On the Line: Victor Novak Of Golden Road Brewing
Getting down to business
Photo courtesy Nick Gingold/ Craft Media Solutions
As much as I love beer, I rarely have the opportunity to get to know individuals in the brewing industry. Victor Novak is one of those people I have met. From his time with TAPS to now, every interaction with Victor has been pleasant and informative. So for this week, I am excited to give him the spotlight.
How has your creative process changed (if at all) when coming up with new ideas since you began at Golden Road?
The creative process really hasn't changed that much. We always start with fantastic malts, selected hops, RO (Reverse Osmosis) water and a variety of yeast strains. We have a very collaborative atmosphere, so regardless of who comes up with an idea for a new IPA, classic lager or barrel-aged beer, we all get to chime in and add something of value. We truly get the best beer possible this way.
Best tip for the home brewer:
Know your ingredients, all of them (i.e. malt, hops, yeast AND water). Water is over 90% of your beer, so don't just leave it to chance. And there are so many varieties of malt, hops and yeast that if you don't know what each component contributes, how can you make the necessary tweaks and adjustments to take something from good to really great?
What are your current best-sellers on tap?
I would say our Wolf Pup Session IPA, Wolf Among Weeds, Tart Mango Cart, Right Said Red and Sunset Coffee.
Tell us about the building you're housed in and the choice to be in Anaheim.
Golden Road was looking for a spot in Orange County going back to 2014, and found this insanely great location right across the street from Angel Stadium in early 2015. It's 58,000 square feet, and previously housed a window and door manufacturing company. It's pretty cavernous, and provided a nice blank canvas for us to build something really special in 2017.
Do certain beers appeal to different demographics?
I honestly don't think you can generalize about which demographic prefers which particular style. All around the country, I see women and men of all ages, races and creeds enjoying everything from a classic Pils to a fruited sour to a Bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout to a hazy IPA. It's pretty awesome. That's why craft beer continues to grow.
Does Golden Road sponsor/support any charities?
Absolutely. We brew specific beers, with a portion of the profits going to Heal the Bay, LA Works, Greenway 2020, ACT Anaheim and the SPCA, to name a few.
Most frequently asked question by tasting room visitors.
When is the restaurant going to open?! Answer: Sometime in 2017. [Editor's Note: When asked specifically about expansion plans, Novak was excited about the opening, "I'm getting a little tired of eating out."]
What made you want to pursue a career in brewing?
Initially it was my inability to get Sierra Nevada Pale Ale when I moved to Philadelphia in 1992, so I started home brewing. I then turned that hobby into a career after reading Michael Jackson's World Guide to Beer. I still remember lying on the couch and thinking, "This is exactly what I want to do with my life." It encompassed so much of what I loved, i.e. history, culture, food and travel, and really represented a positive way to bring people together.
Could you tell me about the decision to switch breweries.
I was starting to hit a wall in terms of what I could accomplish in a smaller brewery, so I took a leap to get a little uncomfortable again. It's honestly a decision I couldn't be happier with. I've learned a ton about production brewing, and I work with (and this is no BS) some of the most talented and hard-working brewers I have ever encountered. We have such a solid, positive culture, and we're really enjoying working our fannies off to put out consistent, world-class beer.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Fresh tortillas with scrambled eggs, shallots, smoked turkey, fresh tomatoes, avocado, yellow peppers and thyme. I can't handle too much caffeine, so we usually have a half dozen really nice teas in the house.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
That all brewers have beards or some kind of facial hair. Yes, it's largely true, but some of us resist! (Laughs)
What's your favorite childhood memory?
Striking out one of the high school baseball studs to end a crucial game near the end of the city baseball season. The bases were loaded and he fouled off around 10 pitches before I finally fanned him with a fastball right down the heart of the plate. Pretty awesome! I played tennis in high school, which took place at the same time as high school baseball, so I never got to compete against him and the other jocks except in city ball.
Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with beer?
Hmmm. Maybe cooking, billiards and ping pong. Definitely NOT karaoke!
Last thing you looked up online:
Home karaoke machines.
What breweries do you like to frequent (besides your own)?
Noble Ale Works, Firestone, Chapman Crafted and Bottle Logic.
Congratulations on your recent wedding! How did you meet your wife?
We met at TAPS almost 10 years ago. She left for another job, and soon after I asked her out. Best thing I've ever done!
Where was your most recent meal?
My wife and I just ate at Playground in Santa Ana. We had the Brussel Sprouts Caesar, Salt Cured Wagyu Tri Tip & Grilled Pan de Cristal Con Tomate, Duck Breast Larb & Shrimp Chips, and New Orleans Barbeque Shrimp Brioche. Sounds a bit pretentious, but it's really just damn great tasting food. They really focus on their ingredients and their execution is phenomenal.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Hike, mountain bike, travel and seek out killer restaurants, breweries and cocktail spots.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I can have a pretty wicked temper. Luckily, most people haven't seen it!
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Never give a speech without practicing first.
What can we expect from Golden Road Brewing in upcoming months?
We've been barrel-aging in Anaheim for the last year or so, and we'll be releasing some of our barrel-aged beers this year, which I'm really excited about. It's been fun working out of the OC brewery. LA keeps up with demand, brewing beers like Wolf Among Weeds, Hefeweizen, 329 Lager, etc., while we call Anaheim the "brewers playground". There will be lots of cool stuff coming out of there.
Golden Road Brewing Anaheim is located at 2210 E Orangewood Ave, (714) 912-4015; www.goldenroad.la/anaheim.
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