Noble Ale Works was the first craft brewery in Anaheim and has acted as an anchor of the Orange County craft beer community for years, though it may seem as if they sprouted up with their juicy IPAs and eccentric brews just three years ago when brewmaster Evan Price moved in.
He established the brewery's well-known Showers Series–a series of single-hopped, double IPAs–to give drinkers a taste of what makes each hop unique. He's taken home the first place prize two years running at the LA IPA Fest (Yes Los Angeles hosts an IPA fest and an Orange County brewery placed first twice). And lest we forget Price's famous Naughty Sauce, a golden milk stout brewed with Portola Coffee Labs coffee and served on nitro.
Price continues with his eclectic recipes but, over the last year, turned his attention across the pond and began producing more English-style beer. Let's take a look at how his love for English beer mixes with the west coast palate.
OC Weekly (Cleo Tobbi): What defines Noble Ale Works beer-wise?
Evan Price: Well, the biggest thing we do is hoppy beers. Hands down. We really have made that a huge part of what we do. You come in and look at the “hoppy-ish” category and go “woah,” you know? So the biggest thing we focus on is hoppy beer.
I would also say Naughty Sauce. People love that and people freak out whenever we do a variation of it. Also, ever since I started categorizing our beer into this “hoppy-ish,” “dark-ish,” “unique-ish,” [and so on] we started making more dark beers to even it out a bit. It's one of the newer things we've started doing. “Unique-ish” is great. I love this whole [At this point, Price waves at the brewery's beer board] because I come in and look at the board and see what's missing and fill it in. We've started to think along these lines of trying to keep an even beer board and…it doesn't ever work out, but it does sort of work in that direction a little bit.
But they tend to be lower in ABV, correct?
Right, yeah I appreciate beers that are lower in ABV across the board and that's one of the things that I want to continue to focus on. I hopefully want to get people excited about it being more of a marathon and less of a sprint. You can sit down and you can enjoy yourself and you can have more than one.
I want to talk about this conversation I had with this English brewer. He was at the legendary brewery, Timothy Taylor, and they makes this beer called The Landlord and it's one of the most well-respected beers in England. Anyway, I'm talking to this English brewer and it's so funny because he's like, “Yeah, you gotta be able to drink a lot of one beer and that's how you know it's really good.” He goes on and says, “If you can't drink eight or nine of a beer, it's really not good.” And I'm just like, “Eight or nine? What the fuck is that?” So I love this whole thought pattern so much.
Does it look good for the future of low ABV beers?
I'm hoping that people continue to move in that direction and I think that they are. You know, session IPAs have been coming around, and they're becoming more of a popular thing that potentially what we'll continue to see instead is people gravitating more towards lower ABV beers that still have a lot of flavor. We try to price things appropriately where it's just, if we're making a lower ABV beer, we don't charge as much for it. So you can pay four bucks and get a 12 oz. session IPA and that's pretty sweet.
What about your cask program.
We always keep a beer on cask. I can't say it's good cask weather, though. So we keep a cask on all the time and I like this program. It doesn't necessarily do as well as I would hope but I think a lot of it has to do with, 1. education and 2. I feel like 90-fucking-something percent of people who do a cask program don't do it right. You walk into a bar and you see a cask sitting on the ground and so whenever you get it, it's literally room temperature and it's flat and it bums me out. That's ruined cask sales for sure and then also, we live in a hot place. There's probably four months out of the year where it's good “cask-drinking weather.” But we still go through a half barrel a week, which is better than I thought it would be.
And your English-style beers? How have you noticed people responding to them?
They don't respond very well to them, honestly. I've had to dial it back a bunch. I'm all about [having more English beers] but, it wasn't as well-accepted as I would have hoped and that's fine. What gets people excited is six double IPAs on tap and a million Naughty Sauce variations. Continuing to know and understand your clientele is important. Yeah, so overall, I've turned back the amount [of English beers] that we do and I, instead, make them on the little five-barrel tanks.
If you had more space, what would you do differently? Do you have any barreling plans?
Yeah, totally. We're looking at an expansion here in the next few months. After that we can start expansion of the brewery. We're actually going to have an air-conditioned tasting room. The first thing we want to focus on is building out a new tasting room. After that will be expanding the brewery. We're going to be looking at a lot of different options with that but one of the things in the plans right now is I have a big area for barrels and [I'm hoping] to do these lower ABV barrel stuff. It should be fun.