I love good surprises. You know when you're reading a good book but then there there's that twist you didn't expect. And now it's a great book.
So I'm driving down San Pablo Road in Oakland and am stopped at a red light. I see one of those sandwich style chalkboards on the center island and it reads "Brewery Open". I've driven by here a gazillion times and there is no brewery. What brewery? I look to the left and to my shock and awe, there it is. Novel Brewing. Of course I made a u-turn and made my way inside.
The Set Up
It turns out Novel had only been open for a week. It smelled brand new. That good clean, we are now open for business brand new smell. I took in the sights. Was I in a brewery or a library? I see the huge tanks, the walk-in cooler, the taps, the guys at the bar and of course someone's cute four legged furry friend. But I can't get over the walls lined with all the beautiful books. I pulled up a seat at a table made from pieces of an old printing press. I was quickly falling in love and thinking of all the friends I will inevitably bring here.
I reviewed their beer menu and couldn't pick just one so I got their Book Taster which is a flight of four beers. I picked the Upshot (IPA), Easy Reader (Bitter), Yabba Dabba (Dubbel), and Idiom (Stout). The beers are well done. Full rich aromas and flavors. I could review them all day, but what I truly loved was the presentation. Teresa, one of the owners and wife of the brewer, brought over the Book Taster and it arrives with a book that has holes drilled in it to hold your tasters. So cool. I wanted to know more about this brewery and the people behind it. And I thought you might too.
Brian Koloszyc aka "Brian the Brewer"
Owner / Brewer
Novel Brewing Co., Oakland, CA
What are your responsibilities in your current position?
My wife and I split all the responsibilities of owning and operating the brewery and tasting room. We went into this with the loose idea that I would run the brewery side, and she would run the tasting room, but since the first day we opened, there has been a lot of crossover.
How did you become interested in craft beer and what led you to where you are today?
Back in college--back when it was called microbrew, not craft--living in Vermont. The three beers I can remember were Shed Mountain Ale, Long Trail Double Bag, and Magic Hat Blind Faith. After that, while living in Seattle, Washington, my coworkers and I would go to a brew-on-premise and brew batches of beer in celebration of the release of a video game they had been working on. From there, I moved to the Bay Area, where I started to homebrew and became obsessed from that day forward.
In your opinion, does “craft” have the same meaning it had a decade ago?
Using a single word to define an entire industry is always going to fall short of the mark. Everything changes over time, and with change comes the positive and negative. That being said, I would have to lean towards "craft" having the same meaning as a decade ago, and on top of that, I think the industry is getting craftier on all sorts of levels. I'm also the new kid on the block so take that with a grain of salt.
What is your beer philosophy and why should people come to your brewery?
We believe there needs to be a beer for every occasion, mood, deep thought, laid back, long winded debate, food, scratchy throat, tip of the tongue, remember when, did you hear about, nice to meet you moment in life. People should visit Novel Brewing to hit the pause button, sip a beer that matches their current state of mind, scratch behind the ears of that fluffy labradoodle, and say hello to their neighbor.
What is your favorite part of the brewing process?
The entire process. If I was forced to choose one it would have to be either the lab or the cellar.
What do you consider your brewing specialty?
I can't say I have a specialty. I like beer diversity.
What is your creative process when creating a new beer recipe?
New beer recipes come at different moments, but most of mine have been developed over time, and were designed by tasting a beer, and then thinking "if only" this was made this way, or "what if" I added that to this beer. If the recipe uses something I haven't used before, I usually make some kind of tea or experiment with the flavor in some way, before using it. One of my favorite things to do is to take several versions of similar malt types, and "mash" them in a coffee press in order to discover the somewhat dramatic differences in character. I was really surprised in the breadth of breadiness across even basic 2-Row.
From the beers you’ve produced, which one are you really proud of and why is it special?
I'm a person who carries little pride. At the moment, I'm enjoying the Easy Reader Bitter.
What is your biggest challenge when producing craft beer?
At three weeks in our biggest challenge is keeping our popular beers on tap while maintaining a diverse tap list.
What moment in your brewing career are you most proud?
Probably the day we opened our tasting room. It was a long and arduous journey to get to that day.
What has been your worst moment in your brewing career?
The worst moment has to be when the power went out in the brewery, came back up only on single phase, and then was completely restored a few hours later. This blew a relay in our glycol chiller which proceeded to short three different transformers as I attempted to troubleshoot the issue. While this was all going on, I had a Belgian-style Tripel that was skyrocketing in temperature, and had to be put down in the end.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Baseball, playing softball, reading, hiking, camping, snowboarding, wiffle ball, biking, travelling.
If you could do any other occupation, what would it be?
This is it. I've asked myself that question for many years, and Brewing was the answer. Now that I'm here, I would lean towards maintaining some public land in a forgotten corner of the world.
What was the first beer you ever drank, how old were you and what were you doing?
I can't remember really. It must have been a sip of a Budweiser or some equivalent when I was a child, and of course, I hated it. I also hated coffee and now it is a necessity of life.
What is your favorite smell? Pick any smell.
That's a tough one. There is something about the smell of a purged tank though where the dense blanket of carbon dioxide hovers along the brewery floor and mixes with the freshly dumped deluge of pungent dry hops dripping down the drain.
What’s your favorite beer style to drink? And to brew?
The beer style that matches my mood and environment perfectly (a rare and amazing occurrence). The beer that I'm brewing that day.
What or who inspires you?
Other small business owners who work their tails off for their passion.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the brewery business?
Talk to as many people as you can who have done what you are about to do.
How would you describe the craft beer industry in the Bay Area?
I feel like the Bay Area industry has been a bit of a sleeping giant that is now just waking up.
Do you feel a responsibility to consumers to educate them on different beer styles or do you simply make beers you like to drink?
I don't think of it as a responsibility, but I find an open dialogue with the consumer about how they are experiencing a beer is imperative for both the consumer and the brewer. Luckily, I think that both have been eager to converse for years, and is the main reason the beer industry has been able to take such risks with flavors and pushing the boundaries of their product.
Is there anything you would like to say to your beer fans?
I would like to thank our regulars, first timers, and inquisitive neighbors for all the support they have shown us during the first three weeks of business. Tell your friends and coworkers about your experience at Novel Brewing, and come on back for another book taster, or page turner.
Thank you Brian and Teresa! I am truly happy for the both of you and look forward to sipping many more of your beers. Novel and Chill is definitely on my list of things to do.
If you want to know what is currently on tap, visit Novelbrewing.com. Then swing by and get a Book Taster. Please don't forget to leave your book in the Book Return.
6510 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA — 94608
Wednesday - Friday: 4 pm - 10 pm
Saturday: Noon - 10 pm
Sunday: Noon - 8 pm