Interview: Noble Ale Works co-founder Jerry Kolbly

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Craft Beer Orange County

In 2010, longtime Newport Beach Brewing Co. operator Jerry Kolbly teamed with Steve Miles on Noble Ale Works. They hired Tracy Simmons to help them produce beers like Dark Sybian IPA and Alpha Red, contract brewing out of Dale Brothers in Upland. Noble opened a tasting room in a warehouse space at the Stadium Plaza Business Park, near Angels Stadium and the Honda Center in Anaheim. They only recently transitioned out of Upland, which not only saves them a commute; it also allowed them to increase production, styles and the range of the on-site tasting room. We met at the L.A. Beer Week fest on October 23, and Kolbly better explained his connection to craft beer and the vision for the brewery.

What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew?

We do big American style hophead beers. We do four ingredient, basic German style purity law beers – yeast, malt, hops and water – we don’t really have plans to vary that recipe. We’ll do some barrel aging, of course. Big bodied beers, that’s what we do.

What will brewing out of Anaheim allow you to do that you’re not already doing?

More styles, more volume. We can do some big time volumes. We have a recipe, Scotch ale, we have different, various styles of barrel aging. We’ll barrel age a lot of beers. Our red’s in the barrel. It will come out in about two weeks.

What was the first beer that you ever brewed?

Personally, I did a pale ale.

How did it turn out?

It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good. It was a kit, but I realized – my parents bought me a kit – I think it was a whole Christmas gift, beer in a bag.

How long ago?

15 years ago.

What were you doing leading up to Noble?

I ran Newport Beach Brewing Co., so I was there for a dozen years. I don’t drink that much liquor, hard alcohol, or wine. I like wine, but I’m a beer lover. I’ve always been a beer lover, even back in the day, when Dos Equis was the next flavor. I was that guy, but I learned 12 years ago that I can’t leave craft beer.

Craft Beer Orange County
Would you say that you have any beer mentors?

My first mentor was probably my first brewer in Newport, Kirk Roberts. He’s now with The Beer Company in San Diego. Great guy. I probably learned more about cleanliness and styles of beer with my brewer now, Tracy Simmons. I brew beer. I work hand in hand with Tracy, but he’s the guy I lean on all the time. He’s actually taught me more about beer than I ever thought I knew.

What was the most recent beer that you brewed and what was your approach?

The most recent beer that I brewed was our dark IPA, the Dark Sybian IPA, a Cascadian black Ale. We brewed that beer because we looked at styles in Denver, put it out there, thought we did pretty well, on a 5-gallon system, a 10-gallon net. It turned out good, but we learned the next time around that we had to change a few things, but it was great because it came together. We talked a lot about malt profiles. It was great, because I learned a lot again. Tracy taught me more about beer than I ever thought I knew, the way malt interacts with hops, the way hops interact with yeast. It was good.

What’s your biggest seller and why do you think that’s the case?

That’s a good question. That’s a great question. Our red is our flagship beer, but the red sells better than any beer we have because IPA is the buzz beer. It’s been the buzz beer for the past few years. But the red is our flagship beer because it’s a different red than most people have. It’s not sweet, it’s hoppy at the end and cleans itself up. We just got our red into the Honda Center, which was a big announcement for us in Orange County. We’re the only microbrewery in the Honda Center. We’re going to stick to the red being our flagship beer, though IPA sells better. There’s a handful of good reds on the market, I think we’re one of them.

Craft Beer Orange County
What do you look for when you’re hiring someone to work in your brewhouse?

Drive. Love of beer. And not going to complain about long hours, or tough work. I’ve got it all. I’ve been inside tanks for two hours, claustrophobic, scrubbing tanks. I expect the next person I hire is going to do the same thing, and down the line.

Where and what do you drink when you’re not working?

That’s a great question. It depends on the time of day and where I’m at. Typically, if I’m at Yard House, say, I drink West Coast IPA because Green Flash, one of my favorite brewers in the world is Chuck Silva. I think he’s one of the best brewers on the planet, but I’ll order a sour every once in awhile. My favorite style of beer is an IPA and Imperial Stout, because there are complex layers on both sides of those two.

If you could only drink one more beer, what would it be and why? And it can’t be yours.

It’s easy. Maharaja IPA from Avery. That’s the IPA that got me into IPAs, so I’d have to go back that way.

Where would you drink it?

Somewhere on tap, first of all. I’d probably drink it with the guys from Avery. Adam Avery’s a great guy. I’ve known him for a few years now. If I had my choice, I’d fly to Denver.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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