Boojum Brewing Company may be newer to the scene, but they have already been making waves. Since the first brew in 2015, they have taken Waynesville, North Carolina and the surrounding area by storm. Placing product on local shelves with big name retailers like Ingles and Target, this small scale brewery is already making an impact in the beer scene. Brewing on a 15 barrel three-vessel system, Boojum’s output in the first year saw 800 barrels hit the market, and this year, they will reach around 3000 barrels. With expansion plans on the rise, they certainly aren’t slowing down.
Sitting down with brewer Cody Noble, we discussed Boojum’s growth and what life is like working on a smaller scale. Talking about production, getting started in the industry, and of course beer, Cody gives us an inside look at what life is like working at Boojum.
First, have to ask, what made you want to become a brewer?
The love of craft beer. I always like drinking high quality product. I like the romantic side of creating something and people enjoying it. It’s a big thing, especially when there’s a good report. And I like talking about beer, that’s my favorite part of my job. I want to be in the booming industry, and turns out we’re pretty decent at it. I really enjoy peoples face when drinking beer.
You’ve put a lot of time and dedication into becoming a brewer. Many craft beer enthusiasts are looking to break into the industry, how did you get your start?
I went to school for two years, got my brewing certificate from Blue Ridge College, and then got a job [as a beertender] at Brevard Brewing and Oskar Blues.
Then Ben and Kelsie – I knew them from the [Florida] Keys – opened up Boojum. I wanted to work for someone smaller, so I took the job. I never stopped asking questions.
Did you have any influential figures that helped guide you?
I really learned a lot from brewers at Oskar Blues and brewer friends that I acquired from there. Blue Ridge held classes there so they played a part. Jeremy Herald [Oskar Blues], he’s one of the smartest people I know.
Also learned a lot from asking questions, and the new guy – Bryan Brauer – at Boojum came from Bull & Bush and Great Divide, I learned a lot from him. He’s a wealth of knowledge.
Justin Neal and I did a lot of home brewing together when I was in school, learned a lot from him. He kinda helped me experiment with beer basically.
I also learned a lot from hanging around Kyle Williams [Brevard Brewing Company] Ben Baker of course. Working with him at Boojum has helped to hone in on my brewing.
Do you have any advice for beer lovers looking to become brewers?
Try to get some experience before coming on. I learned the most from just doing it. Everyone has their own specialty, but getting thrown to it is how I learned. You need a strong work ethic.
Never stop experimenting. The best thing you can do is go out and do it. If you really want the job, a squeaky wheel gets the oil. If it came down to it I would have worked for free.
At Brevard Brewing, I would hang out with Kyle and eventually got hired. It’s about getting someone’s trust.
Many new breweries are trying to succeed in a heavily saturated market. What sets Boojum apart from the rest?
We strive really hard to create a good product. We don’t spare expense on products. We take time with fermentation, so it takes longer but worth it.
We strive to use quality ingredients. Our IPAs are heavily hopped – at least two pounds a barrel of dry hop.
What else sets us apart, me, j/k. A strong team and great camaraderie, and strong distribution. We came out of the gates running with putting product on the shelves. Local bottle shops told us Hop Fiend became second best in Asheville behind Pernicious [Wicked Weed Brewing]. We aren’t scared to experiment either, we’re starting a barrel program. I’ve been doing some sour beers.
We have a strong team.
Sour beers, you say?
Not really a big thing, but have done a few at the taproom. Doesn’t see that daylight outside the taproom yet. At the moment trying to get the whole thing down.
Experimenting with that, but it’s coming out good and people like it. We use mango, pineapple, I experimented with kettle barrel aged, wild ales, different strains of bacteria. Still honing in.
For those that are dreaming about the glitz and glamour, what is the daily life of a brewer like? And don’t leave out the drive, because going through Pisgah and back is true dedication.
I get up at 7:30 and drive an hour n’ half one way because I want to be here. Basically we’re glorified drinkers with a custodial problem. We have to clean, pretty much, that’s our job is cleaning.
It probably takes six hours to brew one batch, throughout that time there’s cleaning going on. It’s about a one to one ratio. Sanitation is the biggest thing. Tasting beer and experimenting, that’s kinda cool.
You’ve also done more than brew for Boojum. Starting out small, sometimes you wear many hats. What other roles have you held in the company?
I was in the field running around with distributors from town to town around Asheville area. I helped put Boojum in almost every bar in Brevard. It’s second nature when I have a passion for it, it’s easy and I like talking about beer.
We have a head brewer [Bryan Bauer] and owner [Ben Baker] who’s the brew master. I brew beer about four times a month, I help with all the cellaring, help on the canning line, some sales and distribution, lots of cleaning, packaging. Get beer orders ready, whats that, shipping and receiving, that’s me.
I do every job which is kinda cool. I don’t have to make a pale ale five days in a row. Could have been that guy that brewed beer everyday, this makes my life more refreshing. All the hats.
What entices you about working for the little guy rather than a bigger brewery?
It’s easier to get heard – all those big companies are great. But you start at the bottom and not everyone knows your name. We have three of us here, were all on same page. Bigger the brewery, the more chain of command, more micro managing. There’s more freedom to experiment here.
They [the owners] are friends of my brother and I, and seemed like the right thing to do. Boojum is a family run company so it’s like we’re all family in a sense. We’re all in it together. That’s why I drive everyday, I like being here.
What are the challenges and liberties you face brewing on a small scale?
Bigger companies run the market, which is why its hard to get beer out there. It’s a little challenging, it’s harder to get ingredients because bigger people are buying it up. There are companies with hundreds of accounts of household name products. It’s harder to compete. Harder to get ingredients, especially hops.
Getting taps is the biggest thing. However I think were doing a great job in WNC.
We’re hands on turning valves and flipping switches. A lot of other breweries are fully automated. This has a sense of intimacy with the brewing process.
Have to ask, what’s your favorite beer?
Boojum Beer: Drinking Hop fiend right now, Helles lager is badass, double IPA is really good I don’t know man, King of the Mountain maybe?
Drop by our taproom this Saturday, 11:30-5pm, for the release of these awesome cans plus pint glass and t-shirt giveaways AND special King of the Mountain flights including a Tropical KOM, Green Apple KOM, and Grapefruit Habanero KOM! #ncbeer #craftbeer #doubleipa #cans #boojumbeer #craftcans #kingofthemountain
That’s like asking my favorite band. But if you would ask me about the Stones or the Beatles, Stones all day.
Non-Boojum: Lunch (Maine Beer Co)
It’s no secret that Asheville has an up and coming beer scene, why Waynesville?
The family has always come here for vacation when they lived in Florida, so they always had sense of ground here throughout their lives. They took that and ran with it. Instead of commuting to Asheville. Its more homey. I’m glad we here off the beaten path. It’s at the base of Smokies. It has a small town feel with a great beer scene that keeps on growing.
Boojum has some killer brews on the market that go beyond the average expectations. You’ve got brews like Graveyard Fields – the blueberry coffee porter – and Mur – raspberry saison. Can you tell us what’s in store for Boojum this year as far as new releases?
More releases in cans – the Helles lager, Balsam Brown. Working on nitro-ing Dark Zone milk stout, the doppelbock may soon come back. Lots in the future for upcoming beers, we’re constantly doing small batches. But those are definitely going to happen. Probably more collaborations. We’re brewing an Asheville Brewers Alliance beer in a few weeks that will feature other local breweries. It will be awhile before its release.
Thanks to Cody for taking the time to chat – and Boojum for the stellar beers! If you find yourself in Waynesville, NC swing on by the Boojum taproom and see what Cody and the crew are up to.