FTG 0061 – Brewing Your Own Trail with Brewer and Engineer Katie Legenski ’16

Episode 3 February 06, 2024 01:02:35
FTG 0061 – Brewing Your Own Trail with Brewer and Engineer Katie Legenski ’16
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0061 – Brewing Your Own Trail with Brewer and Engineer Katie Legenski ’16

Feb 06 2024 | 01:02:35

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Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes

Overview:

Katie Legenski ’16 Eng welcomed Following the Gong to Antifragile Brewing in downtown State College where she serves as the head kombucha brewer for Moody Culture. Katie shares her experiences at Penn State Berks and in the College of Engineering, where she earned her bachelor of science in chemical engineering with honors after study abroad opportunities and a major setback on her thesis. Katie also shares her experiences deciding to pursue work in the pharmaceutical industry rather than a PhD, and her decision to uproot everything and hike the Appalachian Trail. She then explains all things kombucha, fermentation, and brewing, providing insights on this career path and the value of understanding various components of engineering and science in a field that marries her work experience and passion. Finally, Katie shares opportunities for community in State College as an alumna and powerful perspectives on finding the joy in your self-defined success. This episode is great for any Scholar, and especially those in STEM majors, those interested in brewing beverages like kombucha, those staying in State College after graduation, and any Scholar interested in hiking, rock climbing, or dancing. Katie’s full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics can be found in the show notes below.

Guest Bio:

Katie Legenski ’16 Eng is head kombucha brewer for Moody Culture in downtown State College, PA. The Moody Culture brewery is housed in the Antifragile Brewing Company taproom and brewery at 324 E Calder Way, State College. Brewing kombucha consists of choosing a brewing tea, inoculating with starter culture, maintaining the appropriate temperature for fermentation, flavoring with fruits or herbs, and carbonating the resulting beverage. Katie has been head brewer since March 2023 and has since introduced new flavors to Moody's line up including passionfruit, black currant, and the first decaf flavor: orange blossom tulsi. She's also quite proud of developing hard kombucha featuring alcohol fermented with the kombucha instead of spiking non-alcoholic kombucha with seltzer or grain ethanol which is industry standard. She earned a BS in chemical engineering in 2016 from Penn State. Prior to brewing for Moody Culture, she completed a southbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail and worked in early drug discovery at both Glaxo Smith Kline and Johnson and Johnson. She's been fostering a love for fermentation for over a decade and is always happy to discuss all things fermentable. Other interests include social dance, rock climbing, fiber arts, and piano. She can be reached on LinkedIn and on Instagram at @kitkatlegenski.

Episode Topics:

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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen '11 Lib (Schreyer), '23g Bus.

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Sean Goheen (Host): Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* [00:00:12] Sean: Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* [00:00:55] Sean: Katie Legenski, class of 2016 welcomed following the gong to Antifragile Brewing in downtown State College, where she serves as the head kombucha Brewer for Moody Culture. Katie shares her experiences at Penn State Berks and in the College of Engineering, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering with honors. After study abroad opportunities and a major setback on her thesis, Katie also shares her experiences deciding to pursue work in the pharmaceutical industry rather than a PhD, and her decision to uproot everything and hike the Appalachian Trail. She then explains all things Kombucha, fermentation and brewing, providing insights on this career path and the value of understanding various components of engineering and science in a field that marries her work, experience and passion. Finally, Katie shares opportunities for community and state College as an alumna and powerful perspectives on finding the joy in your self defined success. This episode is great for any scholar and especially those in STEM majors, those interested in brewing beverages like kombucha, those staying in State college after graduation, and any scholar interested in hiking, rock climbing or dancing. Katie's full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics can be found in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's spill the tea on life as a brewer with Katie Legenski following the gong. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* [00:02:09] Sean: Joining me here today on following the gong is head kombucha brewer for moody culture at Antifragile brewing. Katie Legenski and we're actually recording here live at Antifragile brewing. If you were to stand on the front patio of Atherton hall and you threw a rock over the student bookstore, it would land at the front door right where we're sitting. Katie, looking forward to chatting here today on our first roadshow episode. [00:02:30] Katie: Cool. Yeah, happy to be here. [00:02:32] Sean: Well, thanks for the hospitality here. We're recording on a cool fall day and I'm enjoying some nice mold cider, so thank you for that. Yeah, I will say as you're listening, there's probably gong to be some background noises because we are recording live on site. So my apologies in advance. Now, Katie, I usually start by asking how did you first come to Penn State? But I think an important contextual question to set up our whole conversation today around brewing is what exactly is Kombucha? [00:03:01] Katie: Oh, great question. Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage. It's fermented with a symbiotic consortium of bacteria and yeast and usually comes out pretty heavy in lactic and acetic acid. So it's a tart beverage. Nice tea flavor. Here we add fruit and herbs to the final product and it's lightly fizzy, tasty. Got probiotics? If you like sour drinks, it's probably for you. [00:03:26] Sean: Awesome. Well, now that that's going to help set up some of our framework for the day, or if you were tuning in and just were curious on what that is, I wanted to get that up front. So now, Katie, how did you end up at Penn State back in the day? [00:03:37] Katie: Yeah, so I actually started at Penn State Berks in 2012, and I started there because it was about ten minutes from my house. I knew I wanted to study engineering and you could do your first couple of semesters at Berks for engineering, and my sister went here too. [00:03:53] Sean: Absolutely. And obviously I think there's a strong Penn State Berks flavor. That is a little bit of my bias coming through in this podcast over past episodes, but it's a great campus to start at. So I will definitely echo that. I actually had classes with your sister, and I'm guessing that maybe her involvement might have had something to do with your pursuing being a Schreyer scholar as. [00:04:18] Katie: Absolutely, yeah. So my older sister was active in the Shire Honors college as well, and she studied abroad through the honors college. And that was definitely something that drew me to joining, was having that opportunity to study abroad, and I loved it. So it was a great choice. [00:04:35] Sean: Absolutely. So you start at know, but then you come to University park and it's a whole different experience. So how did you adjust and kind of get plugged in and situated up here? [00:04:45] Katie: Yeah, it was honestly pretty tricky. The culture is super different on the commonwealth campuses. Having bigger class sizes was pretty daunting. Not having personal relationships with all of my teachers, as a matter of course, was pretty scary. Making friends here was also pretty hard, especially for the students that were starting here. They already had their friends, they didn't need new ones. So I actually found myself being friends with a lot of other students from commonwealth campuses. So some of the better friends that I ended up having were from Penn State, Hazelton. Still talk to them. We meet up once a year, but, yeah, I had to be intentional about finding community once I came up here. Definitely getting used to the bigger class sizes. I think I took calc three in a class of maybe seven or eight students. And then coming here, even in chemical engineering, classes were like the smallest ones, maybe 50 people. So it was different. And adjusting definitely reflected in my grades a bit. But once I adjusted, I think that I did end up liking being here because there are a lot of resources in clubs, et cetera. [00:05:47] Sean: Awesome. So you talked about. There's that bit of a dip when you come up here. How did you handle that? A lot of Shire scholars aim for perfectionism, but we have the three four GPA requirement for a reason. So that when things happen or you experiment, you can rebound if you have an off semester. So how did you handle that? [00:06:05] Katie: Definitely starting to do homework with other students was a big motivator for me just to first of all, get the homework done, but also being able to discuss answers. A lot of engineering problems aren't, like, simple to solve, so having someone just to discuss what formulas to use or how to go about problem solving was really helpful for me. So I ended up living in the student lounge in Fensky, may it rest in peace. The old chemical engineering building, the basement of Fensky, was a fallout shelter because they did bomb testing back in the cold war era. And that's where they put the student lounge after we didn't really need that capacity anymore. Yeah. So lived in that student lounge to get my homework done with some other students who were also struggling, I guess, definitely smarter than me. They helped me a lot, and that's what's great. [00:06:50] Sean: You can find the community in the honors college, in your major in clubs. And you've talked about engineering. What exactly drew you to not just engineering, but specifically chemical engineering? [00:07:01] Katie: I didn't know what I wanted to do. And chemical engineering has been dubbed the liberal arts of engineering. There's a lot of different things you can do with it. You can go the petrochemical route. If you want to do petroleum engineering, you can also do the straight chemical synthesis route. I chose the more biology, biological engineering route and focused on biomolecular engineering because I thought that was really interesting, but I didn't know that when I first started. But chemical engineering had all of these options available, so I wanted to explore them. [00:07:32] Sean: Yeah, well, I think that's probably helpful for any student, maybe early in their career, trying to figure out which engineering is for you. But I also noticed you use the word explore. And another thing you got to explore quite a bit was other countries through studying abroad. You mentioned your sister. We went on a trip at Burt's together. Kind of your inspiration for joining the college. So tell us about your study abroad experiences. What were those like, especially as an engineering student, where there is a perception that you can't mix those things, but you absolutely can. [00:08:00] Katie: Yeah, for sure. So another great thing about Penn State Berks is there is the one credit course every spring where a teacher will focus on literature for the most part. Depends on the class. But my two trips that I took, one to South Africa and then one to Turkey, both of those were focused on literature of those areas. And obviously South Africa has a rich history from a political standpoint as well. I mean, so does turkey. That's both of them. But. So taking those classes and having access to that through the honors college and studying literature as an engineering student was cool. Diversity to have. And then studying abroad in Singapore, I studied at the National University of Singapore, which at the time was one of the best chemical engineering schools in the world. Speaking of grades suffering, there were some really hard classes there, and I unfortunately didn't save up my electives. So I was there taking mass transfer pharmacokinetics classes that were hard to begin with, and then at a very difficult school was probably not my best choice, but that was something that I had access to through the honors college and also had some financial support for. So that was pretty cool. And then when I was in Singapore, I was gone almost every weekend, exploring other countries for hiking, looking at temples. Sometimes I would take a bus to Malaysia just to get food for dinner. That was fun. Yeah. So as an engineer, you can choose schools that have language of instruction, as your English was my preferred language of instruction, which Singapore fit that bill. Great engineering school. I was there for a semester, so it wasn't a huge commitment, but still took some rigorous classes. [00:09:35] Speaker A: That's awesome. [00:09:35] Sean: So you meant, like, you were in a place that was kind of centrally located to be able to easily jet off to so many other locations. Was that a factor in your consideration, or was it the academics? And then that was a bonus. [00:09:47] Katie: It was a bonus, yeah. So Singapore also, the financials worked out for that. So some of the study abroads don't have a strict. This has probably changed since I've been in school, but other universities that had language of instruction of English were charging additional fees on top of Penn state tuition. So that also factored into my choice of Singapore. But, yeah, it was a great school. The fact that you could get $20 flights to a couple of other countries in Southeast Asia was just. Yeah, it was a perk. [00:10:15] Sean: That's awesome. Well, if you're considering studying abroad, something to think about is, where else can you go? Because your home base is wherever you're studying abroad for that, you know, if you're in France or Italy or Germany, somewhere where you can easily head across Europe or perhaps somewhere in South America, Brazil, and jet off across the continent. So something to consider. [00:10:34] Katie: Yeah. [00:10:35] Sean: Now you got back to the states and time to do your thesis. [00:10:40] Katie: Just barely. [00:10:41] Sean: Well, tell us about that. What was your thesis experience like? [00:10:44] Katie: My thesis was multifaceted because my experiments didn't necessarily work out. I was working in a chemical engineering lab with Wayne Curtis, and my first project was doing a de novo assembly of a bacteria, novel bacterium, that we had isolated from an algal culture. So the algae we were interested in because it naturally produced hydrocarbons that could be used as biofuels without any hydrothermal liquefaction, which is the traditional route, grow algae, get gas, essentially. But this algae, because it had this hydrocarbon like biofilm, essentially, a lot of things would get trapped in it. So getting an exenic, a clean culture of that algae was really difficult. And one of the contaminants that we kept having to try to remove was this bacteria. And so we got it sequenced, found out it was a novel bacteria, assembled the genome, found out that it had a lot of virulent genes in it, which we probably shouldn't have been working with in the lab that we had, but it was isolated from literally outside, so there was no real way for us to know that. But so I couldn't really continue work on that, knowing that it was a dangerous bacteria to work with. And we just didn't have the lab cabinets to work with it. So I started working on a protein expression experiment of embryogenesis inducing protein in rice. So for plant cloning, plants getting a transgenic plant line, you most of the time for rice anyway, want callus. It's a tissue that expresses, that makes the dna more open to editing, so less tightly wrapped around histones so that we can edit it more easily. But getting callus in that type of tissue is a not very well defined route for rice, specifically. There's a lot of hormones that you can use or we had an idea that this specific protein, which was a pla protein, if we isolated that and treated the tissue with just this protein, we can induce callus. So we were trying to get to the end of that experiment. I didn't have time. Plants grow super slow. I only had about a year to do it, so didn't get as far on that as I wanted to, but had a lot of other material from the de novo genome assembly from the bacteria. So my thesis kind of focused on those two things. [00:12:53] Sean: Interesting. And I'm going to pretend I understood half of that. But if you were in stem and understood all of what Katie was just saying, kudos to you, but it sounds like it was really interesting and kind of you had to backtrack and start over, and assuming you had to work with your thesis advisor and the college to kind of figure out, like, okay, you're doing the work, you're making stuff happen, but by the nature of what you're studying, you don't have the full length of time that the study like this could require. Essentially happened. [00:13:22] Katie: I wanted to graduate, so we had a partial thesis. Yes. [00:13:27] Sean: Well, I'm glad that we were able to work with you to recognize the work and effort that you did put in. So, any thought to ever like finishing that off? [00:13:35] Katie: I definitely have better tools now. After working in the biotech industry for five years, I have better tools now to answer that question than I did as a mere babe in college. I don't know. I don't know if I would go back and work on the same project again. Something that when I started working in an industry, I found out what I was struggling with for close to a year, trying to clone something. I could have just ordered it online for $300. I just didn't even know that that resource existed. And just talking to people who are experts in the field, sometimes you get these epiphanies being like, oh, I could have just done this. So in the end, maybe it would be an easy experiment to do, but do I want to go back to school? No, I think I'm good. [00:14:20] Sean: So working. You're here at antifragile, right? Is there anything from your thesis experience that you jumping ahead a little bit, used in the brewing process or any of those skills that you developed in the lab that use here? [00:14:33] Katie: Absolutely. So brewing is microbiology. So, yeah. Having a strong background or a good idea of microbes and their different requirements? Absolutely. It's super applicable here, especially with kombucha as a mixed fermentation. So beer is an exenic culture most of the time depends on the beer but you want your beer to pretty much be fermented by a single yeast strain and kombucha has it's a wild fermentation it's environmental microbes that like to grow at a certain ph with tea as its nutritional requirements and white sugar but they all have different temperatures that they prefer different oxygen requirements, different co2 evolution and having an idea of at least the breadth of different microbes like I often think about my micro 201 class that I took that's like the only textbook I kept from school was this brock microbiology it's like a bible of all these beautiful pictures of different microbes and the phylogenetics and how they're all related. So yeah for sure brewing is microbiology. [00:15:31] Sean: Well we're going to dive a little bit more into the brewing in a couple of minutes but you did mention that you worked in industry first in biotech and kind of some pharma space so how did you approach those internships and finding those opportunities to get your foot in the door in undergrad and then ultimately finding that first full time role outside of college once you graduated? [00:15:53] Katie: Yeah it wasn't straightforward that is for sure. So I thought that I wanted to get a PhD until about second semester senior year when I sat down writing purpose statements for applications I had already taken the GRE, I got all my transcripts ready, was looking at applying to a couple of labs, was already talking to some pis and I was writing my statements about why I wanted a PhD and I was like oh I don't think I actually want this. Which if you spend your four years preparing for academia and then at the end you end up wanting to go to industry. Yeah it's not easy because every summer I was doing reus or working for the university not getting any industry experience and then when I was done with school saying like hey industry, give me a job and they're like no, we're going to just hire our interns that had worked for the summer. So I actually started at GlaxoSmithKline which in their Collegeville Pennsylvania location in their drug discovery space they have a co op program that you can co op which is a six month stint essentially after you graduate. So I had applied to one of those and one of the specific proteins in my thesis was actually one that someone there was studying and she's like oh you're perfect for this job. So that was very lucky for me to get that job but worked there for six months, basically, as a bench scientist in R D. And then I was like, hey, wait a second. I'm a chemical engineer. I should do process engineering, right? Because that's what my degree is in. So then I worked on the manufacturing floor, also for GSK in Concha Hawkin manufacturing mepolizumab, which is a monoclonal antibody used for the treatment of different various lung disorders. COPD decided I did not like that. [00:17:41] Sean: What was it about that that you didn't like? [00:17:43] Katie: It wasn't as technical as I was expecting it to be. It was a lot of paperwork. So when a drug has already made it to market, there's nothing you can change about the process without redoing clinical trials. So even if there were places we could optimize to easily increase output of drug production, we physically could not, because the FDA says, no, you're changing the product. You need to start from scratch. You have to start from scratch. And the term that people use is the process makes the product. So if you change your process, the product is different, even if you can prove by mass spec that it's exactly identical. So that was extremely frustrating. And a lot of the job ended up being paperwork and following regulations, and it just wasn't what I was expecting. I thought there was going to be more problem solving, very different from working in R and D. So I ended up going back to my old department that I did my first co op in, and they were hiring full time people, and I was like, cool. I would like to apply for one of those. And they're like, cool, you can work here. [00:18:39] Sean: Always nice when people say that, right? [00:18:41] Katie: It is fantastic. Can I have a job? One job, please? So I worked there for about a year and was not happy with development. And as some of you who are in the pharmaceutical industry may know, people get traded, like, trading cards between different companies. If you're not promoted, if you don't like your current job, just go work at one of the other five within 15 miles of your house kind of thing. So I quit at GSK to work a different type of job in R and D, at J and J in Spring House, Johnson and Johnson. And I was there for three years, until the pandemic, essentially. And then in 2021, I decided to quit and through hike the appalachian trail. [00:19:21] Sean: So I was really like, whoa. When I was reading your questionnaire ahead of time, because that hadn't come up in any of our pre chat, and walk us through. So you have a steady job, good income, working in pharma, and obviously I'm sure, the pandemic caused most everybody to reevaluate something in their life. Right? But walk us through your mindset, like, your process of, like, hey, I'm going to give all this up to go do this thing that maybe a lot of people say they want to do, but you're actually going to do it. [00:19:50] Katie: Yeah, it was super scary, and I don't think that I would have actually done it had my partner not also decided to do it with me. Both of us ended up at similar emotional places about our careers. We had hit that five year mark of experience and, like, well, the things that are expected of us now are different, are the expectations, meeting our goals. And the answer for both of us was no. We had both been in financial good standing. This is not something I recommend for folks with student debt. Like, you got to pay your bills first. But financially, we were in a good place physically. We were both young and healthy. A lot of people wait until they retire to do something like the appalachian trail, and it's like, well, if your body's already kind of falling apart, it's just going to be harder and not as enjoyable. So we decided to carpet the diem and just do it. But, yeah, it was super scary, and it felt good to quit, but it was also like, I can't believe I just did that. Like, having a good Schreyer, especially in the space that I was in. Most of my peers had phds, and I only had a bachelor's, so I was already in a place of privilege in that space, and it did feel even more privileged leaving. But it was the right choice. I'm glad that I did it. [00:21:11] Sean: So once you made the decision, how did you two actually like the logistics of preparing? How did you. [00:21:17] Katie: Getting on trail was the hardest part. Yeah. So we packed up our apartment of five years we were renting, so we just broke our lease and put all of our belongings, what we didn't sell. So basically, we made the decision about January of 2021 that we were going to do this. And I had an investment maturing at J and J in June. So I'm like, okay, that's going to be my. Sorry, J and J. That's going to be my last day. We're going to work through then. And so basically, we had those six months to start selling things and organizing and figuring out where we were going to put the belongings that we did want to keep and making gear, and we ended up dehydrating all of our food for the trail as well. So our nine tray excalibur was running all the time, dehydrating different vegetables and proteins for the dinners that we were going to be eating on trail for six months. Yeah, that was also really difficult. Moving is really hard. So we ended up putting all of our belongings in various basements and attics across the state between friends and family. And we basically just didn't have any place to live for about a year. And while we were hiking, we lived out of our backpacks. We had everything we needed in there. So it was very different from what we were used to. But, yeah, moving is always difficult. [00:22:30] Sean: Yeah. I think it's funny, there's this expression of kind of go where the job is, but sometimes it's not that simple. Right. And especially if you're not even following a job, you're following a trail down the east coast. Right. Maybe a silly question, and I'm sure if you're listening, you can pause and look at the Wikipedia article for this. But where do you actually start? How do you decide which even direction you're going to go? North or south? [00:22:51] Katie: Yeah. So for through hiking, hike your own hike. Everyone has a different idea of what a through hike means, but I believe according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which is one of the main trail maintainers for the at through hike is at least 2000 miles. So the trail, the year that I hiked it was about 2200. So at least 2000 miles covered in a calendar year. So if you start on June 1, 2022, by June 1, 2023, you need to have hiked 2000 miles of the trail. For me, I started in Maine at the northern terminus and hiked south to Georgia. A lot of folks, about 90% of the people who finish start in Georgia and hike north to Maine. Just because the seasons are a little bit kinder, the window to hike the trail is a little bit longer if you go that direction. But we were constrained by time, so we started southbound. A lot of folks start in Virginia at the emotional midpoint of the trail, Harper's Ferry, and hike either north or south and then flip back to Harper's Ferry and then hike the other half of the trail from there. That still counts as a through hike, according to the ATC, but some people feel that it needs to be a continuous footpath. So depends on the person that you ask. [00:24:01] Sean: So how long did it actually take you to get from the northernmost point to. Did you get to the southern terminus? [00:24:07] Katie: Yeah, it took us five and a half months. And because we started so late in the season, my partner ended up hurting his foot. He had not broken it, but there was some sort of tendonitis issue that we ended up starting a month late later than we anticipated. So we ended up finishing December 18 in Georgia. We were like, let's try not to miss Christmas if we can help it. So the last couple of weeks, we were averaging like 25 miles days to just push to get through. But yeah, five and a half months, I believe is close to average. I think 150 days is the average for people who finish. But of people who start through hikes, I think it's only 2020. 5% actually finish. [00:24:47] Sean: So, Katie, I bet we could probably have done an entire podcast episode about your trip. Five and a half months on the trail and all the interesting characters and cool places and weird things that you probably saw or experienced. But is there just one cool, interesting, weird anecdote that you want to share to give a flavor of what it might be? If a student's a hiker, a mountain climber, that sort of thing? They're outdoorsy and they want to look at doing this in the future just to give a flavor of what they could expect. [00:25:17] Katie: I guess I'll just point out my favorite part. The best part about through hiking is definitely the intensity of community that you end up finding anyone else who is as crazy as you to be doing the same thing as soon as you meet them and you realize that they are as crazy as you. You're like instantly friends for life, like your family. And because we were hiking in an off season in the less common direction, we only ran into maybe 15 people doing the same thing as us. And do I still talk to them regularly? Yes, even though I finished the trail like two years ago. I'm actually visiting one for his birthday in November. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to go see him for his birthday. Yeah. I've not experienced that type of intense community in any other context. And that's what I miss most about trail. And am I going to through hike another trail at some point? Absolutely. Because I want that pack. It's fantastic. [00:26:07] Sean: Not the answer I would have expected, but that is a really cool answer nonetheless. So you meet all these cool people, you build this community along the way, but hey, we want to get home by Christmas. And you achieve that. So you get through Christmas. How did you two start figuring out what's next? You had sold off a lot of stuff. You've got things in storage units and basements and attics, like you said. How did you start getting back to some semblance of what most of us would call a normal life. [00:26:33] Katie: Yeah. First of all, the post trail depression is real. It was rough talk about that. [00:26:38] Sean: What does that mean? [00:26:39] Katie: I mean, you lose your community essentially, when you finish. And one of the simple things about hiking the trail that I didn't realize was amazing until I got off was, you know, what you're doing every day, you don't have to decide. And that was something that I suffered from the most, was decision fatigue. Like, what am I going to do every day? Because you hike 25 miles, that's your entire day. You wake up, you eat, you have to eat thousands of calories every day if you're just going to continue surviving and you hike and then you eat and you go to sleep. And that was really simple. And coming off trail be like, well, what should I be doing? And deciding, what do I want to do? It's tiring, fatiguing. When I was on trail, I was thinking about what I wanted to do next because you have a lot of time to think. And something that I put on my bucket list was working at a brewery. It's something that I've wanted to do for a long time and was like, well, I had a job before, so I couldn't really work too, but I was like, hey, I don't have a job now. I might go back to Pharma, but I have some time to work. A couple of years at a brewery. That would be cool. So when we got off trail, we ended up doing a road trip. So we lived out of my prius for a couple of months, put 8000 miles on her, going on to California and then back up to Maine and just around the country seeing folks. And then we signed a lease here in state college last summer. And just to pay some bills, I started working on campus in a lab. But it wasn't really what I wanted to do. And then I judged a competition in February of this year with Paolo, the head brewer here. And he was saying that he needed some help, that he's a little overworked, a little overstressed. And I was like, hey, this is perfect. So I messaged him after the competition. He's like, oh, yeah, come on down. He's like, can you start Monday? I was like, perfect. Glad we can finally do this. So I left my job on campus to work here. And it's fantastic. I love it. It's great. [00:28:27] Sean: So, Katie, you said just a second ago that you had always wanted to work in a brewery. Why? What inspired that? Give us your brewing origin story here. [00:28:38] Katie: Back in the day, back in what was this? 2015? I brewed my first batch of beer with a friend. [00:28:44] Sean: That was while you were still in college, correct? [00:28:47] Katie: Yes, still in college and one of my friends. [00:28:49] Sean: But not in. [00:28:51] Katie: No, no, this is not on campus. It's a dry campus, Sean. You know that. No, but there is actually a homebrew club on campus. [00:29:00] Sean: Of course there is. [00:29:01] Katie: How can there not be, with the food sciences and everything like that? Of course there is. But no. I brewed my first batch of beer with a friend who is just kind of like, incidentally, asking me, like, hey, I'm doing this. Do you want to come over and brew some beer with me? And I was like, sure. And we did it. And I was like, this is actually kind of cool. This is pretty cool. And then started brewing myself a couple of years later. Won home brewer of the year at my homebrew club. [00:29:27] Sean: Very nice. [00:29:27] Katie: Won a couple of blue ribbons at some competitions, did a couple of pro ams, branched out into other fermentations. So I kept bees for four years. Had 100 pounds of honey harvested every summer. Well, I guess I'll start making mead, which is fermented honey. I mean, like, sure, why not? Honey wine sounds fantastic. Friends asked me to make wine for their wedding. I was like, okay, I guess I make wine now. And I also did the sourdough throughout the pandemic, because who didn't at that point? Lacto fermented hot sauces, sauerkraut, kimchi. I just really like fermenting things. And then I started making kombucha during the pandemic as well. And that kind of, I think, was the nail in the coffin here for being the kombucha brewer. They're like, oh, you already know how to make this, and it tastes good. Like, cool. You got the job. [00:30:12] Sean: So were you much like a beer mead wine drinker before discovering the homebrew, or how did that happen? [00:30:19] Katie: I did always have a soft spot for beer as, like, many a Penn stater. I mean, how could you not? No, I remember the first beer that I drank where I was like, this is fantastic. People are going to judge me for this. But I was at a party in undergrad, and someone gave me a Jenny cream ale, genesee cream ale. And I was like, this is so good. And it's a light cream ale. It's not a heavy beer. It's one of these fifty cents a can situations. But to this day, it is still one of my favorite beers. And I just remember that and being like, I want to make this. It's like cooking, right? Cook up some beer. It'd be delicious. Yeah. [00:30:55] Sean: That's awesome. So you said that how you kind of got your role, not kind of how you got your role here was that you connected at a competition that you were judging. So how did you go from. Presumably you said you won these blue ribbons to being on the other side? Walk us through the amateur brewing scene. [00:31:16] Katie: It's pretty crazy. Folks spend a lot of time brewing, so I'm BJCP certified. So brewing beer judging certification program certified. So this is an international program where there are different tiers of, basically judges. So between the entry tier and the top tier, I'm somewhere in the middle as a certified judge. And to do that, I had to take a qualifying exam, and then once I qualified, took a tasting exam where I judged six beers next to two judges who were very well renowned, highly ranked, and based on how my critiques matched theirs, then I got my ranking. And so I've been judging that since 2019 and a couple of competitions every year. I might be judging the farm show this year, which would be kind of cool. [00:32:07] Sean: That one. [00:32:08] Katie: Never done that before. [00:32:09] Sean: Pretty big deal here in Pennsylvania. [00:32:10] Katie: Yeah. Have been judging for the breweries in Pennsylvania competitions this past year. Yeah. So people care what I think about their beer, I guess. [00:32:22] Sean: So when you're that, I think there's a moment on the office where Michael Strat says something has, like that Okie. Is that those flavor profiles that you're judging and that you're looking for? [00:32:34] Katie: Yes, as part of it. So there's five pieces that we look for. Appearance, aroma, flavor, overall impression, and mouthfeel. So overall impression would just be like, do I like this personally? And then the other four have very. [00:32:48] Sean: Would I buy this or do I want to puke? [00:32:51] Katie: That's maybe on the extreme, a little less diplomatic than I would put on a score sheet, but that's not far from some of the reactions that I've had. But for the other four categories, there are very specific vocabulary that you use that matches different sensory outputs for the mouthfeel, aroma, and flavor. So getting certified through this judging program is being able to identify specific characteristics and then also use the correct vocabulary for them so that everyone, there's the consistency across the board. And then stylistically, beer style is important. Is it an IPA or is it a New England IPA situation? So there's 150 page style guideline that we also have to align to for that. [00:33:34] Sean: That's intense. So how do you as a judge, everybody has their favorites and maybe the kinds that they don't like. Some people love their ipas. Some people say they taste like soap. How do you handle the flavors that you really like versus the ones you don't? [00:33:48] Katie: So being a judge, part of being a judge, is remaining objective. So even if you don't like something, you still have to judge it objectively. When you sign up for a competition, most competition organizers will ask you, is there anything you don't want to judge? And then you can tick those boxes. So, like, my partner really despises belgian beers. He judged a belgian table one year. Most of the time, the styles are grouped together, so if there's ten belgian entries into a competition, they'll all be judged against each other. And he just didn't have a great time judging that, and now there's a bit of a scarring experience. So he ticks that box. Please don't give me belgians in the competitions that he judges. So that's a possibility. But for your tasting exam, if you get a style that you don't like, you still have to rate it accurately if you're going to pass and get your certification. [00:34:32] Sean: So back here at antifragile and moody culture, this is, I guess, kind of a simple question with a complex answer. But what are your responsibilities here as the lead brewer for the kombucha side of the brewery? [00:34:45] Katie: Yeah. So that's a good question. I didn't know when I started, actually. I'm not sure that John and Paolo knew either. They're just like, yeah, go take care of the tea. So right now, my responsibilities are to brew the tea, ferment it out, flavor it, package it into cans and sixtoles, make sure that I'm trying different teas for new bases. Our base right now is currently black and green, black and green tea. So just exploring new flavors, keep things fresh, get seasonal flavors together, and then also having people try our kombucha. So going out, finding new accounts, selling at various, like, I sold some at arts fest, a few streets shut down. We're at once per month. But, yeah, it's mostly just brewing. I don't take care of many business side things, thankfully, because it does not interest me. But, yeah, if there's tea made and antifragile, it's because I made it. [00:35:39] Sean: So I'm just trying to guess here, right, that you're not just using a run of the mill teapot, you've got some industrial equipment to brew. Like, you're not just throwing a kettle on the stove for a cuppa. There's a lot more production and science pieces involved in this. Give us an overview of brewing a. [00:35:56] Katie: Batch, the brewing process. So, yes, it is basically glorified cuppa. I'm not going to lie. I have a giant 45 gallon kettle that I just boil my water in, and then I transfer it into another very large kettle with tea bags big enough to probably fit volumetrically, probably like six gallon milk jugs. I'll use that size tea bag way. [00:36:20] Sean: Out, like duffel bag sized tea bags kettle. [00:36:23] Katie: Yeah, pretty much, because I'm brewing 60 gallons of tea at once. Yeah. So I'll put a couple of pounds of tea leaves in there. I just got a shipment of tea in. I had about 120 pounds of green tea come in, 140 pounds of black tea. So weighing those out, throwing them in there, letting them steep for a couple of minutes, and then cooling it down enough to pitch the culture, our proprietary moody culture. So I just use starter tea. If you fermented kombucha at home, many people transfer their scoby over as well. I don't do that here because the Scoby actually clogs up my fermenters. So I'll just seed my, inoculate my culture with tea without the scoby, and then set my temperature controller to cook at the right temperature and then taste it about two weeks in. If I'm happy with the acidity, then I'll take my final vital statistics for ph and gravity to make sure that it's food safe and throw in the flavors. [00:37:17] Sean: I was gong to ask, when does the flavoring, because I'm sitting here. If you walk into anti fragile, if you come down here from Atherton or Simmons or if you're in town, you're a campus student like Katie and I were at various points. You walk in, there's a fridge full of different colored. There's. [00:37:30] Katie: Yeah, we've got the rainbows. [00:37:32] Sean: You do? There's like a rainbow of flavors. Like, how does that flavoring process work? [00:37:36] Katie: Yeah. So it depends on the flavor. Some herbs will be hot steeped along with the tea, but I find that a lot of fruit, the fruit flavor is more prominent and fresher if it is cold, steeped, and not fermented along with the tea, it's just a more recognizable fruit flavor. I'll ferment the kombucha dry and then essentially back sweeten it with the fruit of choice in juice format. So the fruit is typically not fermented. The herbs sometimes are, but I prefer them not to be. [00:38:03] Sean: So you have this great run of flavors and when we talked before, some of the flavors you inherited when you came in. Moody culture has been around for a few years, but then you've introduced quite a few new flavors to the lineup. It's one thing to say, okay, we're going to run this flavor today and brew a whole batch of the raspberry lemon or the ginger. Was it ginger? [00:38:28] Katie: Blueberry ginger? [00:38:29] Sean: Blueberry ginger one. And that's today's goal. Right. But when you're developing a new one, how do you do that? Experiment process. [00:38:36] Katie: So it definitely depends on the experiment how risky it is. So if I think it's a pretty low risk, I'll just do an entire batch if I'm not entirely sure how something's going to taste once it's fermented, because it's pretty strong, like the kombucha, fermentation flavor is pretty strong. I'll do a small quart size mason jar and taste that. And if I'm happy with it, then I'll scale up to my 31 gallon barrel for flavoring with new, different types of fruit. I'll weigh out a sample of tea and then weigh out a sample of the fruit, or steep the herb and figure out how much I want to add on a small scale. Do small scale tastings. Anyone who's been in the bar with me at the time that I'm doing it, I'll usually ask their opinion, too. Which one do you like better? Do you think it's too sweet? Do you think that it could be like a stronger flavor? And then I'll go ahead and flavor the rest of the barrel like that. So usually small scale, like, literally on a scale so that I can calculate what ratio to add to the rest of the barrel. [00:39:28] Sean: And then how do you decide when you're happy with it and you're ready to put your either literal or proverbial stamp of approval on it, so it'll. [00:39:37] Katie: Condition for about a week or two to carbonate, and then I'll be tasting it the entire time. It's conditioning. Also still asking other people's opinions if I'm not sure about it myself. And then when it's ready, it goes into five gallon kegs or it goes into twelve ounce cans to get shipped off to folks. [00:39:55] Sean: Awesome. Now, you've mentioned acquiring tea. A lot of these have herbs, spices, fruit infused flavors. So how do you actually go about sourcing your ingredients? Because if you look at the side of the can, it's basically a couple of ingredients, but they're obviously all very important and all agricultural products besides the cans and the kegs to put them in, inevitably walk us through your supply chain process, if you will. [00:40:20] Katie: Yeah. So I actually inherited most of it. John had already figured out. [00:40:24] Sean: John's the owner. [00:40:25] Katie: John is the owner, yes. And the founder of Mooney Culture. He had already done all of that work for me when I got here, for the most part, for sourcing new ingredients. Many times folks will give you a sample knowing that you're a commercial setup. So my tea supplier, I'll say, hey, I'd like to try these new flavors of tea. Can you send me a couple of ounces? And they will. And then I'll steep a cup of tea for myself to drink and then kind of decide whether or not that's a flavor profile I want to pursue. Same with fruit suppliers. We'll get samples from them, and I'll decide whether or not I like the way it tastes with the kombucha. And if I like it, then I'll order a full batch. But, yeah, most places are pretty chill about sending you a sample if you say that you're professional, because then they know that you'll be buying a lot from them if you like. [00:41:08] Sean: It makes sense from the business side. You said you don't like too much of the business side of things, but obviously you're brewing this stuff and you want to get your beverage in the hands of either state college residents, Penn state students, tourists here for arts fest, football games, or the trail of breweries that you're on. How do you put out to the world? Like, hey, we've got this new flavor. Come try it. [00:41:32] Katie: So mostly on Instagram. I'm not even in charge of that. Sometimes if we get a new flavor, I'll take a sample can to a new business and be like, hey, would you be interested in carrying this and leave them my card, and they like it, then they'll carry it. [00:41:48] Sean: But kind of what your suppliers do for you. [00:41:51] Katie: Yes, in a. Yeah, just kick down the curve a little bit. But no, pretty much Instagram is the only way we advertise. And then there are a couple of diehard fans who advertise for us. Be like, moody culture is the great, and post that on Instagram. And then we'll share it on our story, too. But, yeah, for right now, it's just the gram. [00:42:07] Sean: So one other avenue, though, I stumbled upon a press release about the hard kombucha that you developed here. [00:42:16] Katie: Oh, yeah. [00:42:17] Sean: So talk us through that, because kombucha, there's a little disclaimer on the can that says, like, there's trace amounts of alcohol, but it's not an alcoholic beverage. Right. But you developed one in the spirit. Know, hard seltzers and this kind of wave of other alcoholic drinks that have developed over the past couple of years, you've essentially helped pioneer hard kombucha. So tell us about. [00:42:36] Katie: Yeah, yeah. So the hard kombucha is my baby for sure. It's something that John's been wanting to do for a couple years and has made a couple attempts before I started here. Definitely gave me a couple data points for what doesn't work, which was very helpful. And when I started here, I knew that it was going to be a difficult fermentation just based on ph, the ph being very low. So it's a very acidic beverage to begin with. And yeast is particularly sensitive to acetic acid, which is vinegar, which is one of the main flavors in kombucha. So I had to be careful in which yeast strain I wanted to choose to do the alcoholic fermentation. So the way that the hard kombucha is made is the kombucha fermentation itself. Rather than going to completion, I'll halt it partway through and then add additional fermentables and a single strain of yeast that I know is going to kick off alcohol because the yeast in the regular kombucha culture is not bred for that. Kombucha will have about half percent abv alcohol, which, according to the Liquor control board, is a nonalcoholic beverage. And I'll qc my non alcoholic batches to confirm that before we put in cans. But to make a hard batch, need to use a different yeast that has been bred for making alcohol. And the ph of the fermentation has to start out high enough that the yeast is not being subjected to too much acetic acid. So I'm still fine tuning the fermentation. Everyone is coming out a little bit different, I think a little bit better each time as I'm taking iterations. And what I think is going to improve the yeast health for the alcoholic fermentation also flavors. The flavor of the hard kombucha is not just the kombucha flavor. It also has esters and phenols from the yeast from the alcoholic production. So the flavors and the fruits and herbs that go well with that are different than what would, I think be harmonious with the regular kombucha. So I'm still working out those kinks as well. [00:44:30] Sean: So is the goal to have, like, a whole line of flavors as you kind of figure out what works. [00:44:35] Katie: Yeah, I think that having a rainbow of hard kombucha would also be the ultimate goal one day. So when folks come in here, they can have the choice. [00:44:44] Sean: Awesome. So when you had mentioned you started with beer, you had honey, so you made mead. Maybe you took that to a renaissance festival. Perhaps you made wine for friends. How have you seen the brewing community and I guess kind of the environment around the space change and grow since you started as a student? There's hard ciders and seltzers and the kombucha that you're doing, where has it gone and where is it going? [00:45:14] Katie: Do you think so many home brewers can attest to this change in the community as well? When I first started brewing, it was because it was really hard to get craft beer. So if you wanted a craft style beer that wasn't a domestic or import can that you could find at like Wegmans or something, you had to make it yourself, or you had to travel and really bend over backwards to get your hands on a couple cans of something truly craft. That's not true anymore because there's so many microbreweries that certain styles I just won't even brew at home anymore. Like an IPA. It's just not worth it on an industrial scale. Just like the technical production of an IPA is difficult and on an industrial scale, it's much easier to do than on the homebrew scale. So I just won't even touch that style at home because it's so readily available. Homebrewing, for me, from my perspective and personally, has moved to a more historic renaissance of different styles. So instead of just being like, I want to craft IPA, it is now I want to brew a style of beer that I can't find anywhere because it's a niche style that maybe people have forgotten about, like a Kentucky common or a pivot. Gretzkaya. Traditional beers that were made regionally in the United States or in Europe or Brazil or Australia that are basically coming to light and they're like historical brews and you can't necessarily find them commercially because there isn't a lot of demand for them. But just basically like reliving history through brewing is what it has become more for me. [00:46:41] Speaker A: Very cool. [00:46:41] Sean: Reminds me, I've seen youtubers who do historic recipes and things like pumpkin pie from George Washington's era, right? [00:46:50] Katie: Yes, stuff like that. [00:46:52] Sean: Bringing back some of those old style, right? Maybe. Obviously, you don't have the same yeast, necessarily. It might be hard to track down but something in the spirit of that, right? [00:47:01] Katie: Yeah, very cool. [00:47:02] Sean: So if a student or a young alum, or even just a seasoned alum was listening to this, and they're like, I want to try this at home. Because that's where all of you start, essentially, right? Is kind of this home thing. How can they act like, what's the best way to just go for it and try it? [00:47:17] Katie: Probably starting with juice of some sort is your easiest shot. Like make a wine, essentially, depending on when you release this, this might not be relevant anymore, but this time of year, super easy to get your hands on. Raw cider, basically just let it ferment. There's natural yeasts in there and doesn't really meet a whole lot of nutritional requirements. Making wine is a little bit more difficult because like, wine from grapes, because it's a higher alcohol fermentation. So I would probably shy away from that. Your easiest thing would probably just be finding a juice that you enjoy. Finding brewers yeast is pretty easy, like a dollar a packet at a lot of homebrew shops or even on Amazon. So your air trap could probably be a balloon or a loose cap. If I were to help someone get their feet on the ground for fermentation, I would probably say get a gallon of cider, loosen the cap, leave it on your counter for a couple weeks. It might be a little vinegary, but hey, you might find out you like that. Maybe a less traditional one is if you already do sourdough, like you're already fermenting. That's a fermentation at the end of the summer when you have too many peppers from your garden, just throw some salt in there. To choose two to 4% brines by weight and let those ferment. You're a brewer. There's so many ways to ferment. It's more like a personal thing too. What do you want to get out of it? [00:48:37] Sean: Well, I'm guessing there's no shortage of resources that you can check out if any of that sounded appealing. [00:48:42] Katie: Oh, for sure, just google it and there will be a forum telling you exactly what to do. That is the beauty of fermentation. I had someone come in here a couple of weeks ago and ask me, what books do you recommend? And I'm like, I don't think that I could recommend any specific books because most of my questions I type directly into Google, get a couple different answers, choose the one that I think are relevant to me, and just go ahead and try it. A lot of my knowledge is based on just doing it and seeing how it tastes at the end makes sense. [00:49:09] Sean: So you chose to come back to State college, Katie, and obviously working a brewery, not exactly a nine to five job, you have more of a unique schedule. Right. Because the breweries currently, the hours are like Wednesday, Thursday till through the weekend, right? [00:49:24] Katie: Yeah, they're definitely in flux, too. [00:49:27] Sean: How do you find time to get away from the brewery? What are you engaged with in state college? If a student is thinking about staying here for grad school or they have a career opportunity here in Happy Valley, what is life like beyond being a student? [00:49:43] Katie: The community in State college, I think, is enriched by the resources that the university supplies. So the community that I'm pretty heavily involved in is the social dance community. And quite a few of the clubs that I dance with are Penn state clubs, so they receive funding and resources from the university. So it's directly pumping blood into the community because of Penn State. Yeah. So I social dance a lot. [00:50:06] Sean: What exactly does that mean? [00:50:07] Katie: So social dancing to me means partner dancing in a way that isn't like a traditional ballroom dance where you have your same partner that you dance styles with. Social dancing is you dance with your friends and you can get new partners and might be someone you've never talked to before and you might never talk to again. But if they know how to dance, the style of music that's on right now, you can dance with them and have a great connection that way. So last night I was at a salsa lesson and learned how to salsa dance with some other community members. Bachata is another favorite. East coast swing, Lindy hop, fusion dancing, blues dancing. There's a lot of different clubs here that I spend probably like half of my evenings dancing some sort of style of dance. And those obviously are all open to students, too, if folks want to try those out. Center social dance, the Penn State Swing Club, Penn State social dance are all clubs that I'm involved with. I'm also super into rock climbing as well. I know outdoor activity. What? So I've been out to donation rocks a couple times this fall in Huntington. There's a beautiful crag there that's been climbed by some of the greats. There's a route that I was climbing the last time I was there that was set by royal Robbins himself. So there's been some big names who have climbed there and it's perfect climbing season right now and then, obviously climbing at climb knitney or the Im building. Great way to meet folks to bullet, you outside? Yeah. What else do I do? Oh, I'm in the homebrew club here, too. [00:51:32] Sean: Surprise. [00:51:33] Katie: Yeah. Big surprise there. Yeah, I'm vice president. We actually just had an October fest club competition where folks brewed with another person in the club. So it was a collaboration. Went and brewed on a new system to them, and someone wrote the recipe and the other person brewed it. And then we all tasted it together and gave tasting notes, filled out judging score sheets. Yeah. Also open to students. [00:51:54] Sean: That's cool. Yeah, very good stuff. So we're sitting here at antifragile. We're wrapping up our conversation. Katie, really appreciate the hospitality here. It's a really cool location. Do you have to be 21 to actually come check this out? [00:52:06] Katie: No. There are some weekends that we are busy that we do only let folks over 21. But if you want to come in and drink kombucha, that's totally fine. [00:52:15] Sean: Cool. [00:52:16] Katie: Yeah. [00:52:16] Sean: So especially maybe earlier in the day on like a nice Friday, if you're in addiction, come on down here, check it out. There are plenty of non alcoholic options for you if you're not 21. If you're 21, there's options that are available to you as well. So, Katie, as we wrap up, what would you say is the biggest success that you've had in your career so far? [00:52:34] Katie: I had time to prepare for this, and I still don't recall. You know what? Honestly, I'm pretty proud of the hard kombucha situation because a lot of the commercial. I take that back. All of the commercial examples that I've had just don't taste good. No real offense intended. It's a strange product to begin with. Like, kombucha is a strong flavor that not everyone likes. It's polarizing. But I'm really proud of how mine tastes. Tastes like tea. It tastes like the fruit that I put in it. A lot of folks can't taste the alcohol, which I consider that a win. It's a clean fermentation. As clean as it can be. And it was a tough microbiological question to answer. Yeah, I'm pretty proud of that. I think we'll call that my success. [00:53:13] Sean: I think that's a good answer based on understanding how difficult that is. And if it was easy, I imagine a lot more breweries would be doing it. [00:53:20] Katie: Yeah. And a lot of breweries have taken to just spiking their regular kombucha, the nonalcoholic. And mine is like a true fermentation from start to finish. It's not adding any gray ethanol or seltzer or anything to the final product. [00:53:33] Sean: Definitely something to be proud of. [00:53:34] Katie: Yeah. [00:53:35] Sean: But on the flip side, what is a mistake or a transformational learning moment that you've had that you took something really important from it that's helpful for students to learn from that experience as well? [00:53:46] Katie: It's hard to think in such extremes because transformational and something that you would consider a mistake are like different things. Because as far as transformational, I would definitely say it was the at that was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life was finishing that trail in the middle of December when it was cold and I just wanted to go home and be warm and dry. Definitely, like, prioritizing, figuring out what was actually important to me, but I wasn't thinking in terms of my career. I wouldn't consider the at to be part of my career. [00:54:16] Sean: I think stopping out know because that's a risk, right? [00:54:20] Katie: Yeah. [00:54:20] Sean: A lot of people are judgmental in that on resumes. [00:54:22] Katie: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. That's, like, almost a screening criteria. And if someone finds that to be a red flag, that's their red flag. So when I started working here at Moody culture, I had the epiphany that intelligence is never wasted. So the concept that there's societal pressure on people who get certain grades or have a certain iq that they have to go in to get a PhD or they have to be a doctor to be successful, and that's, like, a lot of pressure on a person. And to think that because someone else expects you to do that, then you're wasting your life if you're not meeting that expectation. But if you have knowledge and intelligence and good work ethic to work hard, that's never wasted. I definitely think that my product is better because I have a strong microbiology background. And am I using that background to be a doctor and save lives? Like, no, I'm using it to brew tea and give people a nice little fizzy beverage for their afternoon snack, whatever. But I don't think that I'm less because that this career is less satisfying and fulfilling to me as a person because I'm not being more. Yeah. So having a base level of intelligence is useful in any aspect of life. [00:55:35] Sean: Absolutely. And honestly, I'd say you're kind of, like, in the joy industry. Like, you're providing some semblance of happiness in a world that can oftentimes take that away from people. [00:55:44] Katie: Yeah. And also, just like having a bar, this is community. People come here when they're happy and want to share joy, or they come here when they need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. And this gives us the framework for community is this bar, which I also really appreciate. [00:56:00] Sean: Absolutely. And probably hearing in the background of this, you can probably pick up that more and more people have come into the brewery room here as we've been recording and started out with nobody at the bar, and now there are several people there. So I think that speaks to your point, Katie. Something we haven't talked about, but is a big theme of this podcast is the idea of mentorship. So how have mentors helped you along the way, and how do you try to pay it forward to others who are interested in the things that you have expertise in? [00:56:28] Katie: When I was in school, I had participated in several very structured mentorship programs where I had basically a career buddy who was 1520 years more experienced than me, and I would talk to them about my career and what should I be taking in school and classes like that? Kind of like an academic advisor and very strict. And we're going to meet once a month for an hour. I didn't find that I gained that much out of those. The conversations that I end up valuing are ones that are unexpected, where I'll stay late after something and someone else will be here and we'll find a connection and I'll learn something from them. Like something definitely less structured has been more impactful for me. I've had folks reach out to me on social media, LinkedIn to discuss with their cousin or their younger sibling, something like that, to discuss career options, but then also running into someone's younger sibling while just visiting them at their house and having an impactful discussion. Like mentorship, just like on the fly and calling it mentorship is a little stuffy as well. It's like we're just being people, talking to each other and sharing experiences and being vulnerable to each other so that we can eventually be better. So mentorship should happen every day, folks. [00:57:43] Sean: That's a really good perspective on that. Katie, I think it's important to being vulnerable. Nobody knows everything, right? [00:57:49] Katie: Nope. [00:57:49] Sean: So we're wrapping up our time. Are there any professors or colleagues or friends that you wanted to give a shout out to while you've got the mic? [00:57:58] Katie: Oh, that's cruel, Sean. I don't know. I guess shout out to my partner, Eric, because he's the best and he's very supportive of my antics. And when I got a job here, he was like, wow, you're so cool. I'm like, dude, thanks. Thank you for the support. So, yeah, Eric, my boy, that's awesome. [00:58:15] Sean: And also give a shout out to we were friends in the very beginning of our conversation, your sister Nicole, one of my classmates from way back in the day at Berks. So kind of your genesis for getting into the college, too. So her shout out as well. I don't normally give shout outs for. [00:58:28] Katie: Other people, but, yeah, shout out to Nicole. [00:58:31] Sean: So is there a final piece of advice that you would leave any student or alum listening? [00:58:35] Katie: Absolutely. As you might be able to guess, my advice is to just do the thing that you're interested in. Obviously, if you have different financial situation, pay your bills first, kids. But if there's a career that interests you, even if it makes a little less money than what you're doing now, just go for it. If you don't like it, you don't have to do it forever. You can do it for a couple of months. And if someone says that's going to look bad on your resume, you know what? Not being satisfied with your career would also kind of stink. So if there's something that is interesting to you, I personally would value someone who's willing to take that leap of faith, essentially, and have that gap in their resume for potentially finding a new passion in a career that they truly enjoy. So, yeah, go for it. [00:59:19] Sean: Is my advice you do spend a significant amount of your waking adult life wherever you are earning your income. So it's important to enjoy it and. [00:59:28] Katie: Enjoy the folks that you're working with, too. [00:59:30] Sean: Absolutely. [00:59:30] Katie: Super important. [00:59:31] Sean: You see them sometimes more than your own family. [00:59:33] Katie: Yeah. [00:59:34] Sean: So you got to like those people. [00:59:36] Katie: Yeah, the work, fam. [00:59:37] Sean: So, Katie, if a scholar wanted to connect with you and kind of pick your brain or even come try the products that you're creating, how can they do that? [00:59:45] Katie: I'm most easily reached on Instagram. I'm sure Sean's going to post my Instagram handle, @kitkatlegenski. I'm also on LinkedIn less frequently than Instagram, but yeah, Instagram is the best way to reach me. If you want to come down, have a little tour and tasting of the brewery. Happy to do that. Come down, try some tea. [01:00:01] Sean: Excellent. And finally, speaking of flavors, we've talked a lot about flavoring tea and other alcoholic beverages throughout our conversation, but we're going to talk dairy products to wrap things. [01:00:13] Katie: Know milk is the state drink of Pennsylvania. [01:00:16] Sean: Do you say milkshake is? [01:00:17] Katie: Milk is. [01:00:18] Sean: Milk is. I thought you were gong to say milkshake. Come on. [01:00:20] Katie: Well, by proxy, right? [01:00:22] Sean: Yes. Key ingredient. So we'll stretch that one for sure. Perfect. So if you were a flavor of Berkeley creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly, Katie, as a scholar alumna, why would you be that? [01:00:35] Katie: Oh, the deepest question of the entire interview. I'm gong to go with peachy Paterno because it's just delicious. It's light and fruity. It's delicious, but also because it mixes well, really well with anything with chocolate in it, which really something I wouldn't expect. [01:00:51] Sean: I wouldn't have either. [01:00:52] Katie: So I had, the first time I had peachy Paterno, I had a scoop of peachy Paterno and I had a scoop of chocolate marshmallow swirl. I believe it was just a fantastic combination. Like, you don't expect it, like French fries and milkshake type of situation. You're like, this is just delicious. And I think I'd like to identify as a person who's good at mixing with unknown things and turning out really tasty. Maybe not tasty, but, well, it is. [01:01:13] Sean: Your day job, so trust your opinion on this. [01:01:16] Katie: Thank you, John. [01:01:18] Sean: Awesome. Well, Katie Legenski, thank you so much for your time, your hospitality. Here at anti fragile brewing and moody culture Kombucha. We've had a great conversation about all things brewing, the Appalachian trail, kind of finding your passions in life and really pursuing those. I appreciate your time and thank you so much. [01:01:36] Katie: Yeah, thank you. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* [01:01:44] Sean: Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]. Until next time, please stay well and We Are!

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