Novel Brewing Company

Local Small Batch Brewery and Tasting Room in Oakland, CA. :: Tasting Room open Wed-Fri 4pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 12pm-10pm

The Awakening :: Chapter 1

“When the lager lout says that beer is an old man’s drink, the reply is to ask if they have ever thought of growing up.” --Beware the Barmaid’s Smile!, by “Chris Thompson” (George Williamson), 1987

It started in Seattle Washington in 2006. I was working at a video game company--although maybe you could say it went back to my college days, drinking a growler of Shed Mountain Ale after a long day at Stowe, or Long Trails on the apartment stoop after a serious discussion on DFW--shoot, maybe it was the time I made aspirin in Chem lab at UVM, who knows, but the awakening was probably after the first game launch. About six of us went to the area brew on premise, cracked open the bulky binder of recipes, and collectively brewed a beer in honor of the achievement.  We were all in one way or another “craft beer drinkers,” before we knew the term existed--searching out new six packs of local beer, kicking back around a campfire or BBQ, and razzing each other until the beer ran out (this goes all the way back to my Vermont days in the mid to late nineties where I had access to amazing beer brewed by Vermont microbreweries and a culture that was learning to appreciate the new found flavors collectively.  A lesson learned throughout my life is that good beer brings together good people).  Anyway, back to the brew on premise place.  It was an extract beer setup with one barrel kettles.  We would order a beer from their bar and huddle around a book of recipes until we honed in on something we got excited about. Next, we would divide and conquer the recipe steps; you know: gather the ingredients, conduct the boil--but mostly one or two people paid attention to the details and hopefully watched the clock, while the rest ordered another round and conspired about life.  The employees would knock out and ferment the beer for us.  A few weeks later, we would show up, bottle the beer, apply game-launch-themed labels, and we would all walk away with a couple of cases of video game inspired beer.  At the time I thought nothing of it, but looking back, I see that the brew on premise experience ignited a spark that began to slowly smolder in the back of my head.

Then came change.  For various reasons I decided to pick up stakes and move from Seattle to San Francisco.  In 2008, I found myself in a new city, searching out new friends and experiences, and dating the woman who would turn out to be my wife and business partner.  

One day over a cup of morning coffee, on a whim, and in the spirit of taking on a new project together, we decided to head to the local homebrew shop to buy supplies for making beer.  Against the advice of the shop guru, we decided on an IPA.  It was what we enjoyed drinking at the time, and we thought we were up for the challenge.  The results were--somewhat eh, but the experience was life changing.  That first homebrew day set off an ever moving locomotive of thoughts in my head that hasn’t stopped to this day.  I spent the next few weeks searching out reasons why my beer was not up to par, and advice for how to dial in my process.  I split my time between my girlfriend and learning about beer (she may argue it was not 50/50).  I consequently began homebrewing more often.  It seemed like every day new pieces of equipment, or parts for building my own brew-contraption, were arriving via FEDEX or UPS.  I experienced failure.  I experienced success--it didn’t matter.  What mattered was the process.  My Amazon prime membership was earning its keep.  The beer began to creep up in quality and quantity and I began to amass a sizeable amount of equipment.  I started a blog (now defunct).  I was running out of space.

So we decided to move in together.  It was a two bedroom duplex, but most important was that it had a garage with a utility sink.  A garage with a utility sink:  I was in heaven.  More equipment poured in.  I built a wooden brew stand and added a cold liquor tank and hoses that fed partially by gravity and partially by pumps.  A kegerator was built.  Parties were thrown.  A brewing library started to amass.  Opinions poured in.  The delivery guy began delivering us packages that weren’t ours just because he assumed they were for us.  

We were happy and travelling and returning home to surplus amounts of beer.  It seemed no matter how fast people consumed my free beer, I had kegs lined up to replace it.  There was no quenching my thirst for brewing, and our friends could not drink the beer fast enough so that I could brew more.  I needed more kegs and cold storage and most definitely more drinkers.  I was running out of room again.