Over the Labor Day holiday weekend earlier this month we were in Burbank, California visiting family, and while it ostensibly wasn’t a beer trip, we always seem to find some time to slip in a visit to a new brewery or locale to sample the local brew. This time around we had a free couple of hours one afternoon so sought out the nearest brewery to my brother’s place, which turned out to be Golden Road Brewing, only three and a half or so miles away.
Yes, that Golden Road Brewing, of which the news broke today that giant Anheuser-Busch is in the process of buying. It was founded in 2011 by Tony Yanow and Meg Gill, with the idea to “bring fresh beer to the local market in the most sustainable way possible.” Even before today’s buyout news, that seems to have translated into growth and popularity, as over the past four years they exploded into the LA (and SoCal) beer scene (at least, from what I could tell from afar) and are on track to brew 45,000 barrels this year.
That size and growth becomes apparent when you drive up to the brewery—which takes up much of the block in an industrial area, next to railroad tracks. The first thing you see is the big blue warehouse, but that’s not where you go; a sign directs you down the block to the yellow building, also warehouse-like, fronted by a parking lot. However, this is valet parking; Golden Road is so popular that they had to enact a valet system to try to keep it manageable. Good luck parking on the road, if you can find a spot; after driving up and down the block a couple of times I elected to pay the $5 to park.
There is outdoor seating, shaded by Golden Road umbrellas, but we didn’t feel like sitting out in the heat of the day so elected to sit at the bar inside. It was moderately busy and filled up more during the visit. It’s all very casual, taking cues I suppose from the warehouse structure and ambiance, with the cavernous interior adorned simply with white walls and ceiling and vintage beer signs and breweriana. There are self-serve water stations dropped throughout.
The bar, by contrast, had a polished, trendy, commercial vibe to it: shiny growlers are prominently on display; the board itself denotes the beers on tap largely through magnetic (I’m guessing) beer signs, generous with information about each beer; “Brewed 551 Feet Away,” proclaims text in orange script above the beers, “Inquire about brewery tours” and “Book your party here!” they offer. It works, and the bartenders fill glasses with beer from the many taps as well as cans (apparently some are only canned; another had blown on the tap and cans were all they had available).
I opted to try both of their available sampler flights: the Core Flight and the IPA Flight, containing four beers each.
Here are my checkins and notes from Untappd for the Core Flight:
- 329 Lager: Light, clear yellow, crisp and malty
- Hefeweizen: German-y, light, standard
- Point the Way IPA: Nicely hoppy, resin and herbal
- Get Up Offa That Brown: Nice nutty brown, good malt base
And for the IPA Flight:
- Point the Way IPA: Already noted
- The Works IPA: Nice! Pale yellow, nettles-y hops, prickly resin
- Heal the Bay IPA: Earthy hops with a bit of those nettles
- Wolf Among Weeds: Clean, newer tropical hops, a bit of strong San Diego character
We also picked up a growlette (half-growler) of Hudson Porter, an Imperial Rye Porter, and a regular growler of Citra Bend, a hoppy wheat, to take back to my brother’s place.
Not terribly hungry and looking for a full meal, we opted for a couple of appetizers: the fried avocado tacos and the baked mac ‘n cheese. Let me just say—they were both delicious. The mac ‘n cheese in particular—“Penne pasta with four cheese sauce topped with bacon and bread crumbs”—and it comes in a pretzel bread bowl. Both highly recommended.
We left happy with the visit, even having to pay for valet parking (you waver between, “Who pays for valet parking at a brewery?” with, “Man, $5 is so not worth the hassle of parking!”), and duly impressed with the size of the operation as we drove back out (remember, they take up much of that whole block).
I found the beers overall to be good and reasonably well-brewed; of the IPAs I believe I liked The Works the best of the bunch, and I was happy with both the Lager and Brown in the core group. Cans of Point the Way IPA are ubiquitous where we were, encountered everywhere from Costco to Ralph’s to BevMo in quantity.
Will those beers change with the Anheuser-Busch buyout? Will the brewpub, the food? Probably not, at least at first. I don’t really know how the LA beer scene will treat the buyout, if there will be a drop in business from angry fans, or if it will be business as usual. One thing that does seem to stand out to me, in retrospect, is the impression that Golden Road was well-positioned for some sort of move like this, from the fast-paced growth to the trendy, polished bar to the slick, generic-to-LA packaging. If selling was an end goal, then it paid off.