Once a proud and fierce people, hobos gained power throughout the Great Depression, threatening the United States government itself*. FDR subdued the hobo clan, driving them underground. Like cast-off tennis shoes and missing socks, they were forgotten. Out of sight, the hobo culture struggled to survive until the 1980s, when recessions hit once again and the destitute were again celebrated. It is no coincidence that the return of the hobo coincided with the rise of craft beer. One needs only to look at a gathering of craft brewers, with their scraggly beards, their worn, weathered faces and their hodgepodge wardrobe to see the vestigial remnants of hobo culture.
For more than 30 years, craft beer provided safe haven to the hobos. They worked in small breweries, scrubbing kettles, cleaning kegs and watching, always watching. Eventually, they learned the trade and began to brew. Hobo brewmasters gathered in places like Denver, California, the Pacific Northwest, and all along the East Coast. Yet, the hobos yearned for a leader.
During this time, Charles Navillus incubated his talents. Living the true life of an itinerant, Navillus scaled mountains, ran great distances, pirated ships, and rarely bathed. His beard grew long, his hair longer. His unshorn appearance gave him power and strength. Leading the charge at a Midwestern brewery, Navillus was struck with an idea. He would brew just as he lived, traveling from kettle to kettle to produce his hobo brew. Unbeknownst to Navillus, this was the sign the hobo masses had been waiting for. At a secret conclave deep in the heart of the woods, the hobos elected a new king. Sir Charles Navillus now rules them all.
*In his book “The Areas of My Expertise,” historian and hobo expert John Hodgman chronicles the rise of the hobo class, their great threats to the American government (including usurping the role of Secretary of the Treasury), and FDR’s use of the New Deal with quell the hobo uprising.