I was hoping not to write about Golden Road Brewing any longer, unless it was in context of LA Beer history, but then an online article published by the LA Times written by our bud, John Verive, popped up on my timeline yesterday. In a nutshell, the quotes from former owner of Golden Road Brewing, Tony Yanow, outline some of the biggest issues with the so-called “craft beer bubble”, and why craft beer might not be on the most steady ground due to starry-eyed opportunistic approaches getting into this business.
The most telling statement from the piece:
“It’s just business,” said Yanow. “I don’t think of it as selling out. I didn’t sell out my soul, I didn’t sell out my love for beer. I sold my business, and I find it hard to believe that anyone in my shoes wouldn’t have done it too.”
It turns out that the challenge of operating a midsize craft brewery isn’t so much making the beer, it’s getting that beer into bars and, more importantly, onto shelves.
“In a world where the amount of shelf space is not growing, but the number of breweries is growing so quickly, it’s a fight to get your beer [into major retailers],” said Yanow. And it is a fight that is becoming increasingly difficult as the biggest players in the beer world continue to consolidate, acquire more brands and strengthen their grip on distribution networks and retail accounts.”
Yes, it is just business. Yes, making millions on a transaction is the American way; there is no questioning that. The plan of being in business for four years and being a shelf mainstay was insane when it was first conveyed in 2010, and was just as crazy when they were still aggressively pursuing it in 2015. Who in their right mind thought they would build a huge factory, and leapfrog what Firestone Walker, Stone Brewing Co. or Ballast Point had done, from a sales perspective, a goodwill perspective, and most importantly, a brewing perspective. The world just doesn’t work that way. There aren’t sneaker companies that just start up and think they will be on pace with Nike in four years. Even their idols, Oskar Blues, didn’t take over the world in four years.
“I’m still the same guy, still the same beer lover, but the difference is now I have some of AB’s money that I’m going to go use for new beer projects.”
You know who else in Los Angeles has some of AB’s money? AB! Thanks to you, Tony, we now have AB-InBev pushing around small craft brewers in LA and OC, bullying small brewers on the supermarket shelf. Thanks for that.
For you folks following along, take notice of this gangbuster approach to craft beer in your town or city, this is the boilerplate approach for poisoning your craft beer community. I respect Tony and his decisions, but if we are to believe Golden Road was not meant to sell and his expectations to be a market leader in under five years is true, then that is simply insane.