Chester’s Own Bird Alum Is Youngest Woman to Head a Brewery

She has graced the pages of Glamour (Feb. 2013) and the LA Times and been interviewed by Carson Daly for of all things…beer!

Chester native Meg Gill lived her childhood in the little town, starting out at Salem Elementary and graduating from Bird High School almost 10 years ago. With some years in between, she made her way to the craft brewing scene in California.

You may be saying ‘wow, how did that happen?’ and you would be right to wonder how a small town girl like Gill became the youngest woman to head a brewery.

“Blind ambition,” Gill said. “My engine doesn’t tell me no! Never has.”  As a result, she is an award winning swimmer and attended Yale University. Along the way she got straight A’s and was the Valedictorian of her 2003 graduating class at Bird High School.

Gill remembers even as a young child wanting to excel at everything she tried and being driven. “My parents always said I could do it,” she recounts. “Always told me can do, not can’t.” She is the daughter of a substitute teacher and a retired federal government employee, one of three children — a pretty normal upbringing. Her parents Margaret and Linn Gill still live in Chester along with other family members.

The moment you speak with her, though, you know that Gill is anything but normal. She shares many wonderful memories of her hometown and the people she said “helped me be bigger than I could dream.”

Gill remembers always swimming and always wanting to swim and be the best at it. “I started swimming at four years old,” she said and by the time she was five her coach, Barbara Miller, was having her swim up several levels.  She swam at Chester Recreational Association and moved on to larger swim clubs from there. Later, she became a winning athlete and swimmer for Bird High School.

What she learned from this help, that Miller and others gave her along her path, is that she could do whatever she chose to do. Children are generally encouraged to believe they can do it all, have it all and Gill was no exception, she excelled as a result of all the hometown support and assistance.

“The swim community in Chester always challenged me to do better and be greater than I already was,” Gill shared. As a result of her love of swimming and her award-winning skills Gill’s youthful dreams were to be a pro athlete.

And, it didn’t stop there. She believes that all the people who mentored her and supported her dreams and her talents, in effect, helped make her the success she is today.

By the time Gill reached high school she was a force to be reckoned with. She remembers being into all kinds of clubs, swimming competitively (always), and just constantly going and doing. “I just always wanted to do more,” she remembers.

As a result, in high school she was a straight A student and had her heart set on going to the Ivy League college, Yale. She knew very early that she wanted to study at the prestigious university and she did everything to prepare for it. She recalls one teacher, Emily Munro-Scott, encouraging her to study the classics and Greek and Latin, to prepare for Yale. Again, she said it’s a case “of one more person being there to influence my life and help me be more than I could ever imagine.”

After graduating from Bird, she did go on to study the classics at Yale and she swam competitively while there. Gill has always had a head for business, as well.  “I was pretty focused on the learning, the business of academics and swimming competitively,” she recalled.

After college, and a degree in the classics, she landed in Colorado. As an athlete, she went for a warmer climate and followed what her business acumen told her was going to work for her. She seemed to have a knack for marketing and she followed her athletic nature.

She tried her hand at starting an athletic attire business and she needed a beer sponsor to help market an event she was doing for her fledgling startup. And, the rest, as they say is history.

Gill became an intern for a craft beer business in Colorado. She eventually became a sales rep for Oskar Blues Brewery and learned what would help her begin her own brewery a few short years later.

As a sales rep, she moved from Colorado to California, to the Los Angeles area and worked as a sales rep learning the craft brewing business — craft brewing is a microbrewery that produces a limited amount of beer per year, usually less than 6 million barrels. They don’t compete with the mass producers, they are sometimes called a “boutique brewery” because production is small and for local markets.

So, Gill learned the brewery business and went in and sold craft beers to companies in LA.  She said it’s very much considered “an old man’s world.” She credits her intuition and business acumen with helping her learn and enter this new field at 22 years old.

“I can read and understand situations,” Gill said. “I looked like the young, silly, athletic girl in a room full of old men and when I opened my mouth they found out I knew the business well.”  

Now at less than 30 years old, Gill has become known as the youngest woman brewery owner. She and her partner began Golden Roads Brewing in the fall of 2011 and they have four canned beers. In January 2012 they opened 42,000 square feet of restaurants to cater to their Golden Roads label beers.

She is proud of her accomplishments. “The craft brewery business is about beer that is more an artisan quality, not mass produced,” she educates. “We have two restaurants, 600 feet of seating and an open pub.”

For Gill the journey has been about fun. “I never think about failing,” she said. “If it ain’t fun I ain’t doing it.” She said it’s not been an easy road though. She said she’s probably encountered enough rejection in her young years to last most folks a lifetime. “There’s been a lot of NOs and a lot of sacrifice and maybe a little obsession,” she laughed.

Being featured in Glamour was an exciting prospect and in the article she shares her rules — have some regrets (they mean you are trying things and living), get your hands dirty (she rolls barrels of ale and works hard), and speak your mind (use your voice and don’t be afraid) and she cheerfully tries to live them.

She remembers her Chester hometown and is honored to say that it “was a wonderful childhood and I am grateful for all the mentors that inspired me.” Gill would say that if she can achieve anything through her ambitions and goals as the youngest female brewer in the world it’s to never give up. “Don’t take things too seriously,” she advised.

Her hope is she will be a positive role model to other women. She couldn’t be where she is without everyone who helped her find her way. “There were so many resources in school and all around the Chester community,” Gill shared. “Find the people to inspire you, to help you get where you need to be.”

She believes the best people in the world live right in Chester. “It’s always about the people,” she commented. “There are great people in Chester, I wouldn’t be who I am without the town I grew up in and I am so proud of the family of Chester.”

Gill’s brewery is Golden Roads Brewing at http://goldenroad.la/ and on Facebook.

Comments

I'd curious about where she

I'd curious about where she got the money to go to Yale, start up an athletic wear business and also to go from LA area sales rep to brewery co-owner. This article just sort of sidesteps the issue. I suspect it took more than an awesome attitude?

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