Golden Road’s Victor Novak and Steven Torres at GR’s 1 year Anniversary. Photo by David Mulvihill.
Golden Road 01 2018 Detail
I recently visited Victor Novak and Steven Torres at Golden Road Brewing-Anaheim. GR Brewmaster Victor Novak has a long and decorated brewing history. It began at the original Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia and continued for many years at TAPS Fish House & Brewery, along with numerous Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup awards. His training in classic beer styles began at Dock Street with Nick Funnell (and recipes developed by Dock Street’s original brewer, Will Kemper). During his 15 years at TAPS, Novak mentored many of our contemporary (and award-winning) OC brewers, such as TAPS Brewing’s Kyle Manns, Green Cheek’s Evan Price and GR-Anaheim’s Head Brewer Steven Torres. Novak made a move in July, 2014 when he accepted the head brewing position at Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing, over one year before the AB InBev buyout.
I want to take a minute to address the discussion emanating from the fact that Golden Road was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2015. Big Beer’s takeover, talk of ABI’s goal of destroying independent craft brewing and declassification of GR’s independent craft brewery status by the Brewers Association has caused a good deal of uneasiness amongst many local craft beer fans. Folks are opposed to supporting big beer and its contrary efforts, but does that mean that one shouldn’t support a local business where many local residents earn their living, where these aforementioned brewers (also local residents) continue to create phenomenal beer? While I may not support GR on the supermarket shelf, I continue to support the individuals who continue to develop my taste for good beer.
Much has changed since my last visit to Golden Road-Anaheim. With a new tasting room-restaurant now open (full-service restaurant tables accommodate over 200 guests and walk-up service is available for the outer beer garden/dugout areas), there is a lot more Golden Road to enjoy. With 40 different taps dispensing predominantly onsite brewed beer, there is also much to taste. Look forward to the first cream ale Victor and Steven have brewed since coming to Golden Road. The Helles lager recipe was also in development. The new version may morph into the new and improved Golden Road 329 Lager. In the barrel-aged department, a new barleywine will be spending time in Peerless Rye Whiskey barrels. A Russian imperial-style stout was going into Buffalo Trace barrels (think TAPS Trace of Remy, which was created by Victor during his time at TAPS). When tasted from the fermenter, it already presented layers of flavor, with hearty chocolate, cookie and marshmallow notes, along with some stone fruit (13.6% ABV). A new Schwarzbier, an orange blossom and raspberry honey beer, and a new hazy IPA were also on deck. Gose was on draft and a Beliner Weisse was in the tank coming soon. These are true-to-style lacto bacillus kettle sours. Some of the Berliner will also spend time in tequila barrels. For more-fruity palates, expect the sweet fruited wheat beers to continue (including Mango Cart and Palisades Pineapple with 1lb of fruit per gallon of beer).
Brett Lawrence and his family have a long history in the hospitality industry. They own Rancho Las Lomas, located in Orange County along Santiago Canyon in Silverado. This private estate has done weddings and private parties for many years. Brett took up the quest to keep the business going after his father passed, first by expanding the availability of Rancho Las Lomas. The estate can now accommodate multiple weddings, wine tastings, beer tastings and other events. The exotic animals portion of the ranch was converted to the Rancho Wildlife Foundation (RWF), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a link between people, animals, and the preservation of nature.
After taking over the ranch, Brett began to question why most of their beer sales were products of big beer producers (Bud Light, Coors Light, Heineken, etc.). Numerous guests visiting the property each year had no local beer choice. He began homebrewing and later transitioned to contract brewing of his beers in order to provide a local option for his guests. The natural progression was to open a brewery of his own. In Lawrence’s words, “I wanted to be the master of my own destiny and set out to build my own brewery in Orange County.”
Towne Park Brewing Company is located in Anaheim at 1566 W Lincoln (just west of the 5 Fwy). “We want to make drinkable beers, beers that are session-able and drinkable,” he continued. Jeremy Mayo was enlisted to assist on the brewing side with this effort. In planning the brewery Brett wanted a space large enough to accommodate growth. The facility he settled on provides plenty of room for expansion of production as well as sizeable taproom and additional indoor and outdoor event spaces.
Towne Park’s focus is on the local market and the untapped hospitality industry. The brewery layout is also hospitality driven. Customer based, with concentration directed to the whole experience is the goal, along with an increasing desire to continue to make better beer. Brett emphasized the concept of beer-in-hand. “Our play is beer-in-hand, white collar, blue collar, no collar, beer-in-hand with the conversations and experiences that ensue.”
In marketing to the hospitality industry, Lawrence sees an opportunity to capitalize on the banquets market. He feels this is an untapped market that his brewery and experience can tap into. This source is already paying off with local hotels, resorts and clubs. At the Balboa Bay Club, Towne Park is now the beer-in-room, beer-at-banquet, and provided in cans as beer-to-go for beer-on-boat. The brewery is also set up for onsite events (inside and outside), partnering with its catering company, 24 Carrots Catering, on many events. With separate interior event center and large event space outside, the primary tasting room can still function being open to the public.
Don’t be fooled if you show up and think there is limited parking. There are 200 additional spots across the street plus, after 5 p.m., Towne Park patrons can park in spaces within the surrounding businesses. Towne Park contracts for this additional space.
Beer to the Rescue
Beer to the Rescue, a charity campaign benefiting the Lupus Foundation of Southern California is expanding to raise funds and awareness for other San Diego County non-profit groups as well. Beer to the Rescue is being assisted this year by 42 San Diego brewing companies. The initiative was established in 2015 by Brandon Hernández, SD brewing-industry professional, beer journalist and lupus survivor. The effort has raised more than $100,000 for the LFSC. Hernández altered this year’s campaign so it can also assist others in need. “We’ve been so fortunate to find ourselves on the receiving end of such kindness. This time around, we want to pay that generosity forward by helping other non-profits and humanitarian causes using the platform we’ve established,” Hernández stated in the press release. Participating brewery owners will be selecting the additional charities that will benefit from half of the funds raised.
Upcoming Fundraisers for the next few months are listed below and a full event schedule for the year is being developed and will soon be posted at www.beertotherescue.org. The following breweries will be donating a percentage of total sales during designated months: Pure Project Brewing (March), Societe Brewing (May) and Belching Beaver Brewery (November).
Wednesday, March 28 | Fundraiser: Pariah Brewing, North Park
Thursday, March 29 | Cask Night Event: North Park Beer Co., North Park
Monday, April 16 | Fundraiser: New English Brewing, Sorrento Valley
Every Tuesday in May | Charity Nights: Societe Brewing, Kearny Mesa
Thursday, May 3 | Beer-Release Event: Division 23 Brewing, Miramar
Thursday, May 17 | Fundraiser: Thorn St. Brewery, North Park
Sunday, June 3 | Beer-Release Events: Second Chance Beer Co.,
Carmel Mountain & North Park
Friday, July 6 | Beer-Release Event: Booze Brothers Brewing, Vista