On a bright and crisp Sunday in March LA’s newest craft brewery, Golden Road Brewing, opened their doors and tapped some kegs for a low-key beer festival to benefit the Whole Planet Foundation. The event was held on the brewery’s campus in the big blue building that houses Golden Road’s brew-house, fermenters, and canning line. This was one of the few occasions that the public has been able to tour the sprawling facility, and Beer of Tomorrow was there for a behind the scenes look and taste of the best canned beer coming out of Los Angeles.
LA’s Newest and Biggest Craft Brewery
Founded by Los Angeles beer impresario Tony Yanow of Tony’s Darts Away and Mohawk Bend fame and brewing wunderkind Meg Gill, Golden Road started brewing in October 2011, and their on-site pub began serving food in January of 2012. One of the new brewery’s first major successes was securing local distribution in Whole Foods Market locations throughout LA and Orange County, and the beer festival event was a joint-venture between the brewery and supermarket to raise awareness of the Whole Planet Foundation; a non-profit dedicated to providing micro-loans to small-business proprietors in third-world countries. Food, as well as some raffle prizes, were provided by Whole Foods while the crew from Golden Road provided the entertainment and libations.
Admission to the event was $20 and got you the run of the blue building, two drink tickets (additional tickets were available for $4 each), and a commemorative 12oz glass. There were five or six tap stations scattered around the interior of the building, and most were pouring the two Golden Road flagship brews: Golden Road Hefeweizen and Point the Way IPA. A new secret beer unveiling had been teased by the press-release, and we were lucky to be some of the first people through the door since the beer went quick!
The special release was “Honey Bee Hefe,” a version of the Golden Road Hefe cask-conditioned with local sage honey and bee pollen. The Honey Bee Hefe was thick and extremely turgid with a sweet/spicy nose and some very unique herbal notes from the sage honey. I was glad to have tried it, and it was a very novel experiment that showcases the brewery’s creativity, but I’m not sure I’d track it down in the future.
Once the cask of Honey Bee was kicked (which I think took less than an hour) they tapped a cask of Lost the Way “experimental IPA.” While the cask-version of their hefe didn’t really do it for me, I really like this cask-conditioned IPA. If their flagship Point the Way is an “Everyday IPA” that is positioned as a gateway into the hop-heavy side of beers, then the Lost the Way is an IPA for IPA fans. But Lost the Way is all about balance. It won’t destroy your palate like so many big extreme IPAs will, and at under 6% ABV you can sip on a few of these and still keep your wits about you.
I’d heard that their brown ale and their American strong ale were available but I never saw them. However, there was one other special beer available, and it stole the show for me. Valentin is Golden Road’s first foray into the popular craft beer tradition of collaborations between two (or more) breweries, and they joined forces with the Inland Empire’s
Being a regular at the pub I was excited to finally get a chance to tour the brewery. Meg and Sales-Director Bryant Goulding led the tour, and their excitement and passion for not only the industry but for the city and for beer itself was clearly evident. Meg covered the history of the campus in her introduction noting that it has been converted from a derelict Southern Pacific switching yard. This tie to California history, she said, symbolized Golden Road’s desire to bridge the thriving beer cultures of the California Bay Area and San Diego’s world-renowned scene with Los Angeles’ nascent craft beer community. A laudable goal for a city that has gone without a home-grown craft brewing powerhouse for too long. We were first shown the brew house, comprised of a milling station, a boil kettle, and a variety of fermenter sizes available depending on which style they brewed. Straightforward stuff for anyone who’s done a brewery tour before, but I found the way they have designed the brew-house and fermenters to scale as they grow to be interesting and important. Meg and Tony have some lofty production goals, and if local interest in the beer so far is any indication they will soon be adding capacity to their current 15-barrel system.
The next stop on the tour was one of Golden Road’s stand-out features: its canning line. Meg was quick to provide their philosophy behind canning beer, and again her passion for craft beer was evident. Meg highlighted the can’s ability to go places bottles can’t and that the can’s outdoor friendliness was important to Golden Road’s core customers. I think that both the canned IPA and hefe are great beers for the beach, pool, trail, or campsite, and have already taken a can of the hefe on hikes in the Santa Monica mountains. Meg also dropped some exciting news that they would be adding a third canned variety to their production with seasonal releases hopefully starting in time for summer. Even more exciting was the revelation that the fan-favorite Burning Bush smoked IPA would be making an appearance in cans for the brewery’s first anniversary celebration in October
After the tour concluded we sat-in on a home brewing demo run by Skipp from Golden Road’s marketing department. I’ve heard that Skipp is a phenomenal home brewer who had just completed a batch of “hoppy wheat” for the demo on the brewery’s “recipe generator” 10-gallon system. I know that the brewery uses the system for test-batches as we had recently been at the pub and were able to sample the “Recipe Generator #5” pepper saison, and as a gear-nerd I enjoyed looking over the details of the well built three-tier brew sculpture.
Beer for a Better World
While California has no shortage of great breweries, the best beer has typically come from the northern part of the state or from San Diego, which rivals Portland for the most influential metro for beer on the west coast. Los Angeles has been a vacuum in the state’s beer production with only a handful of small local operations producing brews. Golden Road is looking to change that with an ambitious production facility and slate of creative and delicious beer. Getting the chance to tour the facility and hear about the brewery’s mission direct from the people behind it was a fantastic treat. Hopefully the political landscape of the city can become more friendly towards craft brewing operations and Los Angeles will see more new breweries opened.
The enjoyable afternoon raised over $4000 for the Whole Planet Foundation, and it seemed likely to have raised the LA beer scene’s awareness of the Golden Road brand and their mission. I look forward to seeing what is next for the brewery.
Were you at the festival or have you had the chance to check out Golden Road and try their beers? Let’s hear what you think in the comments. If you haven’t, check your local LA-area Whole Foods for a 6-pack of 16oz cans and give it a shot!