If I were to tell you Orange County’s most talked-about beer isn’t an IPA, you’d probably say, “It’s a Double IPA, right?” Nope. “Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout?” Closer! Here’s a few clues:
Although a blonde milk stout served on nitro is intriguing on its own, Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works cooked up all the talk this year by adding a fun name: Naughty Sauce. My initial reaction was “gimmick beer”; however, knowing what Evan Price has done since taking over as head brewer at Noble mid-2012, I couldn’t deny the sauce.
Visually, Naughty Sauce looks similar to a freshly baked vanilla cupcake. Its fluffy golden yellow body is topped with a dollop of creamy white cascading head. Blindfolded, the beer smells and drinks like a frothed beer-latte. It’s hard to not look like a “Got Milk” ad after the first sip. “Got Milk Stout?” Indeed. A pint goes down with minimal effort thanks to its velvety spumescent body.
Noble enlisted Portola Coffee Labs in Costa Mesa with its custom El Salvador coffee blend. Beans are hand-selected and roasted specifically for Naughty Sauce. “We let Portola geek out with the blend. We know beer, they know coffee,” says Price with his boyish good looks. He claims that fresh coffee beans “have a fruity quality going in the tank, but impart a bright-roasty character when complete.” Although three pounds of coffee per barrel are used, Portola’s owner and master roaster Jeff Duggan confirms a small amount caffeine is infused in the beer, estimating around 20% of the caffeine in a standard 12 oz cup of coffee per pint.
Naughty Sauce is brewed and released quarterly — this latest batch yielded 45 BBL — to maintain freshness and quality. As the beer is nitro-only, Noble likes to spread the sauce around Orange County’s best craft beer bars. Initially a one-off batch, Don’s Naughty Sauce was brewed in collaboration with the all-craft beer restaurant The Playground in downtown Santa Ana. Using superstar coffee Don Pachi, the release let people taste the expensive $100/lb Panama beans in a unique beer.
Jarred Dooley, Director of Libations at The Playground, put it well:
“There’s nothing quite like the face a person makes the first time they try Noble’s Naughty Sauce. People can’t equate the color of the beer with its flavor. I think that, hopefully, people will start to realize that the plethora of amazing beers being churned out means they don’t have to go on an endless search for a ‘whale’ of a beer. I think that Naughty Sauce deserves the cult following that Pliny the Younger gets!”
Special firkin releases are also a regular occurrence. The small environment of a cask gives Noble the freedom to infuse base beers with high quality specialty ingredients. Casks like Naughty Nuts – Naughty Sauce infused with hand-shaved, roasted coconut – are usually drained in one long continuous pour. Popular batches may pave the way for larger brews.
The name Naughty Sauce came from assistant brewer Brad Kominek who thought the name matched the “sexiness” of the beer. Noble owner Jerry Kolbly wasn’t a fan, but gave it the green light after a pint. Noble Ale Works has fun with most of their beer names, such as a porter named Jonathan (named after the freshly-opened Smog City Brewing’s Jonathan Porter) and Gosebusters, which is their take on a Leipziger Gose. Although Noble’s IPA still outsells the Sauce, all the attention has been a nice money shot for the brewery.
Noble Ale Works is located walking distance from Honda Center and Angel’s Stadium in Anaheim. Head Brewer Evan Price previously brewed at TAPS Fishhouse & Brewery, Hangar 24 and BJ’s.
Greg Nagel has been a beer fan for over twenty years and recently attended Sierra Nevada Beer Camp (#94 – Sleight of Hand). Follow him on his gonzo beer trail at OCBeerBlog.com and on twitter at @OCBeerBlog