Today we talk about beer. Eater recently sat down with the ever-busy Tony Yanow, creator of a burgeoning craft beer empire here in Los Angeles via Tony's Darts Away, Mohawk Bend, and the recently opened Golden Road Brewing. Below he dishes on the growth of his mini empire and what's on tap (literally) for the future.
How did you go from a simple “dive” bar in Burbank (with its amazing selection of craft beers, especially IPAs) to potentially one of the largest craft breweries in Southern California? First of all, I owe so much to my wife, Amy, with whom I'm raising three kids including infant twins. She still finds time to oversee the administration of all of our business and write her thesis. These days, I barely get any sleep, maybe three to four hours a night. It started when I ended my last job and was offered a job with good pay and security, but I just wasn’t inspired to do it. I just had an informal discussion with my family when my sister asked me what I really wanted to do. All I’ve really wanted to do was brew beer, it’s what I’ve been passionate about my whole life. I was thinking about giving up the job and visiting breweries to perhaps apprentice and become an intern brewer.
But then I realized that LA just didn’t offer that much in terms of craft bars and breweries – I would have to go to San Francisco and San Diego to drink good locally made craft beer. I wanted to see if LA could be the kind of city that could enjoy craft beer. What better way than to make a great bar in Tony’s Darts Away, which is a low risk venture, a neighborhood bar. My wife wasn’t too impressed with Tony’s when I bought it, but now it’s a landmark craft beer bar. It gave me a lot of confidence going into Mohawk Bend. When I started working on Mohawk, I thought, at the worst we’ll have two great places to drink beer. But it still didn’t make me realize the goal, which was to open a brewery. I had known Meg for a while and like everyone in the beer industry, you could tell right away that she wasn't a sales manager - but much more than that. The opportunity to work with her is why I made the jump from pub to brewery.
Golden Road has just opened, where do you see it going in the near future? Right now we want to brew a thousand barrels within the next few months. Our goal for the 2012 is to brew 10,000 barrels, which is a very lofty goal. It’s almost boastful to have a goal like that in the first year, but I think we have a lot of people in this city, within an hour’s drive of the brewery. I have a fairly unique perspective on what people like to drink in L.A. because I have a tap on what people are drinking every day in the two pubs. The total capacity of Golden Road Brewing is 60,000 barrels annually, which is enormous. It isn’t quite Stone Brewing, which is nearing 140,000 barrels, or Sierra Nevada which is at about 900,000 barrels a year. Currently only five California craft brewers sell more than 60,000 barrels a year. Our goal is to brew to capacity within 10 years. The hardest part of getting there is the distribution – we want to be that local beer that you can pick up anywhere – even at the super market. Every other major beer city in the U.S. has a local craft beer that you can pick up at the super market. It just takes time to penetrate the distribution channels. Right now we are done building out any more new spaces, other than the upcoming brew-pub here at Golden Road and will continue to focus on growing the existing spaces.
What kind of beer will you be making next at Golden Road? When we decide what beers to make, we literally sit down and think to ourselves, “you know what I would love to make, or you know what I can’t get enough of?” We have an idea on what people like in this market. Right now we have two core brands that we’ve gotten a tremendous response from (Point the Way IPA and Golden Road Hefeweizen). In terms of new products, we’re introducing Burning Bush IPA, which is a smoked IPA available in limited quantities. It sounds very unusual but it’s fantastic. We sold out of it on Sunday and we have so many bars that ordered it that the next batch might be sold out already. Because of the spirits program we have at Mohawk Bend, we have access to barrels from producers. Right now we’re working on a barrel aged program, starting with a Hefeweizen aged in tequila barrels. As far as I know, I’ve never seen this combination before. I don’t personally love tequila, but I’m dying to taste this beer, based on the smell coming out of the barrels right now. I can’t give too many details, but we’re working on an Imperial IPA, which is going to be in the spirit of a true West Coast style, hoppy beer. Jon Carpenter, our brewmaster, has a lot of experience from Dogfish Head. Meg has experience with IPAs from Speakeasy and Oskar Blues. I own a bar with possibly the biggest selection of IPAs in the world. We’ll be unveiling this beer within a few months or sooner, like six weeks. Overall we have about 30 beers we'd like to make and that number continues to grow. Right now we have about six on our 'to do list'.
*Currently Golden Road Brewing will only be producing beer in kegs until they can get all approvals, licensing and equipment for their canning operation. They're looking to release cans around Christmas time for local distribution. As for the tequila-barreled hefeweizen, look for something like three to six months before a very limited release.
·All Tony Yanow Coverage [~ELA~]
— Matthew Kang