He never home-brewed and he drank Bud Light for a long time. For Luke Cole, who has worked alongside head brewer Jim Matt since Rhinegeist opened in June 2013, brewing was never his goal. “I always thought I would design and build machines,” he says. “But it just wasn’t jiving.” So he took a serving job at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery. “My background is engineering,” he says. “Stuff would break in the brewery, and I’d go fix it. Eventually they pulled me in and taught me everything.”
Cole learned from Mitch Dougherty, now head brewer at Ei8ht Ball Brewing. When he transitioned to days at Rock Bottom, he got a night job roasting coffee at Tazza Mia. When Bob Bonder, the coffee chain’s president, partnered with Bryant Goulding to open Rhinegeist, Cole was their first hire.
If he has an ego, it’s hiding in his bushy red beard. He is quick to credit recipe formulation to Matt (though Pure Fury American pale ale was his), and explains that his creativity is in the cellar, where he oversees aging beers in barrels from Napa Valley, Buffalo Trace, and OYO distillery. “I just can’t believe they pay me to do this,” he says. “Even my worst task is awesome. I just love beer.”
In other words, Cole found his jive. “As much as you understand what your yeast does, there’s this thing that happens in the fermenter,” he says. “It’s still magic.”