How Noble Ale Works Righted the Ship

Noble Ale Works was already standing in the growth development department before heading to Philadelphia for the Craft Brewers Conference.

The nearly seven-year old brewery that has been in its own production facility since 2011 had just purchased a 10,000-square-foot adjacent building to triple the size of the brewery and taproom.

Noble Ale Works CEO Brian Rauso said that the new three-vessel, 30-barrel system is to go online by the end of the year and the new space would let the brewery grow from the 3,000 bbls it made in 2015 to possibly a max of 40,000 bbls of capacity.

He noted that the Anaheim, California brewery wanted to grow “organically,” with thoughts of maybe hitting 7-10,000 bbls over the next year or two.

“We aren’t going to rush to get there,” he said, pointing out that the brewery is located in between the Honda Center, Angels Stadium and Disneyland and has the potential to reach nearly 10 million people locally.

Then the World Beer Cup awards were announced.

Noble Ale Works picked up three medals, including gold in the largest contested category — American-Style India Pale Ale — with its “I Love it!” IPA and won the Champion Small Brewery and Brewer award.

“It was a dream come true,” said head brewer Evan Price, who joined the brewery in 2012.

Price has been a catalyst for Noble Ale Works, said Rauso, changing it from a struggling Orange County brewery five years ago that had what Price called less than stellar beer served only in a few “gross” bars by self-distribution into a rising star on the West Coast with its honors — which include silver in the WBC Gose category (with “Gosebusters), and a bronze in the second-most contested Imperial IPA contest (with “Nobility”).

Noble Brewing Co.

“The quality of the beer, it was a laundry list of things that were wrong,” Price recalls, including cheap ingredients, poor employees and oxidized beers.

Rauso added that Price brought “a different vision from what we started with.”

“It changed our perception of what and how to do things,” he said. “It’s like bringing on a good chef. Like: ‘Wow, this is what it should be?’ “

Price righted the ship, expanded the lineup of beers, increased the quality and consistency and Rauso changed from being an investor/owner from the start to a full-time CEO two years ago.

“You have to let them use their expertise and let them do their thing. I think it’s why it works so well,” Rauso said. “I look at one aspect of the company, Evan looks at the other. I can’t have the arrogance to think I know better on the beer side. I let people that know what they are doing to be able to do it.

“Every ship needs a captain, but I think in a lot of cases you let them do what they do and trust them. With Evan it was, yup you go with it.”

Fast forward to Philadelphia. Price entered four beers, the max allowed per brewery. The only one he had banked on to maybe place was the brewery’s “Nose Candy” Session IPA.

“It was the first category to come up with [our beers] and we didn’t win anything,” Price said. “All I am thinking about is how just getting one medal, ever, would be coolest and a lifetime goal.”

When the Gose category came up and Original Ritterguts Gose of Borna, Germany took bronze, Price recalled his feelings.

“I knew we weren’t going to get anything. We were fucked. It’s over,” he said.

Then Noble Ale Works took silver.

“When that hit we were jumping for joy,” Price said. “Winning in a German category in the World Beer Cup was so Goddamn cool because you are actually going against the legitimate brewers of these styles.”

Rauso, who said he had been up late every night while at CBC that week and was looking forward to a early evening though: ‘That’s nice, now I am going to be up until 4 a.m. again.’

Happy with the haul, the room went silent when the gold medal winner of Category 88 was to be announced.

“It’s a magic unicorn,” explained Rauso of the WBC’s American IPA top prize.

When Noble Ale Works won, they exploded in joy again.

Price grabbed his phone and started to record a video of the team walking to get the gold medal. His video can be seen on his Instagram page (@evanbrewsnoble).

“We are celebrating like crazy and we are walking up to accept this award and they start announcing Imperial IPA and we won the bronze and we all just started to freak out,” he said. “It was very raw and excited moment.”

Added Rauso: “I was about to go up and I didn’t know what to do. Do we get two, do we walk back around. I felt like an idiot kid.”

Back in California, with a treasure trove of medals and plaques, now Rauso has to plan for a new future for the brewery.

“People have said our lives will change because of this,” he said. “We are reigning champs for two years now. We can build a marketing strategy around that.”

He noted that the wins will help during the buildout of the additional 10,000 square feet of space, which will include more tanks, a larger brewhouse and a larger taproom. It will also help with additional capital and gain access to additional markets, since everyone loves a winner.

“A lot of those pieces, we can take advantage of,” he said. “We want to push it forward without being a “look at me” brewery. It gets us out there and gives us a lot of credibility.
“You don’t want to be gaudy or be an ass of a brewery where we are shouting about being the best, but you want to show it out there that we are proud of it. I am proud of what these guys have accomplished. So now we have to look at how to get it out there in the best way.”

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