Member Profile: Nicholas Cole

Nicholas Cole

What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?

I work in account management for a tech company that helps small businesses with their marketing and operations.

What got you into homebrewing?

Aside from the occasional Guinness or Duvel, I drank macro beer pretty exclusively in university and probably didn't know the difference between an ale and a lager. I also probably would have told you that Guinness was very "heavy." Then I went away for a few years, and when I came back all of my friends were obsessed with craft beer. I caught the bug pretty quickly after that and figured that the only way to be more into it than they were was to make the stuff myself.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?

The two other things that homebrewing really competes with for my spare time are long distance cycling and reading.

How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?

I started brewing in March of 2015, so it's been about 6.5 years. My volume has fluctuated over the years but the past few years I've been doing around 25 batches annually.

Do you have any favorite styles you like to brew?

I like to brew a lot of both pale and dark lagers, usually Czech or German styles. I'm also a big fan of English ales and am constantly trying out different variations on what an English bitter can be. And while I'm not as much of a hop-head as some of my fellow club members, if at any time I don't have some kind of IPA on tap, then there's definitely one in the fermenter.

Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?

After many years stewarding at Brew Slam, I did the studying/exams for BJCP in 2019. I did pretty well on the tasting exam despite some epic misses on a couple beers, but I'm stuck at the Recognized level until I get a few more judging points because the pandemic wrecked all the judging opportunities!

What kind of setup do you use?

I bought a Grainfather about 4 years ago and I've been very happy with it given that I'm limited to 120v. My dream setup would probably be a BIAB or all-in-one system that could do 10 gallons. 

Depending on temperature needs I use a mini-fridge or ambient, and I recently started playing with pressure ferments in a Fermzilla All-Rounder.

What is the worst beer you have brewed?

My fourth batch ever was the first one where I decided to give all-grain a try, and to develop my own recipe. Having no idea what I was doing, I made an oatmeal stout with something like 18% roasted barley! It was unbelievably acrid (and overcarbonated) but even though I wasn't enjoying it I don't think I figured out it wasn't supposed to taste like that for a couple of years.

What did you learn from that worst beer?

I wouldn't say that you always have to copy an established recipe every time you try a new style, but you definitely want to understand the principles behind that style, the basic parameters (for things like roasted barley!), and how the different components create the final result.

What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?

Read everything you can get your hands on. I spent hours obsessing over every homebrewing blog I could find for my first few years. Not only was I inspired by the passion of those brewers and the styles they wrote about, but I absorbed a ton of knowledge without even realizing I was doing it.

What is your favourite yeast, grain, and hop?

A yeast that I really love but haven't seen in years because it's in their special reserve collection is Wyeast 1026 Cask Ale. If that never comes back I'll be very disappointed. I'm also an unabashed fanboy of Weyermann Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner. Reasonable people can disagree on whether it really makes that much difference in the final product, but it's got this earthy, slightly-sulfury character when you mash in that I just love. And I don't know if I can narrow it down to just one hop, but my personal favourite IPA combo is Mosaic and Simcoe.

What beer is your white whale, one that you've been chasing to perfect?

I don't have one particular beer that I'm chasing, but one thing I've never been thrilled with are my mixed ferment beers. I think the problem is that you build up too much hype in the planning and long conditioning period, and then the final product can't live up to it. I've been trying to correct that this year with something I've been calling my House Saison Project, brewing a series of saison-style beers designed to ferment out quickly and then age gracefully in the bottle with whatever Brett I've added. So far I've brewed 4 and the 2 that are ready (an oaked Brett L table beer and a raspberry/vanilla number) have been pretty good!