pushing women away. But the more time moves forward, the more ladies you see interested in this area and the more balance of perspective is brought to the workplace, the beers and flavors produced, the styles of communication and collaboration, etc. Just because production is hard work doesn’t mean anyone should feel like who they are disqualifies them from giving it a go!
We heard you have some experience in ice cream, what’s that about?
I got a job in the dairy lab at PSU with Dr. Robert Roberts (super creative parents). For the most part it consisted of washing dirty test tubes and making media for grad students, but every year in January I got to step in as a TA for the big ice cream short course (the same one Ben and Jerry attended in the 70s. They got a C). It’s still a fallback if this whole beer thing doesn’t work out.
We also heard something about pre-made cake mixes…
I worked for a summer with Smuckers, that jelly company out of Ohio. They own a bunch of other brands, with all R&D done in the same facility. I was put into the baking lab working on cake, cookie, and frosting mixes. You know those blue Pillsbury cookie and cake mixes? I worked on them a bit, especially the ones flavored like blue Jolly Ranchers (they also thankfully come in vanilla). My boss there probably taught me more about staying three steps ahead and juggling multiple projects than anyone before, but I’m pretty sure she was a wizard because no regular human can have so much on her plate and still get it all done so expertly.
Tell us about your time with the Siebel Brewing Program.
It was my third time living in Germany and second time brewing there. The first time I went over specifically to brew, I was in the tiny university brewery of the Hochschüle Ost-Westfallen Lippe in the little college and pensioner town of Lemgo. No one really spoke english, and I was made fun of for my German (especially pre-coffee) but it was a blast getting to work with Christian, their brewmaster, and the grad students in the lab. I learned a lot about the different organic acids produced in sour fermentations, different yeast and bacteria strains, and I got to help brew a traditional Märzen for the end of semester campus wide party. Half the time I had no idea what the brewmaster was doing and his english and my german weren’t good enough to get a decent explanation, but it was still a great time. Siebel really helped me build on the clumsy and mostly lab-based foundation I had in brewing. I wouldn’t have been able to jump in here as a brewer without it.
What’s your favorite Slovenian dish?
Potica (po-tee-tsa)! It’s a sweet yeasted dough rolled up with a filling made of ground walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, and rum. It’s pretty much required at all family gatherings.
Best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?
Sexy George Washington.