Recipe for success

    Chemistry grad brews up career with Okanagan beer company

    By Adam Williams on June 20, 2016

    “I entered my first year of university not 100 per cent knowing what I wanted to do,” says Gokiert. “I think like every kid in first-year sciences, I thought I was going to be a doctor, but very quickly I realized I enjoyed the hard sciences better.

    “I had no clue about getting into brewing.”

    Dave's beer suggestions for...

    ★ POST-LATENIGHT- IN-THE-LAB CHILL DOWN:

    Tree Brewing Kelowna PilsnerTree brewing cutthroat ale

    When I need to chill and relax, I like to drink a beer where I can turn my brain off and not analyze too much. A nice clean pilsner or well-balanced pale ale are great. I recommend our Tree Kelowna Pilsner and Tree Cutthroat Pale Ale. —DG

    Now closing in on his 20th year with Tree Brewing Company in Kelowna, the 43-year-old has had his hand in developing more than 100 different brews enjoyed annually by thousands across the country. Gokiert has worked for the company since he first left the U of A, helping to develop it into the award-winning brewery that will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016.

    In 2013, he took over the role of brewmaster.

    It’s a career trajectory that has surprised even Gokiert.

    “As you grow, I think you understand yourself a little better,” he says. “When I was going through university, I saw myself as that professional, wearing a suit and tie to work, and now I’m wearing stinky old jeans.

    “In some ways it surprises me, but it’s actually truer to who I am than what I thought I was when I was going through university. It’s more what I think I am.”

    Gokiert grew up in Westlock, a town roughly 100 kilometres north of Edmonton. His father, John Guy Gokiert (’65 MD), also a U of A graduate, was a physician in the community of 5,000, and it seemed for a short time in his first year of university, that the son would follow in the father’s footsteps.

    But, the younger Gokiert couldn’t resist the call of the hard sciences.

    So when he graduated five years later in 1996 with an honors degree in chemistry, he began to consider a working life in a lab. Maybe he’d go back and get his PhD, become a lifelong researcher.

    It was only after a friend opened Gokiert’s eyes to the world of brewing that the Albertan saw how truly versatile his science degree was. While helping his brother move to Vancouver, he stopped in at a handful of breweries and stumbled upon a job opening at Tree.

    He never left.

    Dave Gokiert Tree Brewing

    Now, the fourth brewmaster in the brewery’s history, Gokiert has found a career that is truly a perfect fit for him, one that gives him the ability to combine his love of basic science—chemistry, in particular—with hands-on work and creativity.

    ★ CELEBRATING A BIG BREAKTHROUGH:

    Tree brewing doppelbock

    For a celebratory night, I tend to gravitate to a big flavourful beer. A northwest-style IPA or a Belgian Dubbel-style beer. The big flavours compliment the feeling of the big accomplishment. Our Tree Hophead IPA, Tree Belgian Dubbel, or Tree Captivator Doppelbock are all good options. —DG

    ★ BASIC BREW TO GET THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING:

    Tree Brewing Black Lager

    For a celebratory night, I tend to gravitate to a big flavourful beer. A northwest-style IPA or a Belgian Dubbel-style beer. The big flavours compliment the feeling of the big accomplishment. Our Tree Hophead IPA, Tree Belgian Dubbel, or Tree Captivator Doppelbock are all good options. —DG

    He uses his education to create the recipes that have made Tree’s brews famous, manipulating water and pH levels, promoting reactions and handling the alcohols, enzymes, dissolved gases, and fermentation which are all part of the beer-making process. On any given day, he finds himself tinkering with equipment, fixing pumps, and dragging hoses, all the while using his creativity to design Tree’s latest recipe.

    “Almost every step has a piece that I think chemistry has played a big part in really helping me to understand,” he says.

    “Like any field, there’s a lot of people who could make beer, but I think the chemistry degree really helped me to understand it. When something goes wrong, or I need to change something, the chemistry degree really gives me a solid basis to figure out the problem and attack it.”

    As Gokiert has grown in his position as Tree’s brewmaster, he has held a front-row seat for what can only be described as the evolution of craft brewing. Once a niche industry with roots in Oregon and Washington, craft beers have exploded in popularity throughout North America, particularly in recent years.

    Now, when tourists visit Kelowna and the Okanagan, they’re not just asking about local wineries, but local craft breweries, too.


    “Beer, per se, hasn’t changed, but the way people drink beer in North America has changed a lot in the last 20 years.”


    Companies have come and gone in the time since Tree first opened its doors in 1996, but this Kelowna brewery has managed to stay on the cutting edge. While Gokiert’s own learning curve has been steep at times, the father of two feels he has been treated to a career that has presented him with new challenges every day.

    “Beer, per se, hasn’t changed, but the way people drink beer in North America has changed a lot in the last 20 years,” he said. “Every year it’s different. For me, that has been exciting.”

    Looking back on his roots in science, Gokiert encourages future graduates to focus on their passions and pursue careers that can dovetail with those endeavours. While the obvious science careers are those that involve lab work and research and formulas on chalkboards, the doors opened by the degree are more vast than one might imagine.

    Gokiert says he never would have expected he’d be helping develop Tree Brewing’s line up of beers fresh out of school. One of the beers he is most proud of having created during his time at Tree is Hophead IPA—still to this day his favourite drink.

    “Graduating from science, I think there’s more things out there than you think. There are way more industries,” Gokiert said.

    “Coming out of science, sometimes you’re just very focused on the specific science. I think the power of a science degree is it’s a problem-solving degree. They need that everywhere.”