First Draft with Wild Heaven's Brittany Orschel
Talking beer with the Decatur brewery's assistant brewer/production assistant
For the last six years, Brittany Orschel has been following her science passion wherever it leads her. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida in 2009, her first stop was Switzerland. After a couple years there, she moved to Nashville. Most recently, following a move to Decatur, the 28-year-old's curious mind had her visiting breweries; résumé in hand, asking if she could help out.
Impressed with her science background, Wild Heaven Craft Beers essentially created an internship for her, where she'd learn the ropes of running a small brewery. Interest piqued, she started showing up several times a week. In January, she started full-time as assistant brewer/production assistant, becoming the only woman working on a commercial brewing team in Georgia.
When Creative Loafing sat down with Orschel on the picnic tables outside the Avondale Estates facility, she'd just finished a long day on the bottling line. Weary but excited about the future, we talked about dolphins, Smirnoff Ice, and the joys of learning something new every day.
Describe your first beer.
I think it was a green apple Smirnoff in college. Does that count? I haven't drunk any since. I got introduced to craft beer when I moved to Nashville two years ago.
How did you go from marine biology in Florida to molecular biology in Switzerland?
I've always been interested in science. Ever since I went on this Dauphin Island trip in eighth grade. That's what turned me to marine biology. I liked marine biology a lot, but I like a lot of the other sciences as well. Switzerland's big in biochem and molecular biology. My husband's Swiss, which is how we ended up there. But mostly in Switzerland, I worked in biochemistry and chemical ecology. That was a good experience. I got to learn a lot.
You said you started getting into beer in Nashville?
Yeah, it's a cool town. You never hear anyone say, "I didn't like living there." I got into beer in Nashville because of all the local craft beer places. Yazoo. Fat Bottom Brewery was one I went to a lot. I liked the feel of the restaurant there, the nice courtyard, the games. It was fun to hang out there and try out all their beers.
How did you end up with Wild Heaven?
Well, I live a mile down the street, so I saw their billboard laughs. There's also a homebrew store close to where I live, so I went there, bought all this stuff, and started researching and homebrewing. I realized there was a lot of biochemistry involved, and that got me interested in it. Then I wanted to see what goes on in a brewery on a larger scale. It combines business and science, the two things I've done separately in the past.
And you just walked up one day with your résumé?
I kinda just came by here and asked if I could shadow or if there was anything they needed help with. It was, like, "Hey, I'm here" laughs. They were doing a bottling day soon, so I came in and helped with that. Then I started coming in four or five days a week, shadowing during brewing, starting to learn. A pattern in all the jobs I've had is that they've all been different. I like to learn new things, and the more I've learned about this job, the more I've liked.
What's your day to day like, and how do you see that evolving over time?
This week, for example, we bottled on Monday and Tuesday. That's an all-day thing until the beer runs out. We're rinsing bottles, putting them on the line, checking quality, putting them on the crates. We also brewed some White Blackbird this week. Cleaned some kegs, kegged some beer. Then there's the tasting room and tours on the weekends. I did my first tour on Sunday. I'm just learning so much. I can see myself working at Wild Heaven for a long time, if they'll have me.
Burnt Hickory Open House
?When: Sat., Feb. 21, noon-5 p.m.
?Where: Burnt Hickory Brewery
?At its monthly open house, the Kennesaw brewery will be pouring a limited batch of Cobra Verde, a rye pale ale made with roasted chiles.
Wrecking Bar Brewpub Wood-Aged Wednesdays
?When: Every Wednesday
?Where: Wrecking Bar Brewpub
?Price: Depends on how many wood-aged beers you drink
?Each week, this Little Five Points brewpub serves up a special small batch beer that's been aged in a wood barrel.
5 Seasons Cask Night
?When: Every Thursday, 5:55-7:55 p.m.
?Where: 5 Seasons North and Westside
?Price: Depends on how much cask ale you drink
?Each week, a different guest taps a different keg of "real cask ale."
??Editor's Note: This story has been updated since its original publication to correct a typographical error.