“When vessels of hand-crafted quality beer are touched together and the eyes of the men and women who hold them meet, something magical happens — a long and frustrating day brightens, worries soften, stresses chill, and friends (or soon to be friends) connect, and The Life becomes La Vie.” —Ken Hull, Foreword
Today, it is not unusual to enter a bar and find a laundry list of exotic beers on tap or to hear news of a local brew pub or microbrewery opening up. Such was not the case in 1984 (only five years after the legalization of homebrewing) when the editor of the Centre Daily Times approached local lawyer Ben Novak about writing a bi-weekly beer column for the paper. Collected here and available for the first time since their original publication are those newspaper columns, the very first of their kind in the United States. They harken back to a time when only a small American subculture had discovered the endless, delicious possibilities of good beer.
Seeking to introduce his readers to the wondrous variety of the burgeoning “Big Bang” in craft brewing, Novak wrote not only about the many different styles of beer, but also about the people who brewed it. Waiting for you in these pages are lessons on the varieties of beer, accounts of its important role in history (dating back to the time of the Founding Fathers and before) and stories of the brewing pioneers who launched a revolution; all are certain to educate, entertain, and enlighten. Although Novak’s subject is beer, his material has aged more like a fine wine, with most stories and beer reviews still surprisingly relevant today. It can be enjoyed both as a historical text preserving the memory of a time when the craft brew revolution was in its infancy as well as a fun primer on the art of making and enjoying craft beer.
Too often, we fail to see beyond the modern “Animal House” college culture, which teaches only mindless consumption of the cheapest swill, and we do not appreciate the complex social and gastronomical pleasures of good beer. Here is your chance to stop and smell the roses… or hops, if you prefer. Whether you are a certified “beer geek” or just discovering the wide world of beer, you will find “The Birth of the Craft Brew Revolution” as satisfying as the best porter, stout, or lager.
Special thanks to William Ames Photography and Zeno’s Pub in State College (cover image)
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WPSU’s Paul Knight Interviews Ben Novak (1980s)
“Reading Ben Novak’s book gives me a sense of appreciation for what he and other beer drinkers did for me. Without columns like Ben’s, and the choice to drink craft brews, I wouldn’t have the selection available to me now. Call this a diary of the battle of the big boys versus the innovators, and getting to read it in real time was fascinating. Especially reading columns about small craft beers that have taken off since Ben wrote the original column. A must read for craft beer drinkers and home brewers.” —Amazon Review
“Though humorous and light-hearted at times, (Novak) gives the topic a rich depth luring the reader on an exciting journey invaluable even for today’s novice, while still enlightening for today’s enthusiast. In a world of mass-produced, mass-marketed uniformity, he explored and celebrated artful craftsmanship and excellence in beer, as they were captured and reflected in it. Like a fine cask-conditioned ale, these columns have aged well.” —Amazon Review