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Five Questions with Head Brewer John Novotny | Twin Oast

Rick Armon / Beacon Journal

Question: Why did you become a brewer?

Answer: I fell in love with the science of fermentation at an early age. At that time, I had an interest in craft beer and enjoyed the more flavorful brews. This was the time in the mid ’90s when craft breweries and brewpubs were certainly on an aggressive climb. There was something about how these ingredients were transformed into a magnificent beverage after this gorgeous fungus ran its course.

When I was 16 years old, my wonderful mother embraced the concept and bought my first homebrew kit. During the brewing process — how remedial at that time — the smell of extract boiling, the wonderful aroma of hops into my little five-gallon pot, and the extraordinary sight of watching yeast create this impressive turbulence as the life cycle starts through that glass carboy and I was sold. I found myself sitting in the public library reading Charlie Papazian’s “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.”

At the age of 18, I walked into BJ’s Brewhouse in Brea, California, and expressed my interest in an entry level position. I was laughed at. I proceeded to ask if I could work for free. Oddly enough, their ears perked to that one. I spent my time learning from Owen and Toby as a volunteer for approximately six months before they decided I was worthy of the measly $5.25/hour minimum wage. I loved being in the brewery and learning this extremely large world of beer and brewing.

Q: What are your favorite and least favorite craft beer trends now?

A: That is a tough one. Some of these trends put the brewer in a position to challenge themselves to meet and exceed consumer expectations. There are always new and exciting techniques to run trails on; in addition, provide an opportunity to incorporate new ingredients that many companies are supplying the industry with.

Like many brewers, the concept of the hazy IPAs was a difficult one for me to accept. During the earlier years of this style, there were plenty of bad ones and it was difficult to find a benchmark for this style. Though, it was hard, I had to rewire my outlook on this style and approach this style with some technical apt. Brewers spend their careers trying to produce a clean, clear, product, and now, we have to figure a way to produce a beer that has permanent haze and tastes juicy. If the brewer understands the ingredients and how they react during the brewing process, an awesome hazy IPA can be produced. We brewed our Rutherford B. Haze for the first time, and I am very pleased with the results; moreover, the consumer has responded positive to it.

It is certainly not a craft beer, but this trend of hard seltzer water is by far my least favorite. We don’t need to jump on every bandwagon out there.

Q: What’s your best-selling beer and why do you think it’s so popular?

A: Our best-selling beers at Twin Oast are our Old Ohio Blonde Ale and equally the Legitimate Swells IPA. The IPA we brew here has a reserved bitterness that people seem to enjoy. The hop flavor and bouquet are prevalent, and our local clientele enjoy the fact that the perception of bitterness is soft. Craft beers can come across aggressively to consumers that appreciate the lighter flavors. Our Old Ohio Blonde Ale suffices those that are working to appreciate the local breweries.

Q: I’m going to put you on the spot. Name five (or fewer) Ohio breweries that you think every craft beer fan must visit and explain why.

A: I am still new to Ohio. My tenure started at the construction phase of Twin Oast, so I am no leading authority on Ohio beer yet. The few that I have gone to have been good choices. My family and I were out in the Cleveland area a few times and visited Saucy Brew Works, Butcher and the Brewer, Market Garden. I found those all to have wonderful atmospheres, and beers.

Q: Which beer — any beer in the world — do you wish that you created/brewed and why?

A: I hope I do not get eye rolls for this one, but I am going to go for it anyway. One of the best pale ales still to this day is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. They created this beer many years ago and I truly believe they are one of the pioneers of craft brewing in the Unites States. For this reason, I wish I had the wonderful pleasure to be there when Ken Grossman designed and brewed his first batch of Pale Ale. This will always be a “go-to” for me. The Pale Ale standards have since changed, but the benchmark they created and stuck by still perseveres.

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