by Emilee Perdue | April 15, 2024

The Science of Sipping: Ology Brewing Co.’s Blend of Brews and Ex-spirit-ments

Tallahassee’s Ology harnesses the art of taste, smell and brewing to pour passion and precision into every glass.

Left to right: Brian Clark, David Arendt, Nick Walker, and Paul Woodward, the four owners of Ology Brewing Co. Photography by Your Social Inc.

Nick Walker was raised in a laboratory. His father was a psychobiologist who studied the sense of smell, and his grandfather was a physiologist who studied the sense of taste (and was appointed as the Science Coordinator at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1961). Both left Walker a big white coat to fill and a scientific legacy to uphold. Once he graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, he tried it on. But it never seemed to fit quite right. 

Instead of a lab, Walker’s mind whirred inside a fermentation room, surrounded by stainless steel tanks and endless combinations of hops, yeast and barley to craft the perfect beer—and a constant need to make it better. 

After years of home beer brewing, Walker and two friends decided to open Ology Brewing Co., an experimental brewery, in Tallahassee in 2017. Ology, meaning a subject of study, combines the traditional beer-making process with new scientific techniques. By leaning on the Walker family foundation, they create ales, stouts, lagers and IPAs—you name it, they brew it—that visually, tastefully and olfactorily satisfy the senses. Ology brings the scientific method to each pint, questioning how minute changes in the process can create a new beverage. 

Every time we touch that beer, we can impact the end result. That’s kind of the fun part. It’s kind of magical.
—Nick Walker

“This is where my love is. We try to get creative and innovative in our ingredient use and in our processes,” Walker explained. 

Pictured above are two of Ology Brewing Co.’s flagship beers. Photography courtesy of Ology Brewing Co.

In their taprooms, located in Tallahassee and now Tampa, Walker aims to release at least one new beer each week, playing with different flavors, changes in temperature and strains of hops. In one year alone, they produced 105 different beers, not counting fan-favorite repeats, each with its own cartoon label created by Stephen Leacock. Ology’s flagship beers include Sensory Overload, a 6.5% IPA made with Citra dry hops, and Rainbow Colored Glasses, a melted sherbet-inspired Berliner with raspberry, blood orange and lime flavors. 

Celebrate Tallahassee’s 200th Birthday with the Ology Bicentennial cocktail

Then, in January 2020, three years after brewing their first beer, Ology’s creations spilled over into the world of spirits with the launch of their vodka—an effort that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. To serve the state of Florida and keep their business afloat, they quickly found a new purpose in manufacturing hand sanitizer, taking a slight detour from their original plan. 

Overflowing With Ideas

The Ology royal lavender gin is used in Tallahassee’s 200th birthday cocktail. Photography courtesy of Ology Brewing Co.

When July rolled around, Walker poured his efforts into relaunching the distillery, beginning with small batches of vodka, and eventually adding gin, bourbon, rye whiskey, rum and a celebratory birthday cake creme liqueur. A community favorite is the Ology Distilling Co. small batch white rum, first released in 2021, with single-origin Guatemalan molasses and notes of overripe pineapple, passionfruit and tobacco, giving it a funky tropical finish.

Tallahassee turns 200 this year, and as a born-and-bred capital city brewery, Ology is celebrating the milestone by launching the Ology Bicentennial cocktail using their locally sourced spirit, the royal lavender gin. Toast to the big 2-0-0 by ordering a sparkling violet glass at any of their Tallahassee locations, served with a splash of Champagne or sparkling wine and a sprig of lavender. For a more classic cocktail, the brewer recommends an Ology old fashioned. Made with their small batch bourbon, in which each batch of whiskey takes on slightly different notes, it creates an unexpected flavor profile with every sip. 

Try the Ology Old Fashioned

When not distilling bourbon, pulling taps and crafting brews, the team at Ology always has a new project waiting in a barrel—or brewing in Walker’s brain. His current experiment? A single malt, the perfect marriage of a brewery and a distillery, as Walker puts it. “It’s 100% barley, which is mostly what beer is made of. And then we ferment it like a beer for five, eight, 10 years? We’ll find out,” he said, his eyes alight. You can find Ology’s beers and spirits at one of their three Tallahassee locations, at the brewery in Tampa or on shelves throughout the state.

Walker may have swapped his family’s white coat and laboratory for a T-shirt and a still, but the legacy lives on. He’s constantly asking questions, coming up with new ideas and always studying the science of alcohol. “Every time we touch that beer, we can impact the end result,” Walker said. “That’s kind of the fun part. It’s kind of magical.”