Golden Road Relationship Status: It’s Complicated (If you care)

novakI hope you read my break up letter to Golden Road a while ago, and although the facts still remain (AB Inbev does bad things to small craft breweries), things are complicated.

  1. Victor Novak, a friend and very talented brewer, is taking over brewing ops for GR. Besides being a great guy that has made award-winning beer in OC for 15 years at TAPS, having him steer the ship at GR has changed my position. This is where it’s complicated. As long as he and the brewing team are making changes to the beer to make it better, I’m cool with it. If their sales team does shitty things, I’ll be quick to lash out. I’m not “cozy” with them and don’t get free beer or whatever. I will simply recognize them as a brewery that makes beer in OC when they do so.
  2. The breakup post was meant more of a “why AB?” type of thing and to show some facts about how AB is horrible. Sure it was knee-jerky, but it was fun to write and get off my chest.
  3. I’m old. Like, your dad old. I’ve seen craft beer from the early days and understand that beer is business, including craft beer.
  4. In the past, I have openly criticized Golden Road for having mediocre beer with the OG brewer. When Jesse came along from Drakes, the beer improved, but I also criticized that some of the hoppy beers taste the same (until the Works IPA), and other beers were just okay. If you think they suck, that’s your opinion and I’m fine with that. Drink what you like, you guys.
  5. Sure, the Brewers Association says they’re not craft beer anymore…along with Ballast Point, Lagunitas, Saint Archer, Goose Island, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and the next fifty sellouts. I’m committed to covering local beer that’s made in Orange County. If the beer GR makes in Anaheim sucks, I’ll be the first to shout it from the top of the Big A along the 57 freeway.
  6. I firmly believe the definition of craft beer needs to change. If a brewery sells a majority stake to a non-craft brewery, yet the brewers, founders and quality stay the same, I no longer have issue with buying the beer. I just won’t call it craft, I guess.
  7. Golden Road is pumping 25 million dollars into the city of Anaheim and will employ over 100 people. This is pretty cool as an Anaheim resident.
  8. They’re a charitable organization, donating to Firkfest and things like Heal the Bay.

So, what does this mean? As long as the Golden Road brewing team remains devoted to improving quality, I don’t see any hijinx on the sales/distribution side and people aren’t assholes, I’ll cover them as a brewery that makes beer in OC. I will continue to be opinionated and remain objective. If you don’t want to drink it or read about it, it’s a free country. I have promoted craft beer for almost five years on this site and my mission statement is just that. Did I flip flop? I suppose so. Sorry about that.

Blog Hard Part 1 | Beer Bloggers Conference 2014 – Precon at Golden Road

IMG_6880Glendale, 1:02 PM in the home of Randy Clemens (blog sponsor —->)

A dripping wet Randy “Sir RachaClemens is probably the best way to kick off the 2014’s Beer Blogger’s Conference. “Here, try one of these and shoot the other”, he says handing me a small plastic foil-topped cup reading “K+ probiotic drink” and a glass of (fully legal) B-Vitamin dietary supplement. “Do I get a colonic too? You fucking LA dudes are hippies,” I reply, swinging my Pabst-glasses to the top of my head and swallowing it all down in one nervous gulp.

“I find it ironic we’re doing shots of health food made with lactobacillus and a fermentation process similar to beer.” I say, burping loudly. “Can I get you a beer Mr. Nagel?” “Nah, I’m waiting to see if these shots explode my butt.”


first beer of BBC14: 329 Lager and a Carry On Taster

The conference pre-excursion that kicks off at Golden Road is a short walk from Casa de Clemens, but my baggage has ‘UBER’ written all over it. Just on the other side of the train tracks, we arrive at a packed ‘Pub at Golden Road’; many people dining al fresco under the blue summer sky. Beer happens quickly as two cold 329 Lagers arrive frothy, yet head-scraped. I admire its clarity, take two whiffs and get my mustache frothed. This beer is effortless to drink, lightly floral with a wisp of grass and LA sunshine.

photo (5)

credit Anne Marie who texted me this pic from LAX

I order the messiest BBQ Chicken sandwich ever and a new beer called Carry On – Citrus Ale; a beer made and sold for Airport terminals. The bitterness seems surprisingly arrogant and the orange flavor brings me back to my childhood when I actually enjoyed Flintstone Vitamins. “Is this infused with Airborne®? That would actually be quite handy pre-flight,” I mutter while using every napkin on the table to clean my sauce-covered digits. I seriously look like I bathed in a vat of BBQ sauce. Thankfully LA has no bears.


@brewdad and I are admired by the bartenders at Golden Road

After lunch, I identify the first blogger speed-walking up the ramp to the pub. A busload of beer bloggers is possibly the easiest thing in the world to observe in their natural habitat. Their plumage includes cargo shorts, brewery shirts, glowing smiles and cameras held up past their heads as they snap photos of whatever. Someone should compile all of the bloggers shots and make a David Hockney-style photo mosaic. I greet a few familiar faces and join the gang on the side patio near the defunct Aunt Sally court; taken down thanks to subsequent baby seal clubbings, or perhaps bad parenting.

P1080384P1080389Co-owner/President of Golden Road Meg Gill steps out to greet the gang with her curly blonde hair pulled back, snappy black dress and flats. “Welcome to Los Angeles! We’re really excited to have you guys come from all over the county to be here!” she says as I sip beer three: Berliner Weisse with raspberry syrup. After the speech, I chat with Meg and compliment her dress. “Thanks, it’s easy,” she says, blinking her deep grey-blue eyes grinning a surfer-girl smile. “We’ve got a new beer on the canning line right now I’m excited for you to try, it’s our new seasonal India Pale Lager called Might As Well IPL,” she says smiling bigger, batting lashes a few more times. I opt for the first tour while the other half works through a tasting flight of the core beers, 329 Lager, Hef, Get Up Offa That Brown and Point the Way IPA.

P1080394The tour starts off in Chloe’s, a clean yet divey-type speakeasy in back of the pub. “Is this where Boogie Nights was filmed?” I ask. “This is the pub, behind the pub, behind the pub,” someone replies in their best Vince Vaughn voice. Laurel Brooks, coolest chick ever (and Marketing Coordinator), smiles and takes the group through the history of how Meg met Tony Yanow, owner of several LA beer bars including Tony’s Darts Away; a pub serving only California-brewed craft beer and many vegan delights.

P1080396Golden Road has three brightly colored buildings; yellow, red and blue. Yellow is where you eat, drink and pee, red is for the office-types and cold storage, blue is where the sausage is made. I spy several interesting things in the cold box, one of which nobody can comment on, even though it’s been printed in the LA Times.

P1080397The brewery has changed vastly since my last visit only five months ago. The first thing I notice is the pilot brewhouse sitting deconstructed outside between buildings. “If anyone knows someone looking for a 15 bbl brewhouse, let us know!” says Laurel. Outside we’re greeted by brewer Tim Harbage, recent recipient of the Matt Courtright Memorial Brewing Scholarship. Pink laces flopping about on his brew-boots, Tim escorts us in past a 200 bbl fermenter named Phil as the smell of beer being brewed fills the nearly Yuma-hot air on the brewdeck.


P1080407The new canning line is the pièce de résistance. Before: one can at a time was filled, sealed and hand-packaged. Now: a modern canning line zooms through a pallet of cans in minutes. As production is up from 15,000 to an expected 30,000 barrels this year, it’s only a matter of time until this new system will need a friend.

P1080398Taking a can of the new IPL off the line had me singing the theme to Laverne & Shirley, and the ultra bright hoppyness of the beer had me sniffing the can-hole like a weirdo. With all the beers we are about to embark on throughout the day, one more surely won’t hurt. “Should I drink the whole thing?” Might as well, motherfucker…Might as well.

Thanks for the hospitality, hugs and awesome beer, Golden Road. See you soon.


This post is part of Greg Nagel’s Beer Blogger Conference coverage. Check back for more posts! #bbc14

Fresh, Local DIPA Tasting on a Thursday Night


With three fresh local Double IPA’s in the fridge, what better way to spend a Thursday night than to geek out on some beer. Having been to multiple tastings, I decided to start things off blind, having my daughter pour them into random glasses, noting which was which. My previous familiarty is as follows: Bootleggers Brewery Knuckle Sandwich (10% ABV): I’ve tasted every major release with a few bottles each time. Golden Road’s Better Weather IPA (9.4%) is a newer beer, but recently drank 3 of the four cans in the last week, this was my last can in the fridge. Noble’s Tongue Tickles is a brand new beer and have never tasted it. Each beer I believe has been packaged within 1-2 weeks.

IMG_2623Now, my first instinct was to see if I could tell which was which by sight and smell which is fairly obvious for Knuckle Sandwich (KS) being darker. The other two are similar in hue, one slightly clearer than the other. Aroma-wise, I picked out Golden Road (GR) as having a more straight forward “west coast” DIPA aroma, leaving the other guy to be Tongue Tickles…and…I was right!

These glasses suck for actual beer evaluation, so I used my Sierra Nevada IPA glass for further analysis, rinsing and palate cleaning after each. Now, I can honestly say these are all very different aroma/flavor wise and the final outcome is opinion on what I prefer.

Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich: This release seems much different than previous with an overwhelming burnt sugar, caramel, perfumey character that rides over the hops. The areas where KS win for me is appearance and mouthfeel. KS has a very pleasant foamy body chased by sweet beer and boozy finish. It seems more balanced to the malty side with this release and can taste a lot of residual sugar (edit: my bottle settled out to 1.022 in the hydrometer over night). Overall I prefer a dryer DIPA, but I can see why people love this beer.

Golden Road Better Weather IPA. Funny story about this beer; I associated GR’s IPA with being low ABV and didn’t look at the can. After one, I had a noticeable buzz but thought nothing of it. After my second pint, holy hell! I stumbled to grab the can and saw 9.4%. Very glad I was at home! Anyhow, if you can’t tell by my boring story, this is a very drinkable west coast style DIPA. Lots of citrus, catty pine, some mango on the nose with some booze that lingers the hop oils on the palate for upwards of twenty seconds(!). The bitterness rides a little too long, making the front of my tongue numb after larger sips..but all in all, I like this beer. It’s pretty standard in way of DIPA flavors. It’s very well made and recommend it.

Noble Ale Works Tongue Tickles DIPA: Based on the aroma alone I can tell there’s New Zealand hops in this guy. Being a huge fan of Nelson, Galaxy and Matueka, I feel these hops push IPA’s in a refreshing direction (Think Stone Brewing Enjoy By that’s loaded with NZ and American hops). Tickles has a lot of that west coast still intact, but adds a passion fruit, white grape and pineapple aroma. The body is slightly prickly on the tongue and being the lowest ABV of the three at 8% means there is minimal boozey finish. Of the three, this is the beer I drank in its entirety.

Basically it goes like this: I’m not as much of a fan of Knuckle Sandwich with the overall sweetness being more than I’m used to. Golden Road’s Better Weather IPA is a great west coast hopped beer, but 9.4% for an IPA? It’s almost a triple IPA for fucks sakes. Of the three, I’m really loving Noble’s Tongue Tickles for the unique hop choice, comfy 8% ABV, nice clarity and solid lasting flavor. I’d like to put it next to Enjoy By to see how it stacks up.

Have you done a similar tasting with fresh local beers of the same style? I’d love to hear about it! Saturday November 16th, Valiant Brewing Co is releasing their DIPA for the first time in bottles.


The Great American Beer Festival is Decadent and Delicious

gabf lineA human shield surrounds the Colorado Convention Center as if to protect the building’s precious liquid contents. 2,700 beers sit inside; cold, vulnerable and perhaps a bit nervous to be percolated into their final transformation: Pee.

The Great American Beer Festival’s landscape sits before us like the Grand Canyon. In true American fashion, Scottish Bag Pipers squeeze their bags and blow to commence this epic three-day beer festival. I wipe the sheen of sweat from my brow and clench my butt cheeks in anticipation. What the hell am I going to drink first?

Goldilocks better not be drinkin’ my beer in there!

The parade of festival goers is as diverse as the beers inside. There’s the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebes, and the dickheads* – all here for one reason: Craft Beer. Mini-Pilsner plastic cups in hand, people prance in to find the perfect beer to wet their fest-whistles. Most have a plan in mind, but fuck all that. I choose to bounce around the festival like a shiny pinball, letting the occasional flipper bounce me back into action. With more than a quarter of all American breweries in this titanic-sized room, I like my odds!

Noble Ale Works head brewer Evan Price busts me taking an incognito shot.

A hundred people make a bee-line for Russian River Brewing Co’s booth. “It’s all about the Pliny”, says the guy next to me, sheepishly. Many people in the long line scope out breweries nearby like magazines in the grocery store checkout. My hometown brewery Noble Ale Works benefits from this as a number of people duck out of line for a pre-emptive strike.

Finally up front at Russian River, “I’ll take a number two, extra pickles” I say. The volunteer rolls her eyes. I clear my throat and ask for a Toronado 25th Anniversary (American Wild Ale) for my first beer. Despite my lame humor attempt, she levels my sample dead-even on the 1oz mark while squinting. My first sip makes me smile and sigh. I close my eyes and thank my Fairy Beer Mother. “Bippity, Beerpity, BOO!”, I say to Pliny guy. We tap our plastic festival glasses and part in different directions, thankfully. There’s nothing worse than a Pliny fanboy at a beer festival. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great beer…FOR ME TO POOP ON! JK OMG, calm down. You’re such a touchy reader, geez.

Credit Cambria Griffith, Golden Road Brewing

Kendra isn’t a fan of head. (thanks for the awesome pic, Cambria of Golden Road Brewing)

My first drinking buddy of the fest is Kendra Birdwell, GM and Cheesemonger of the Bruery Provisions in Orange. We graze over to the American Cheese Society’s booth and she vouches for the lineup. Feedin’ time at the cheese booth is slow like a bunch of heifers chewing cud. With fifty people in line, we move three feet in five minutes. “Ever milk a bull?” I ask. Thankfully it’s so loud she replies, “What?” while batting her alluring Zooey Desschanel-like eyes. “This line is nuts! Let’s drink some beer”. Indeed. We bolt like a bulls at a rodeo, aiming for the annoying clowns.

I thought for sure the line for Dogfish Head would be crooked, zig-zaggy, or shaped like an infinity symbol, considering their ales are for off-centered people. Nope. It was military straight. Sam Calagione is up front, high fiving, hand-shaking, kissing babies and posing for pics. Garrett Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery is doing the same! My new strategy while out of my region: skip the booth if it’s manned by all volunteers (unless they’re hot). If the brewers are there, stop in for a chat and a beer. If I like the first beer, get another. Repeat. If there’s a line > 10 people, hop in it and get whatever looks good.(Skipping ahead a blog post: this strategy worked out great! Many of the beers I sampled this way ended up winning awards!)

Golden Road’s Kissing Booth

My tasting strategy: With a 1oz pour, beer evaluation is basic. After a complete glass-rinse, I drink the rinse water to refresh my palate and to hydrate on a 2:1 water/beer ratio. I then take a whiff and a small sip to evaluate aroma, then swish the rest in my mouth to evaluate flavor and mouthfeel. I ask for a second pour if something gives me chub! I front load my non-hoppy beers for the first couple hours, then increase IBU’s as the session wears on; although palate fatigue didn’t seem to be an issue with 1oz pours.

Like a crazy man, I attend all four sessions of GABF. Here’s notes on each:

Joslyn Ellstrom opens her throat for Goose Island’s White Truffle Sour, a beer that turned my palate upside down.

Thursday: Great session! Not crowded, lots of rare stuff. Brewers linger at their booths and answer questions. Note to self: Go for lower ABV and IBU on the first day due to elevation change. You got shitcanned! Eat food before leaving for after-parties! Don’t choose a drinking buddy that will be there for only one day. They are running a 5K and you’re doing a marathon!

Nico and Shaun of 21st Amendment tidy up for the session.


Friday: Same as Thursday, but SUPER crowded. I had two drinking buddies tonight! The lovely LeAnn Hubbard (Selmas Pizzaria & Taproom Manager RSM) and beer blogger friend Joslyn Ellstrom (pic above). Note to self: Hit the cheese first. Ramp up ABV and hoppy beers here, or don’t, you charming, sexy man.

Saturday Afternoon: This is the members only session where they have real glassware. Pours get a little looser. Brewers are at the awards show and grabbing lunch during the first half, so expect a lot of volunteers. After the awards show, look for award winning beers to sample!

No happy endings at the DD lounge.

Saturday Night: Holy shit. Even the volunteers are drunk at this session! People are dropping glassware at a rate of three a minute. Full pours on whatever is left! Most of the good stuff is gone. On the way out, I ask a girl dressed like Nintendo’s Mario if she wants to jump on my mushroom.  She hums the Super Mario theme as I walk away into Denver’s cold, crisp night.

Overall: If you had to choose one session: go Thursday. If you want two, add Saturday afternoon. If you want to get barfed on, go Saturday night. With so much going on around town, there’s no way you will be disappointed.

Family Feud: “What smell is most likely after 3 hours at GABF?”

Other stuff! This festival is the biggest and best out there. Where else can you say, “I’d like to sample Berliner Weiss’ from all over the country, then DO IT in one hour? I did! Where else can you sample Pliny the Elder, Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich, Stone Brewing Co Enjoy By 11.09.12, Alpine Duet, and other beers back to back? I did! Where else can you discover Gruits, Cheecha, and a bulls balls Stout under one roof? Nowhere but the MF GABF. I went on a brett bender. I went on a sour bender. I went on a hop bender. I went on a barrel aged bender. I came and I conquered the Great American Beer Festival.

Gripes: The lighting. It’s bad enough you’re in a room with heavy drinkers with possible liver problems…the lighting made everyone look like stage three Jaundice. On Thursday, the lighting spiked up for a minute to normal levels showing it was option to dim them horribly. Environment Shmenvironment. Give us some light so we don’t look like Oompa Loompas!

Presentation on how not to drop one’s cup.

The cup droppers. Every time someone dropped a cup, a hundred Andrew Dice Clay’s pop out of nowhere and yell, “OHHHhhhhhhh”. I heard someone drop their cup on purpose and yelled “Ohhhh” on his own! Joslynn said a girl dropped her cup in the restroom! Ewww. Put the damn cup in your cleavage, you butterfingered dingus!

Overall: This was my first time at GABF and won’t be my last! I can’t wait for the next one! Denver (and Colorado) is a craft beer utopia! So many great food options, gastropubs, and beer loving locals. “Craft Beer has changed how beer is perceived and America’s role as a brewing nation.” – Julia Herz, Brewers Association.

I caught the Brothers Allstrom straightening their magazines.


Dave and Don of Haven Brewing, Natalie and Vinnie of Russian River and Patrick of the Bruery.


Ladyface Ale Companie’s GM Cyrena Nouzille! Such a pretty lady, too.

Get up off that arm butt! Social Spitfire Cambria Griffith of Golden Road has super human arm strength, btw.

I asked if they “tea bag” the bull testes in each keg, or how that worked.

Any now, sleeping old dudes at GABF:

*quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; John Hughes (There’s the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebes, and the dickheads) CHEERS. Thanks for reading. In case you missed it, here’s my pre-GABF post that is so raunchy my work’s net-nanny blocks it.