They undersell their plans, but make no mistake, the size and scope of what Meg Gill, 26, and Jon Carpenter, 29, envision for Golden Road Brewing would transform it into the largest craft brewery in Los Angeles.
Spitting distance from the train tracks on an industrial stretch of San Fernando Road near Atwater Village, Golden Road is housed in a trio of brightly painted red, yellow and blue buildings that once served as a changing station for the Southern Pacific Railroad. It occupies about 32,000 square feet, which should be plenty of space for their starting goal: brewing 10,000 barrels per year. Whether it takes two years or 10, Gill says the goal is to hit their capacity of 60,0000 barrels per year, though a tour of the space suggests she might be lowballing. Given how much room they have and their carefully laid, long-term plans, 100,000 barrels per year doesn't seem farfetched. Leading the charge are two of the youngest would-be beer barons in the city of Los Angeles.
Golden Road is the brainchild of bar owner Tony Yanow. After transforming dive bar Tony's Dart's Away into a dive and craft beer bar, Yanow revamped the vintage Ramona Theater into recently opened Mohawk Bend. Gill suspects that deep-down, Yanow had always yearned to open a brewery.
A champion swimmer at Yale, Gill was at a crossroads after college. She moved to Colorado to help another former Yale swimmer with some marketing duties then segued into working for Dale's Pale Ale, riding around the country in an old RV trying to open up new markets for the canned beer. It was something she did spectacularly well. After her stint as regional sales manager of Oskar Blues (the company that brews Dale's), she moved to San Francisco to oversee Speakeasy, an upstart brewery founded in 1997. Eventually, Yanow came calling. Gill, who had loved Los Angeles during her visits to the city, listened.
"I've been to New York, to Seattle, to Philadelphia, to some of the most established beer markets in the country," Gill says, "but I have always been blown away by how LA is the most energetic and welcoming to outsiders. I saw an opportunity to work in a city to [Tony and I] both felt desperately needed more breweries."
As Gill and Yanow made a wish-list of qualities they were looking for in a master brewer, Carpenter (not to be confused with the Halloween and Escape from New York filmmaker) came to the top of the list. He was working as assistant brewmaster at Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware, which pumped out about 120,000 barrels per year. Prior to that he had worked at Anheuser-Busch, developing new beers at their pilot brewery in St. Louis and helping oversee production at the much larger Merrimack, New Hampshire facility.
Gill initially assumed they would never lure Carpenter to Golden Road, so she made an exploratory phone call just to hear his ideas on what they should look for in a master brewer. At the end of a long, late-night conversation, she offered him the job. Carpenter was flabbergasted. Obsessively working long days (and nights) to institute a new production system at Dogfish Head, he hadn't even considered the possibility.
"She filled me in on the crazy passion and excitement she and Tony had for this project, and I started considering it. Eventually, that's why I came to LA."
Tomorrow, in Part 2, we talk to Carpenter and Gill about the details for Golden Road's brewery, the styles of beer they favor, plans for an on-site restaurant and more.