Bill Meredith

Noble Blue Ale story - Feb. issue of Palm Beach Arts Paper

Bands and beers are practically the twin engines that drive the clubs and restaurants in any live music scene. And North Palm Beach-based James Noble has blended performers and brews for more than a decade in Palm Beach County, in both traditional and his current not-so-customary ways.
From 2005 to 2012, the 59-year-old Noble was the proprietor of the Orange Door in Lake Park, the live music venue that, along with the Kelsey Club, preceded the small town's current live entertainment epicenter of the Brewhouse Gallery and next-door Kelsey Theater (which sits in the exact same site as the Kelsey Club). The Orange Door was located at the south end of a strip mall on 10th Street near Park Avenue, and perhaps best-known for its recurring "3 Guitar" shows, which featured separate sets by some of South Florida's best guitarists. West Palm Beach-born jazz/​fusion guitar icon Scott Henderson, based in Los Angeles since 1980, also played a memorable series of sold-out shows with his trio over a weekend there in 2009.
Plenty of beers were sold at that venue over those seven-plus years, naturally, but none with Noble's name on them. Which is where his current, and more unorthodox, musical venture comes in. He'd started working as a delivery driver for United Parcel Service concurrently with opening the Orange Door, recently phasing out of the UPS job because he launched his own beer brand -- Noble Blue Ale, by the Noble Brewing Company (​noblebrewingcompany) -- in June of 2017. And its label prominently includes the slogan, "Support Live Music."
"That was an intentional message that I planned to include on the label from the get-go," Noble says. "And plenty of the places that carry my beer feature live music, but there are also lots of restaurants that don't. I walk into a lot of places cold, where they don't know me and I don't know them. But it's great, because I've met so many nice people that way; people involved in a small businesses the same way I am. And everyone who's served my beer at their establishments has said they're very happy with the feedback and results."
A Connecticut native who owns a guitar and a bass, and estimates that he plays them collectively "for about 10 minutes a year," Noble has nonetheless found himself supporting live music since his teens. He moved south to one of the world's preeminent music cities, New Orleans, with his family while in that age bracket in 1972, and then to South Florida with friends while in his mid-20s in 1985. He's been here ever since, having thrown his hat into both the nightclub and brewing worlds with no previous experience, and he frequented many of the clubs and restaurants where his beer is now carried beforehand.
"I contract through a brewery in Kiln, Mississippi called Lazy Magnolia," Noble says of the corporation's engine room, located not far from New Orleans near the Louisiana state line. "A friend of mine named Rick DiMarco, who's a veterinarian in Juno Beach, came up with the recipe. Then it took me about two years to get all the paperwork together, but now I'm in more than 50 area venues, as far north as Angelo's Too Pizza in Hobe Sound and as far south as Boston's on the Beach in Delray Beach. I order either cases or kegs from Mississippi; they go to my warehouse in Lake Park, and I spend most days doing paperwork and selling or delivering beer."
Noble's memories of the windowless, black box theater-style Orange Door mainly center on those "3 Guitar" shows, his own South Florida version of metallic fusion guitarist Joe Satriani's ongoing international "G3 Tour." Usually with the house rhythm section of bassist Rick Rossano and drummer Keith Cronin, featured sets included blues, rock, jazz, pop and fusion by guitarists like Mario LaCasse, JP Soars, John Smotherman, Frank Axtell, Danny Morris, Pete Weintraub, Albert Castiglia, Andy Stein, the since-deceased David Shelly, and Rossano, as gifted a guitarist as he is a bassist.
"I think I first met James at the Orange Door," says Boynton Beach-based blues vocalist, bassist, guitarist and international touring artist Mark Telesca. "Although I think I remember him being around the scene before that, perhaps at Ray's Downtown Blues when it was open in West Palm Beach. He's always been a great guy; very accessible, and I really do like his beer. I'm so glad he's succeeding with it."
"I first tried a Noble Blue Ale at Boston's on the Beach," says Soars, the Boca Raton-based blues guitarist/​vocalist who tours internationally with both his band the Red Hots and the regional all-star act Southern Hospitality. "The first thing I noticed was the kind of blueberry aftertaste that leaves me wanting to take another sip. It's smooth and tastes great. If I'm going to drink beer, I'm going to order a Noble Blue Ale because it's simply my favorite-tasting beer."
Literally and figuratively, the Noble Brewing Company is branching out, right down to its palm tree logo with musical notes making up its trunk. The owner's planned expansion includes going into grocery, liquor and convenience stores beyond Palm Beach County, and he's already donated to several area food and toy drives, plus cancer and veteran-related charities. Some new flavors are also on the horizon following his successful ale mission statement.
"I have a lager and a wheat beer that I'll introduce eventually," Noble says. "The ale was a purposeful middle-of-the-road beer; an alternative to all the alternative IPAs and other craft beers flooding the market. The volume for my second quarter more than doubled that of my first quarter, and I've recently been told that Noble Blue Ale will be carried at Michael Jordan's restaurant, 1000 North in Jupiter, where it'll be referred to as 'N.B.A.' So far, I'm only selling cases or kegs, but the game plan is to eventually order six-pack holders and appear in stores not only in South Florida, but throughout the state, into Louisiana, Mississippi and the rest of the Southeast, and hopefully even beyond."

Selected Works

Famed guitarist G.E. Smith (Saturday Night Live, Hall & Oates, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters) performed with a South Florida all-star band at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton on Feb. 18 to benefit FarePlay, West Palm Beach resident Will Buckley's non-profit that seeks better pay for the online works of musicians, visual artists, writers and photographers in the Internet piracy era.
James Noble may be best-known in South Florida as the former proprietor of the Orange Door, the 2005-2012 live music venue in Lake Park, FL that featured stellar "3 Guitar" showcases. But through his fledgling Noble Brewing Company, and its popular Noble Blue Ale, he may now be better-known for beer than bands.
From the expected suspects (the Marsalis brothers, trumpeter Chris Botti) to rising stars (Gregory Porter, Jon Batiste) and female instrumentalists (Jane Bunnett, Anat Cohen), the 2017-2018 season in South Florida jazz is as a strong as usual and higher in unpredictability.