OAKLAND — Tethered to an antique printing press in the corner, a silky black pooch stretches on the smooth concrete floor, curling its toes. An artist sketches at the bar, silently inking a geometric line drawing as quiet conversation hums around him.
On a rainy October evening, Novel Brewing feels more like a neighborhood coffee shop than a brewery.
The garage door that demarcates the entrance to the tasting room—normally rolled open—is shut tight against inclement weather, protecting both the patrons and the piles of books that line the walls.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the name, books dominate the décor at Novel Brewing. Hanging book shelves are interspersed with pieces by local artists, and old typed pages flyer the bulletin board next to the brewing tanks in the back hallway. Novel uses old hardcovers for tasting flights, and the printing press in the corner, which was salvaged from co-owner Teresa Tamburello’s parents’ printing company, will eventually be used to print tasting bookmarks and growler tags.
Teresa (a part-time environmental engineer) and her husband Brian Koloszyc (that’s “Co-low-zick”) opened the cozy, 500-square-foot tasting room at 6510 San Pablo Avenue on June 4, and it’s since attracted a steady clientele.
“There are a lot of avid readers in the neighborhood,” says Koloszyc. “Some will come in and read a chapter or two of a book we have on the shelf, and then place a bookmark in it to come back to the next time they visit.”
When it came time to name the name the fledgling brewery, the couple set out to find the common ground of their pasts. The center of the venn diagram landed on books: an avid reader, Koloszyc once wanted to be a writer, he explains, while Tamburello, whose family operates a printing business outside of St. Louis, grew up running around typeset and helping with print projects. “After we settled on the name, we realized that it had become greater than the sum of the two parts.”
Come for the books, and stay for the beer
With a few exceptions, like the Yabba Dabba Dubbel, the literary theme extends to the menu. Repurposed wood frames the tap choices, which include Bookend Brown Ale, Point of View Pilsner, Prose Gose,Paperback Porter, Idiom Dry Stout, and Narrator Black Rye IPA.
While Novel does not bottle yet, they do of course offer growler fills, and they’re ramping up their distribution efforts to include bars and restaurants in Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. They’ll also be pouring at several festivals this fall.
In the meantime, there’s plenty to keep you coming back to the tap room. Trivia night is held on the second Tuesday of every month, as well as sporadic author events. Novel also hosts special release parties, having just debuted a Woodford Bourbon barrel-aged version of their Imperial Affliction stout on Halloween, as well as a limited edition hibiscus saison, a dunkel, and a coffee porter.
And the next chapers? A New England-style IPA, a Belgian-style Golden Ale, and an American Amber are all coming down the pipeline.
There’s no place like home
It’s a small space—there’s a small back door per fire codes, but all large deliveries come right through the 500-square-foot front of house en route to the adjacent 2,500 square feet that’s dedicated to brewing—and the couple operates with just a single other employee, who helps tend the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. However, it feels homey rather than crowded, and a neighborhood feel permeates the establishment — perhaps because the owners live just 10 blocks from the brewery.
“There is a vibe that is unlike anything I’ve experience locally,” says Koloszyc. “It is intimate and friendly. People go out of their way to talk to strangers, and it has an old time neighborhood pub feel in a more modern setting.”
Always an equipment fanatic, Koloszyc’s home-brewing paraphernalia outgrew the couple’s living space several years ago. So he did what any beer fanatic would do, enrolling in the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program and undertaking an internship with Firestone Walker in Central California.
“Firestone taught me to be efficient and regimental in all practices, while remembering to have a good time and a laugh while doing it. I was able to take away a ton of knowledge regarding running a brewery on a large scale, and turn around and try to incorporate some of those operations and methodologies into building out our small brewery,” he says.
When the time came to make their newfound dream of owning a brewery a reality, they did their homework to find the right location.
“We travelled as far as Australia, searching for somewhere we enjoyed more than the Bay Area. Each time we returned home [to the Bay Area], we found we enjoyed where we live a bit more, until we finally decided there really isn’t anywhere like here, and this is where we wanted to stay,” says Koloszyc.
They signed a lease on the building six months later.
“The brewery is like a novel, with individual characters who have their own stories. Each time someone comes in for a beer, a story is shared, and a new chapter is written. This ongoing development comes with drama and sadness, joy and intensity, and makes for a wonderful journey every day.”
(Photo: Abbie Leigh)