OAKLAND, Calif. — At this point in this city we all know a guy who makes their own beer. We live with them, we party with them, we sleep with them (ok that was a brag on my part) but the fact is home brewing has become a common fixture in San Francisco. And let’s face it, not all of them are good, we’ve all had to awkwardly slug down some half-assed concoction in in the name of friendship, but some of them are great. When you encounter that perfect, unique home brew don’t you wish you could share it with everyone? Thanks to Noble Brewer you can.
Noble Brewer is an Oakland-based operation that allows home brewers to widely distribute their creations via a beer club. CEO and Founder Claude Burns says he got the idea for his company from Samuel Adams’ Longshot competition which lets brewers submit a homemade beer to be mass produced. Burns was interested in using his business school education to help small time brewers who often face “kind of ridiculous” challenges when breaking into the highly regulated world of alcohol distribution.
“It’s actually a testament to the people who have done so, they’ve overcome huge hurdles and barriers,” Burns says of home brewers, adding, “They invest minimum of a year and probably close to $1M to just open the doors and to start selling beer.” Burns recalls thinking, “There’s got to be a better way”.
Noble Brewers works this way: amateur brewers submit their beers to Noble who then sends the beers off to a professional brewery that then mass produces the recipe and distributes a sample (one-to-two bottles) of that beer to people who sign up for Noble Brewers beer club. Noble Brewers pay home brewers a licensing fee if their beer is featured. Burns explains that since the company is so new, they can’t afford to pay brewers royalties at this stage, though in the future he hopes to “pay our home brewers a royalty for every one of their beers we sell or start a fund where we can contribute to one of our home brewers launching a brewery.”
Exposure, not profit, Burns explains is the driver for beer makers to get involved with Noble Brewers. “Home brewers are making a lot of great beers, and because of regulations, can’t share them without taking the risk of starting a brewery,” said Burns. “We now give them a way to do so, that’s low cost/low risk. Hopefully, we get them enough exposure that when they go to open a brewery, they can show what people thought of their beer and raise the necessary capital to launch.” Burns adds that though the company is not profitable at the moment, “… if we can help even a few people achieve their dreams, it’ll be worth it.”
As wholesome as that sentiment sounds, taking the little guy’s recipe and mass producing it smacks of the beer community’s favorite buzzword: Big Beer. But Burns sees Noble Brewers as a different beast entirely. He sees Big Beer as a “… one sided operation,” only concerned with commercial gain at the cost of human interest and integrity.
“We want our members to be part of our process, not just the people who we profit from, so we engage them, ask for feedback and ultimately, will rely on them to choose which beers we bring to life as part of a crowdsourced marketplace,” he says of Noble Brewer also saying “…you won’t see our ads in the Superbowl.”
Noble Brewer’s goal is provide a way to give exposure to small brewers, to educate consumers on home craft beer, and to empower brewers to one day fill the world with more quality breweries. Burns says “to mimic the same experience you’d have if you visited a small brewery and had the brewer pour you a beer and tell you about it, except we’ll use technology to recreate that in your own home.”