When the Union Pacific blows past the Pub at Golden Road Brewing, screaming its horn and rattling the building, the new customers look up, startled, midsip: Maybe Megatron has assembled himself out of all the propane and machinery in the neighboring industrial yards. The regulars, meanwhile, simply raise their glass and continue drinking, like seasoned Southern Californians who can't be bothered to Drop, Cover and Hold On! during a 5.0-magnitude earthquake. By the time another train zooms through, though, everyone's glass is raised.
Golden Road Brewing is in an industrial area at the Atwater Village/Glendale border, not too far from the local gentleman's club advertising "full nude" dancers. It's on this side of the tracks where Meg Gill and Tony Yanow have planted the largest craft brewery in L.A.; she's formerly of Oskar Blues Brewery, and he currently runs the craft beer-focused Tony's Darts Away and Mohawk Bend.
Craft beer bars have popped up around the city over the last year or so at a comparable clip, and ensuing fanaticism, as specialty coffee shops. Indeed, when the coffee folks lament about their reputation for pretension, they often look to the craft beer mavens who more or less successfully translate otherwise esoteric discussions about hops and malts and International Bitterness Units into friendly, pedestrian barroom chatter. No doubt the alcohol buoys enthusiasm for a beverage that, much like coffee, is only now treated here with the deference usually reserved for wine. And, as the Golden State co-owner Jason Bernstein pointed out recently, the utmost respect is paid to the local microbreweries producing great beers within the bounds of our very own freeways; they have, as he put it, "become hometown heroes." Which is why Golden Road Brewing received a hero's welcome of sorts when it officially released its first batch of brews late last year.
Golden Road operates out of three deeply colored blue, red and yellow warehouses right next to those train tracks off of San Fernando Road. The Pub, in yellow, is a big, airy, relaxing space with an enormous patio and big table umbrellas; it would not be out of place as a shack on a beach, somewhere to go to soak up the suds as you soak in the sun.
With 20 on tap, there are more than enough suds here, with handles for both Golden Road's brews and carefully selected beers from other microbreweries. If you're lost, someone will happily and patiently ask you flowchart-like questions to get you to the right tap. As it happens, the final answer often is Golden Road's aptly named Point the Way IPA, one of two "anytime beers" (the other is a crisp Hefeweizen) intended to be as reliable and comforting as your favorite blend of espresso. Though it has less alcohol by volume than most other IPAs, the hoppiness is still present, as is a mild, fruity tang that balances the beer and makes it easy to sip after either a good or bad day of work.
For the more adventurous, the Lost Its Way IPA, in limited release, is what happened on the way to Point the Way, a side trip marked by dry, slightly more aggressive hops. You may or may not want to head back to the main road after this one, but you know what they say: The journey is the destination.
Where Golden Road does lose its way a bit is in the food. As with Yanow's other establishments, the menu is friendly to vegans and non-vegans; unlike either, the menu here seems a little too scattered, involving everything from vegan banh mi sandwiches to "Miso Crabby" salads to spaghetti and meatballs. It might benefit from a narrowed focus on just those promising few dishes, like the sundried tomato polenta and Sloppy Joseph sandwich with shredded short ribs braised in Golden Road's brew, that have the potential to be as stellar as the beer. As it is, your best bets are the Snacks, including an enormous pretzel served with a gnarly, sinus-cleansing spicy Dijon.
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That said, at least the hiccups come from the food and not the beer. You are, after all, waiting at this railroad crossing at San Fernando, mentally raising a glass to the train hauling shipping containers that look like giant multicolored Lego bricks, just so you can cross the tracks and find the warehouse that pours a great pint. You'll find it. Just go for the gold.
Check out Anne Fishbein's spectacular photo gallery of Golden Road.