interviews

David Walker Interview on Firestone Walker & the Duvel Moortgat Sale

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David Walker and I at the Horse Brass Pub

David Walker and I at the Horse Brass Pub

Old friend of The New School David Walker, the co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing, dropped in to answer some interview questions about the big news that Firestone Walker Brewing is combining forces (or being sold) to Duvel Moortgat. Firestone Walker is the award winning maker of amazing pale ales and barrel-aged beers in Paso Robles, California, while Duvel Moortgat is the Belgian company that makes the famous Duvel beer and also owns Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York, and purchased Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, MO, a few years back.

 

david walker

Q: The press release/announcement is a bit vague on how you are going to “combine” the two companies of Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat. Is this any different than an out and out sale of the company?
David Walker: It’s complicated and private, and anyone who claims to know the details is guessing. We needed capacity, control, and culture; we found that in Duvel.
Q: Why is this a good time to sell the brewery and how long has this been in the works? 
DW: This is primarily an investment to help us build out Paso without being wed to bankers. It is also an opportunity for us to link ourselves with a 150 year old partner with the same family and craft values we have.
Q: Can you reveal any more on how much of an investor Duvel is? Do they have a majority stake in the company?
DW: I can’t, but I can say we are strapped together for the next century. This is a big deal for both of us.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumors that AB/InBev wanted to purchase FW last year, and if so, what made you go with Duvel?
DW: We wanted a partner we could look in the eye, one we could bring as much to the table as them. Duvel is no larger than a top 10 American craft brewer; they think and act a lot like us. We have known the Moortgats for a while, and the technical exchange between our brewmasters has been ongoing. As we considered our next chapter, many ideas were thrown around. Ultimately we wanted to remain in the business doing what we love without stressing about interest rates and sales.
Q: Was there any concern that FW will now be owned by a foreign company? What would you say to consumers who are upset about that?
DW: I have an accent, I see the world a little larger than California. The Moortgat family are iconic brewers; I think we can learn a lot about patience, quality, and culture from them.
Q: How much longer will you be with the company?
DW: I am the proprietor of the Firestone Walker Brewing Co. I have no hobbies, mistresses, or desires to sit on a beach. I am a steady gent who loves his brewery and the people that inhabit it. I will be here a long, long time.
Q: Will we see a restructuring of the business model or the management and brewing teams?
DW: No. Repeat: no.
Q: Will Firestone Walker beers be brewed at Boulevard, Ommegang, or Duvel, or vice versa?
DW: They might if it enhances the beer’s freshness and quality.
Q: How large does Firestone want to get? Do you see your beers in all 50 states?
DW: At some point in my lifetime I would see a national presence. Duvel will help us with that. Double Jack in Brussels would be cool.
Q: What has Firestone Walker not done that you would like to do in the future?
DW: Not a lot; we are blessed and will continue to do what we do.
Below is a FAQ sheet that Firestone Walker sent out initially only internally to friends and family that also lends some clarification:
Announcement_Letter_B-W
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Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]

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