Brian Cockle is one of the silent heroes here at The Bruery. He keeps our tech stuff running smoothly during the day, but is a homebrewer and dad by night. He's a bit notorious for his huge & techy homebrew set up, which you can see even more of over on his blog.
When did you start homebrewing?
Like a lot of people, I started homebrewing back in college.
My roommate and I came across a brew-in-a-bag kit for a Porter that you were supposed to just add water and yeast to (this was before Mr. Beer was even available). We bought it, took it back to the dorm, filled it up with water, pitched the yeast, and fermented it in a space under my roommate’s bed. We were so excited. Two weeks later it was the one of the worst things I had ever tasted in my life, but I was intrigued. I found a homebrew shop about an hour away, picked up a proper equipment starter kit, and the rest is history.
What got you interested in homebrewing?
I like that you can get as scientific, technical, and artsy/crafty as you want to. It really is an individual thing. There is always something to learn and so many areas cross over into other life interests. I’m a technical guy, so when the automated controllers started coming out a few years ago, I jumped on them. I’m using the BCS-462 from Brewers Hardware to manage the brew day. My equipment has also evolved (i.e., gotten bigger) over the years, so now I have a semi-automated 1.5 BBL system. Though I can brew upwards of 50 gallons at a time, most of the time I brew 1 BBL (31 gallon) batches and it’s split between a couple of people I brew with. That’s the other thing I enjoy as brewdays usually end up being pretty social around the garage.
What's in your carboy right now?
I have the second iteration of a sour beer aging in stainless and a Flanders Red in a red wine barrel we did as a homebrew club project. So far this year I have stayed pretty basic, brewing two different pale ales and a blonde. I have a couple of new recipes on the to-brew list and I have been wanting to get a second barrel project going. Maybe this is the year.
What was your biggest disaster?
I have never been seriously injured or anything (yet?) while brewing, so most disasters are just batches that haven’t turned out for one reason or another.
One time though I had a beer in the fermenter and we went away for the weekend. I was just starting to experiment with glycol to maintain fermentation temps, and everything seemed to be working fine. I had a glycol bath in a chest freezer, a stainless coil in the fermenter, and a pump on a temp controller to move glycol as needed to maintain temps. Well, I found out the first pump I tried generated some heat, especially in a closed loop system. When it kicked on to regulate the temp (while we were gone), it started warming up the glycol bath. The chest freezer the glycol was in couldn’t keep up, so the glycol just kept getting warmer and warmer while still getting pumped through the coil in the fermenter. All weekend. The beer was 125°F when we got home. Needless to say, I found a different pump.
Do you have a, "Whoa it was super cool this one time this thing happened!" moment you can share?
Two moments come to mind.
The first was when some guy named Patrick Rue showed up at my house when I hosted “Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day” several years ago. Can I say I taught him everything he knows?
The other time was when I took along my first attempt at a sour beer to the Southern CA Homebrew Festival a few years ago. Peter Bouckaert from New Belgium was the guest speaker for the event and giving a talk on sours. A little later in the day he came by the club booth and he, as well as the awesome, incredible Tyler King, and myself ended up talking for quite a while. Turned out he was drinking my beer during his speech, and he liked it! At least he said he did. I thought that was very cool.
What advice do you have for a new homebrewer?
Just jump in! There are so many resources online and in print for new homebrewers out there now.
Pay attention to sanitation and temperature control. Don’t ferment in a bag under the bed in an un-airconditioned dorm room in the eastern WA desert. Work on the process. Once you get the basics down, comfortable with the process and getting good results, then start tweaking and experimenting.
Join a club. If you are local to Orange County, there are several in the area. I am a member of BrewCommune and highly recommend it.
Read about the rest of our homebrewers on The Bruery staff in our Meet the Homebruer series:
- Meet the Homebruer: Cesar Alfaro
- Meet the Homebruer: Tyler King
- Meet the Homebruer: Matt Olesh
- Meet the Homebruer: Rich Ruelle
- Meet the Homebruer: Benjamin Weiss
- Meet the Homebruer: Andrew Bell
- Meet the Homebruer: Jamie Burns
- Meet the Homebruer: Sean Flannery
- Meet the Homebruer: Josh Reyes
- Meet the Homebruer: Keith Pumilia