David Walker of Firestone Walker Brewing Discusses Selling to Duvel Moortgat

Jeffers Richardson and David Walker pouring magnum's of Feral Vinifera at 2015 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest
Jeffers Richardson and David Walker pouring magnum’s of Feral Vinifera at 2015 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest

The news of Belgium based Duvel Moortgat acquiring Firestone Walker Brewing Company sent shock waves across the craft beer community when this was announced after business hours last evening. Once the dust settled for a bit many realized that Duvel Moortgat is a brewery that is interested in seeing its acquisitions grow at a pace with strong involvement with the former ownership. Duvel Moortgat has done a fine job with Brewery Ommegang and Boulevard Brewing, its two ventures that are based here in the United States. This seems to be the case at Firestone Walker with its recent business transaction.

We here at Brewpublic were fortunate enough to reach out to David Walker to gain some insight on the decision to sell the business that he created with his brother-in-law, Adam Firestone in California’s Central Coast. Once finding talented brewmaster Matt Brynildson in 2000, the brewery began to take off when it acquired the former SLO Brewing facility in Paso Robles, California. Under Brynildson’s direction the brewery began to be recognized on the world’s brewing stage.

With this massive growth just like any business Firestone too felt some growing pains. From our interview with David Walker we learn why the brewery decided to sell, what involvement him and Adam Firestone will have under its new owner and what lies ahead for the brewery that sells 80% of the beer its brews within its home state.

Adam Firestone, D.J. Paul, and David Walker
Adam Firestone, Brewpublic’s D.J. Paul, and David Walker at the 2014 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest

Your brewery is just about to celebrate its 20th year in business next year, why did you feel that this was the best time to sell? 

Building breweries is expensive and we needed a partner to help us go to the next level. Duvel brought Culture, Capital and gave us Control; this was hard to find. Being partnership with Brewers versus Bankers was always preferred

How often had Firestone Walker been courted by other larger breweries to sell the business to? 

A few times.

Is there any truth that AB-InBev was in talks with you and Adam? 

ABI have talked with many brewers including us. Our partnership needs were complicated and we enjoy the private world of family businesses. Duvel offered that.

Why did you feel that Duvel Moortgat was the best fit for the brewery? 

Family owned, small, traditional, patient, iconic steward of breweries and their traditions. The list goes on.

When should we expect a collaboration beer with Ommegang, Boulevard and Firestone Walker? 

As soon as we can (get) ahead of our capacity issues we will begin that exchange in earnest.

The Lion's Land Rover - David Walker of Firestone Walker
The Lion’s Land Rover – David Walker of Firestone Walker

Will this outside investment now speed up your expansion at your current brewery in Paso Robles? 

We pulled the chain this week. This was a huge relief.

What about future expansion or another brewery out east? Will this now be on the table with this new financial resource behind the brewery? 

With access to Boulevards team and brewery we should be able to expand cautiously into more markets in the East.

Are both you and Adam content on now having to report to others that are outside of the brewery that you two built? 

We still have control. Duvel will be on our board and we look forward to the consensus and intelligence they will bring to our next chapter

How did the brewing team including Matt Brynildson take the news? 

I think it was Matts idea:)

Most importantly, will Duvel Moortgat still give Firestone Walker the ok to continue the fabulous Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival? 

That’s our call. Please note we are not changing anything here. See you next year.

Brewpublic's D.J. Paul and Cat Stelzer with David Walker of Firestone Walker at Old Salt Marketplace
Brewpublic’s D.J. Paul and Cat Stelzer with David Walker of Firestone Walker at Old Salt Marketplace