Paige Cross/Multimedia Journalist

Bang the Drum Brewery, owned by an unconventional couple, will offer unique flavors of beer.

Aryn Sanderson
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Bang The Drum Brewery, a small brewery set to open in a few months on Orcutt Road, is already making a name for itself with its nontraditional beers — beers such as a yerba mate-infused IPA and a chipotle-smoked porter.

But its owners are even less traditional than its beers: They are a pair of exes and the ex-girlfriend’s father.

“It’s something we like to keep off the table,” head brewer and co-owner Jeremy Fleming said.

But when people find out Fleming dated co-owner, marketing director and Cal Poly alumna Noelle DuBois, they’re bound to ask questions.

“People always go, ‘Oh, that’s very modern of you,’” DuBois said. “But one of the best things about working with an ex is that while we were dating, we learned a lot about each other and how to communicate.”

Fleming and DuBois dated for three years and broke up approximately a year ago, with plans for the brewery well underway.

A pair of exes walk into a bar …

“Things were definitely rocky at first,” Fleming said. “But all it does is show that this was a dream of ours, and we’re creating it together.”

Owning a brewery wasn’t always their dream, though.

DuBois graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in animal science. She realized near the end of her college career that she didn’t want to “work for somebody else,” so she and Fleming contemplated opening their own business — a chocolate shop, maybe, or a restaurant, or perhaps even a restaurant that served homebrewed beer.

The last idea triggered DuBois’ father’s interest.

Gary DuBois, president, co-owner and sole investor, “made it all possible,” his daughter said.

But as the trio began looking into opening a restaurant that made beer in-house, they realized it wouldn’t be that easy.

“Working with the health department is a whole other beast,” Fleming said.

So they simplified the idea: a brewery — one where music permeates — first.

DuBois soon hopped on the beer train.

“I didn’t realize the world that was out there,” she said.

After tasting Fleming’s yerba mate-infused ale, DuBois caught beer fever too, and now she spends hours observing Fleming’s work and trying to learn more about the industry — and the “supportive, amazing” Central Coast brewing community — the trio has joined.

Building beers

The team is constantly learning, Fleming said.

An aspiring engineer, Fleming tinkered with their brewery’s equipment to achieve better results.

“I literally build my beers from the water up,” he said.

Bang the Drum features an incredibly small production more akin to large-scale homebrewing than small-scale industry, and even if the brewery expands, he’s looking to continue small batch brewing.

Fleming credits his ability to create unique, deep flavor profiles from his four years as a baker at Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery and the time he spent baking in his grandma’s kitchen.

Bang the Drum currently has three brews available for purchase: the yerba mate IPA, the chipotle porter and a German-style Hefeweizen, Fleming’s personal favorite.

It’s a traditional, malty beer that Fleming hails as “perfect.”

A dream in progress

But that’s Fleming’s vibe — confident, perhaps overly so, in this vision.

Currently, Bang the Drum is a work in progress.

The tasting room has a concrete floor and exposed walls. Their first mead is still in production, and the spot where an outdoor stage (the first approved outdoor stage within San Luis Obispo city limits, according to Fleming) will soon sit, there is dirt.

But Fleming points to a neighboring building and says, “That might be a coffee shop we add on,” and points to another building, “maybe a restaurant there.”

It’s the type of statement that’s typically followed by a “who knows?” and a chuckle.

But for Fleming, there doesn’t seem to be a need to second-guess their vision.

Their vision

They can picture it perfectly.

The rustic, 50-year-old reclaimed wood that currently sits on the floor of the under-construction tasting room will soon cover its walls. The wood, from a weathered fence on the Vandenberg Air Force Base, will keep its character. The seating will be limited, and dancing encouraged.

There will be an emphasis on music — primitive, tribal, the sort of music that gives a room a heartbeat. There will be live performances, cabaret, comedy and charity events in the tasting room and out on the patio. It will be lively and full of energy — the type of space that’s both intrinsically energizing and relaxing.

That’s the goal, at least — to be “a place where people feel like they can be themselves,” DuBois said. “Raw, naturalistic; we’ll even have drums for people to come bang on.”

It’s about “not just working a nine-to-five job you don’t enjoy for someone else,” DuBois said. “It’s about doing something you’re passionate about.”

It’s about a vision so strong it turns exes into friends.

Bang The Drum beer is on tap at Kreuzberg, CA and available for purchase at La Bodega Wine and Spirits, CrossRoads Liquor and Deli and Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill.

Photo by Paige Cross

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