Meg Gill Is Co-Founder of The Golden Road Brewing in Anaheim
Written By: Elizabeth Nutt Golden Road Brewing
Photographed By: Bradley Blackburn
Meg Gill is no stranger to the spotlight, but it’s not just because she’s a bright Yale alumna, supremely confident and beautiful, and a fierce athlete. Rather, Gill—who only recently turned 30—is the country’s youngest female brewery owner and she’s more than made a name for herself in the craft beer industry. Gill co-founded (with partner Tony Yanow) and currently serves as president of Golden Road Brewing. The company’s flagship brewery, The Pub at Golden Road, is located in the Atwater Village area of LA and was one of the city’s first local craft breweries.
Only three years later, in 2014, Gill was honored as a member of Forbes’ “30 Under 30, ” specifically for her work in creating one of the fastest-growing brewing companies in the country, as well as for establishing herself as one of the first female power players in the craft beer industry. In 2013 alone, her brewing company produced 15, 000 barrels and raked in more than $10 million, proving to Los Angeles that it was in need of a high-quality local craft brewery, and that if it was going to be done right, it’d be done by Gill and Tony Yanow. Today, Golden Road Brewing is L.A.’s largest craft brewer, and it’s only getting bigger. In addition to the Pub at Golden Road—which boasts 20 revolving taps—the brewing company opened in fall 2015 its Anaheim Tap Room. “It’s not so that people get a taste of our beer, but more importantly, it’s so they get a feel for what Golden Road stands for, ” explains a proud—and rightly so—Gill.
It seems that Gill was destined for success from the very beginning. She graduated from Yale University in 2008, where she swam competitively on the varsity swim team. She had dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer, but hops and kegs quickly took the place of bathing suits and swim caps. Seeking out jobs at small businesses to pay off student debt and to focus more intensely on her athletic training, Gill found craft beer almost by accident.
When she relocated to Boulder, Colorado, post-college to pursue professional triathlons, she secured for herself a sales job with Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewing, which is best known for its Dale’s Pale Ale. “The owner had this, ‘If it ain’t fun, I ain’t doin’ it’ mentality that really stuck with me, ” says Gill. “I had no formal training, but all of the sudden, I had this passion for business and for craft beer.” Before long, Gill was helping to take a small brand and make it nationally-recognized, and she worked tirelessly to educate herself on the marketing components of the craft beer industry.
A year later, in 2009, Gill went on to join San Francisco-based brewing company Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, a position that provided her with the opportunity to learn more about the financial side of the business. Soon, she was completely hooked by the craft beer industry. At the same time, she had a job running Burbank’s beer bar, Tony’s Darts Away, which Tony Yanow happened to own. The seed for the Golden Road Brewing was planted when Gill and Tony began fostering their working relationship together.
Part of Gill’s position with Speakeasy entailed traveling up and down the California coast to meet with the brewery’s distributors and investors, on whom she made an apparently strong and lasting impression. A handful of said investors began to encourage Gill to do her own thing. Together, Tony and Gill decided that, though it’d be risky and incredibly challenging, there was a huge opportunity for them to start a craft brewery together in LA where there was a 10 million-person market and no craft beer on the shelves. “I thought, That’s so crazy, it’s so hard to build a brand from scratch! But then I had investors and the money behind me and I thought, We should do something, ” says Gill. “Back then, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I just sort of went for it. So, I’ve said for a long time that Golden Road Brewing became a success because of blind ambition.”
Golden Road Brewing has received a litany of positive reviews during the past four years, gaining recognition and a cult following for everything from its product’s unparalleled freshness and its commitment to using cans instead of bottles to its environmental consciousness. But recently, Yanow and Gill made headlines for a different reason: the announcement that Golden Road Brewing had been acquired by Anheuser-Busch (AB). For Gill, the decision marks the highlight of her career thus far. “Selling the business has been the greatest reward of starting Golden Road; it was the first major money I took on in my career, and to see a return like that on the first project, that makes me extremely proud. We’re striving for that bigger goal of increasing our market share and continuing to become this great California lifestyle brand, ” she explains.
And, post-sale to AB, Gill’s neither resting on her laurels nor checking out. Rather, the sale means to Gill increased opportunity to become even more closely involved in the business. Take the production, side for example. Gill’s excitement is nearly tangible when she describes having the opportunity now to actually visit the AB farms on which the hops are grown, and to watch the process. “We’re definitely still focused on local, local, local, but you look at what’s going on in the other states, and to grow at the rate we were growing at and to do a great job doing it, you really need more resources than banks or investors can provide, ” Gill explains. “My job is even more intense now—it means even less sleep, but it definitely means a lot less stress.”
Gill is experiencing less stress perhaps because she, in the process of being acquired by AB, also acquired a brand-new global support network in the craft beer industry, which is booming not only in the U.S., but internationally, too. At the time of this interview, Gill, who serves on AB’s craft advisory board, was taking calls from her rental car in Northern Mexico, where she was meeting with a selection of small craft breweries that, too, had recently been acquired by AB.
“The advisory board gives me great access and insight into what other people are doing, what’s working in other places and what we can do differently, ” says Gill. Though it’s hard to imagine what Gill, whose craft beer is on tap at over 2, 500 locations in California, could possibly seek to do differently. And then you ask her the question, and it’s clear why she’s seen boundless success: “We hope to double production in 2016, ” she says, like the determined craft beer goddess that she is. Gill’s “Golden” rule? Nothing is impossible.
Gill’s “Golden” rule? Nothing is impossible.
Meg Gill’s Top 6 Golden Road Brews:
Heal the Bay IPA
Wolf PUP Session IPA
Point the Way IPA
Wolf Among Weeds IPA
El Jefe Anejo
Aqua Girl: Gill continues to swim regularly with the Burbank-based non-profit, Golden Road Aquatics—the area’s first Masters Swim Team—founded by Mike Lucero with sponsorship from Golden Road Brewing. The organization offers workouts for swimmers of all levels, and a fun way to make friends and to burn off all that beer. Check out goldenroadaquatics.org to become a fan or to join the fun.
Golden Road Brewing—Anaheim Tap Room
2210 E Orangewood Ave
Anaheim, CA 92806
Golden Road Brewing LA
5410 W San Fernando Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
GO /// For the Gold with Meg Gill, Co-Founder of Golden Road Brewing