Tuesday, 03 July 2012 15:56

Craft Beer's Golden Girl, Meg Gill

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The golden haired 27 year-old President & Co-Founder of Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village began her career in the male-dominated beer industry working as a regional sales manager for Oskar Blues Brewery.

She helped inspire northern California beer culture by organizing San Francisco Beer Week and the 2011 Craft Brewers Conference.  She is now the youngest female brewery owner in the world.

Not even one year old, Golden Road has quickly become one of the fastest growing craft breweries in history. The rapidly growing brand sits in an industrial strip along the L.A. River basin in a 42,000 square foot building.

Environmentalists can rejoice because the beer comes in 16 oz. cans! Aluminum is eco-friendly & infinitely recyclable. You can fit 40% more beer on a truckload when you use cans instead of bottles, so it cuts down on freight and gas fuel consumption. And of course, you can take cans where bottles can’t go – the beach, the park & concerts.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Meg.

1.    Where are you originally from?

Chester, Virginia, south of Richmond.

Meg graduated Yale in 2007 as a classics major (greek/latin) and took a food and drink antiquity class. She found it so interesting, she ended up writing her thesis in this topic. How many people can say they wrote a thesis on beer? Meg can.

“I remember drinking local when I could get it. I was working for another Yale swimmer who was older than me.  I moved to Boulder to continue working for her.”

Within a couple months, she met Oskar Blues. She knew she wanted to be a part of the craft beer culture within two minutes of meeting Dale from Oskar Blues. “He chooses to live his life as an amazing adventure.”  

2.    How long were you at Oskar Blues Brewery? How did working there help you learn about the industry?

“I was there for little over a year.  I learned cowboy business antics. We didn’t have structure or experience. Everybody was learning as they went. I feel so for fortunate to have been part of that experience. It was really a sink or swim mentality.”

And we all know Meg can swim. Meg was (and still is) a sprint freestyler and butterflyer and an endurance athlete, competing in open water races like the Maui channel swim.

Meg then told me about a story that almost had her in stitches, literally. In 2008, before Lance Armstrong’s big race, Meg and the rest of Oskar Blues were hosting a VIP session to drink Dales Pale Ale, in Lake Mead. They took a surfboard to a boat at the back, and the goal was to drop the rope and grab a Dale’s Pale Ale. Being one to get her feet wet, Meg went for it and as she was finishing her beer, the prop and board of the boat hit her mouth. She needed stitches during the event, but opted not to get them and said she wanted the character of the scar. She thought it would help sell more beer.  

Well, it must have worked.

Meg has a special place in her heart for Dale for believing in her. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity that he gave me.”  Despite the fact that people would call the future Golden Road Founder & Ivy League champion swimmer “little girl” and “promo girl”, she happily trudged on.

She moved on to Speakeasy Ales for about a year, until February 2011. While there, she helped organize San Francisco Beer Week. She was the brains behind the opening gala and worked to recruit breweries for the 2010 and 2011 events.

3.    You are the youngest female brewery owner in the world. When did you find this out and how did it make you feel?

“I didn’t believe it. I don’t know who first coined that. When I looked at Dale back then, I thought he was so crazy, I didn’t think that would ever be me. Tony is the one that was even more insane and said that I could do it. I didn’t get into the business thinking ‘I want to own my own brewery someday.’ I thought, ‘I want to get into this business because it makes me feel alive.’ Everything, marketing side, the packaging…I became a student of the industry.”

“The 1st person to bring it up was Adam Avery – he said, ‘There aren’t many women that got into this business from the ground up, with that comes a huge responsibility to be the face of craft beer.’ Whenever he says things like that to me, I take it seriously. I pretty much realized that was true …I wasn’t very girl power before now, it can be a very positive thing for women and men.  I’m totally jazzed about it…that’s the thing that gets me most excited about it.  It goes beyond beer, my ultimate goal is to continue to develop that side of my career, if there are women and men that are stumbling…I want to help.”  

4.    Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing Company served as a model operation for Golden Road Brewing. Can you elaborate?

Meg explained that it started within Ninkasi – “they are hyper regional”. When she was at Speakeasy, they pulled out of 18 states, and sales went up drastically.  

“Los Angeles is infiltrated with a lot of brands. We want to stand out.”

5.    You put most of your beer in cans because it’s more eco-friendly.  Was this an easy decision to come to and how have your distributors & customers responded to it?

“I learned the hard way… from spending time at Oskar Blues, it’s better for the distributor and the customer – 100% a quality thing. The portability, environmentally, those are bonuses. If the beer isn’t sound, you’re not going to make it…We do a lot of things on the retail end to make sure people know who we are….we do educations w/ retailers, how fresh beer is, how far away from the brewery it is. At Trader Joes and Whole Foods, the beers are under 2 weeks old…we’ve chosen to be in markets that will stand behind the beer, it’s always fresh. We know once they pick up and try it, we will convert them…. It’s made people aware there’s this huge voice in L.A.”

Meg wants to provide a beer to a customer that they didn’t realize they couldn’t live without. Drinking local is the best thing for our economy and for our environment. Golden Road wants customers to inquire, “how far away is the brewery?” and “how is the beer packaged?”

6.    Does your Burning Bush IPA have anything to do with the plethora of brush fires we have in the San Fernando/ L.A. area?  

“Yes, we’re working on that for our anniversary.” Their anniversary is mid-October. Burning Bush IPA is a tribute beer to firefighters and those that have died and lost their homes.  They are heading to Colorado to work on that, which I imagine will be emotional due to the recent Colorado fires. John Carpenter, brewmaster for Golden Road, was a firefighter, so it’s especially special for him to voice this tribute to all that have been affected by devastating fires. As a Southern California native and having had to evacuate during the Simi Valley fires years ago, I’m looking forward to tasting this particular beer. Golden-Road-Brewing-570x335

7.    If you could collaborate with any two breweries, who would it be and why?

“Firestone Walker – they are god of beer to me…probably the best brewer in the world.”
Of course, Meg would love to collaborate with Oskar Blues because she’s “emotionally jazzed” about them and they are “still my best friends in the world.”

8.    Any thoughts on what the next special release might be and when?

“We are releasing a double IPA in early July, been working on it for a while. It’s a kickoff to custom IPA series, comes out in drafts and 4 packs.”

9.    What would you say to women that want to get in the craft beer/brewing industry?

“Dive in and be open and willing to do anything – learning as much as you can. The thing that I stumbled upon was telling Dale that I was clueless and told him what my strengths were… be open to any opportunity.”

Meg has made a splash with Golden Road Brewing. Angelenos now have something else - something fresh - to call our own.

Golden Road Brewing was founded in October 2011 by Tony Yanow and Meg Gill, who are committed to bringing fresh beer to market in the most sustainable way possible.  Golden Road Brewing is the maker of Los Angeles’ only canned craft beer, packaged in 16 once cans to deliver the brewery’s flagship Point the Way IPA and Golden Road Hefeweizen.  Golden Road Brewing and The Pub at Golden Road Brewing are located at 5410 W. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA 90039. For more information, please visit www.goldenroad.la

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