Orange County resident Meg Gill is the co-founder and president of Golden Road Brewing, the largest craft brewery in L.A. County and winner of a gold medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival.
If she weren’t a brewery mogul, Gill would be a water woman. Before her craft beer career, she competed as a nationally ranked collegiate swimmer at Yale and trained for the Olympic trials in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly. She still swims and surfs at local beaches. “San Onofre and San Clemente are my favorites, but I’ve really loved getting to know Huntington Beach lately! I would love to be in the water, versus on land, most of the time. A lot of people at Golden Road fall into that culture as well.”
When Gill moved to L.A. in 2011 and co-founded Golden Road at age 25, she became the youngest female brewery owner in the nation and was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of entrepreneurs. “People love to adopt a brewery in their home market, and L.A. was lacking in craft breweries. There were brewpubs around, but there wasn’t anyone packaging their beer that (customers) could take home.”
Golden Road was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 2015, and Gill relocated to Orange County in 2016 to be closer to the Anaheim location, which is the company’s innovation brewery. Her latest project is opening Golden Road’s newest brewpub at Peter’s Landing in Huntington Beach, slated for this fall. Its location on the harbor appeals to Gill. “Huntington is our first true coastal brewery, which we’re really excited about. It’s great to be an inland brand, but in Southern California, part of our lifestyle is the beach and the water. It will be nice to take a paddleboard out, leave it in the brewpub, and have a couple beers afterward.”
Gill and Golden Road drew from local people and culture as inspiration for the beer. There’s a Balboa Blonde ale, 329 Days of Sun lager, and, famously, Mango Cart, a wheat ale brewed with mango puree. “We started putting fruit in our beers by chance, because there were fruit cart stands outside of our original brewery, and we liked to eat the fruit out of the carts. We said, ‘This is indigenous to Southern California; let’s try it in beers.’ ”
It wasn’t long before the fruit-forward brews in a rainbow of brightly printed cans started flying off grocery store shelves. The lower amount of alcohol by volume and less intense hops made for easy drinking and allowed customers to try a greater variety. “There weren’t a lot of craft breweries making beers that were more refreshing and more approachable. We wanted to include more people, have it be more comfortable to try more than one beer, and not blow away your palate on hops.”
Gill also hopes to introduce more women to her favorite beverage. “We wanted to widen what craft beer was and who was drinking (it) by creating styles that are really tasty and interesting and new to people, but aren’t as exclusive or snobby or even masculine in voice. Kroger has even told us that over 60 percent of consumers who buy Golden Road products in their stores are female!”
“I think craft beers in the past have been all about ‘Can you be in this club?’ And we’re kind of extending a hand out and saying, ‘Come on in, try this stuff; let it be a part of your lifestyle.’ ”