Golden Road Brewing Has Finally Done It
The elephant in the room in the Southern California craft beer scene from 2011 up until the beginning of 2013 has been Golden Road Brewing. Look no further than The Full Pint, as you will not find a single post describing the lackluster beers or the eye roll inducing marketing efforts of Golden Road Brewing. We aren’t in the business of shedding negative light on brewers, brewery owners or beer itself, and in this case, we didn’t want to hurt our friends feelings.
Golden Road Brewing spent their first year heavily pushing beer that didn’t meet the standards of Southern California beer drinkers, spent their marketing efforts in large metropolitan and even national publications pounding their chest that co-founder/President Meg was blazing the trail for young women in craft beer, and claims that their canned beer is what the majority was looking for in a beer. That formula proved to be damaging for their brand, and there was legitimate ill will in the SoCal craft beer community. I know both founders personally, and this was troubling for me to watch unfold. How many news stories over hyping the company and associated characters would be told before somebody spoke up about how underwhelming the beer was? Every successful brewery has a cast of characters that are either lovable or in some cases polarizing (Greg Koch, Tomme Arthur, Sam Calagione) but without the good beer behind it, those characters become marked men (or in this case men and women). Fans of The Full Pint and just friends we would meet in our beer travels would ask us why we didn’t speak up about this? My response every time was that the beer would speak for itself. If Golden Road didn’t start making better beer, it wouldn’t matter how large their display at Whole Foods was, it wouldn’t matter what stories were being ran in the LA Times. Not quite Karma, but more accurately, right-sizing.
Fast forward to early 2013, and ears were perked up by the news that Golden Road Brewing severed their relationship with Brewmaster Jon Carpenter and acquired the services of Jesse Houck, Head Brewer at Drake’s Brewing from up north. For those not familiar with Drake’s Brewing, the have a very impressive portfolio of delicious West-Coast Style IPAs. Beers such as Hopocolypse, Denoggonizer and Aroma Coma upped Drake’s stock over the last few years, and Mr. Houck was on that team of IPA brewing rock stars.
Shortly after the brewer transition, I was given two beers to try, or in this case, revisit. I was given a can of Wolf Among The Weeds, an Imperial IPA that was known last year as a caramel bomb, and a can of their flagship Point The Way IPA, which was better than your average East Coast IPA, but couldn’t hold a candle to anything brewed here on the left coast. I tried both beers as if they were brand new offerings. You will have to take my word for it that the Wolf Among The Weeds that was brewed this year is outstanding. The Pont The Way IPA has vastly improved from it’s former incarnation. I wouldn’t put the new Point the Way in my Top 3 IPAs, however it can now stand tall with it’s head up high.
So after trying this beer, and still having to hear people rag on Golden Road, I began propagating the message that changes are in the works and not to count these guys out yet. I would be met with responses that their marketing was still obnoxious and not inline with the quality of their beer. I would respond to those comments the same way I would respond about any other: “this is a business, the business of selling beer, all that should matter is whether the beer is enjoyable or not.” While I kept this opinion to myself, I felt that Golden Road toned down their marketing drastically, but that they made such an impact in 2012 that it was still fresh in many folks minds as if it was still happening.
Fast forward to June 2013. I was able to try freshly canned Heal The Bay IPA, another IPA recipe made by Brewmaster Jesse. It only took me one sip to know that Golden Road is in the game now. The beer was everything you would want in a dry West-Coast Style IPA. I had a friend who was real down on GRB and doubted my assessment. His face lit up and proclaimed the beer amazing. While he didn’t want to go back on his feelings about the company, he agreed that the change GRB made to their beer has changed his perception and agreed that he should change his views based on the dramatic improvements.
So while I wouldn’t classify myself as a full on Golden Road Brewing cheerleader, I will gladly tell anyone who will listen that A) The beer they make is very good and B) That’s all that should matter anyway. A huge cheers to GRB for doing what’s right, and selfishly speaking, making delicious IPA.