As the owner of Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank, Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, and co-owner of Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village, there’s no doubt Tony Yanow has been instrumental in the monumental growth of the Los Angeles craft beer scene. And while he can often be found having a pint at his own watering holes—“especially Tony’s Darts Away”—we wanted to find out what the man drinks when he’s at home… and more specifically, we wanted to see his secret stash.
I ventured down the stairs of his handsome Hollywood Hills home to check out his cellar along with West Coaster co-founders Ryan Lamb and Mike Shess. After getting down into the garage, we were greeted by a nicely filled Sub-Zero refrigerator stacked with beers that Tony was planning on having sooner than later. “This is where I keep stuff that I go through a lot of,” he explains. “I can drink IPAs all day,” he confesses while pointing to a row of Golden Road’s Point The Way IPA, “and I go through literally a case a week.” Fondness for hops aside, he’s quick to note that he’s been drinking more and more saisons lately and “a ton of Orval”. Besides stocking plenty of his go-to beers, he also likes having any style of beer chilled and at the ready as well. “You name a style of beer,” he jokingly challenges. “I’ve got gose in here; I don’t even like gose!”
It’s then that he turns around and points to several tall, narrow cupboards jutting out from the cold concrete, each one filled with boozy treasure. Glancing deep into the cupboards, you quickly discover that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg; behind these bottles is a larger storage area full of cardboard boxes… full of beer. “It stays a pretty constant temperature because it’s built right up against rock,” Tony notes. “Directly behind the cellar is pure mountain, so the cellar usually stays between 58-65°F, but it never goes above 68°F.”
Wanting a closer look, we asked if we could nose around; however, this is an awkward space to get into. The small entry door is perched at about waist height, and once inside, you quickly learn why this is called a crawl space. The ceiling is far too low to allow you to stand, and the remaining room is pretty darn stocked with cases. “I usually send my kids in there to pick out beers,” Tony explains. “I’ll ask [my son] Hudson to choose three bottles, and he’ll get so excited that he gets to play in there. This helps me get a random rotation of beer too; I’m not just going back for favorites. The only problem is that he really likes flowers, so I had to put all my Cantillon Iris out of his reach.”
In absence of kids, we all agreed that Ryan’s supple physique was best adapted for the beer spelunking challenge at hand. Maneuvering his way in, he revealed many more bottles from The Lost Abbey and The Bruery, among plenty of others. Of Tony’s own wares, we didn’t find any Golden Road cans squirreled away for long-term storage, but being the boss does have its perks: he made sure that barrel-aged versions of Hudson Porter—named for his nearly three-year-old son—found their way into a few hand-labeled bottles for his own personal consumption. “I’m excited to open them once Hudson’s old enough to be able to appreciate them,” Tony said (while the rest of us did a little mental math and realized that wouldn’t be for some time).
Also well represented in Tony’s cellar is Russian River Brewing Company, including a nice little selection of vintage Consecration, though Tony makes a point to hint that he’s “always on the hunt for Temptation” as I’m jotting down notes. And his aforementioned soft spot for saisons becomes more apparent as we venture through collections of Brasserie Fantôme, Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales, and Upright Brewing.
So how many bottles are we talking about back there? “If I had to guess,” Tony thinks for a moment. “I dunno. Maybe… I don’t know. I really don’t. I mean, no. Just… can we say ‘a lot’? There’s a lot.” Plenty were personal purchases, but a good number of his bottles have been gifts from friends, customers, employees, and visiting brewery/industry folk.
With such an incredible selection that often seems to grow faster than it dwindles, Tony relies greatly on the good nature of his beer-drinking friends. “If it ever gets too full, I’ll come down to clean it out,” he explains, adding that his neighbor—who he also counts as one of his best friends—often gets some of the spoils. But there’s no list and no pretension about what he’s got on hand. The beer is there to be enjoyed, and it’s there to be enjoyed with friends. “I’ve become quite popular at bottle shares,” he chuckled as we headed back up the stairs, sporting a few bottles of our own that Tony insisted on sharing. Well, if we must…