Interview with David Walker, Co-founder of Firestone Walker
Firestone Walker, the renowned craft brewery from Central California known for its pale ales and barrel-aged beers, celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year. Read on for a look at what co-founder David Walker (AKA The Lion) has to say about the brewery's beginnings, their craft beer and what the next 20 years might hold.
Where did the name for Firestone Walker come from?
Proprietors; Mr Firestone and Mr Walker. We felt it important the world knew we stood behind our beer.
How did you get your start in craft beer?
Our roots were born out of a 3rd generation family winery. We had an artisanal bias, a respect for real work, a love for family enterprise and a desire to drink American beer as interesting and eclectic as American wine. Our curiosity got the better of us and before we knew it we had a going concern.
What was the start-up phase like at Firestone Walker?
We boot strapped much of our first 5 years; a lot of used equipment, customized wine tanks and American oak barrels. Both Adam and I had a truck load of kids each so we kept our day jobs to pay the bills at home and moonlighted. Slowly we persuaded some great folks to join us and the brewery found its feet and with it we prospered.
What was your first successful batch of beer?
Batch #1; Double Barrel Ale; conceived by Jeffers Richardson. He hit the bulls eye the first batch and today we still marvel at that.
Where do you draw inspiration for Firestone Walker?
We are centered in a wine region in the Central Coast of California; our influences are obvious; rural, artisanal, balanced & honest.
What does the brewing process look like at Firestone Walker?
Our brewing vision is driven by the brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, and as such the beers reflect a curios nature rather than a strategic reaction to market trends. We work hard to build a world class home for the beer and cover the spectrum of styles and disciplines; today we make Lagers, Ales, Barrel Aged Strong Ales, Union Fermented English Ales, Barrel Fermented Wild Ales spread across three different brewing locations. I often wonder, what we have not explored?
This year, you debuted your Luponic Distortion Rotating Hops series. Where did the idea for this beer series come from, and how do you decide on each new rotation?
The promiscuous nature of the modern American craft drinker is an exploration of flavor and Matt intended Luponic Distortion to celebrate that by every 90 days distorting the hop addition to the beer while leaving the malt bill and yeast profile constant. It gave the consumer a riddle that perhaps would help them better calibrate their palate rather than chasing a moving target with an infinite set of variables chasing every beer out there. That’s not to say we believe we will succeed in capturing these explorers permanently, but if we humor them for a moment longer it will have been worthwhile.
What’s your favorite Firestone Walker craft beer?
Nitro DBA in a clean red wine glass.
Are there any new beers we should look forward to from Firestone Walker?
Leo V Ursus…all will be revealed as 2017 unravels.
Breweries are often important parts of their community. What does Firestone Walker do to give back?
Fresh tasty beer is our greatest gift to our community; I truly believe that. We inhabit any and all community events we can as we know relevance is part of being a neighbor. Craft breweries are also magnificently inefficient so we get to employ a lot of locals…as we get bigger so the family grows.
This year, Firestone Walker celebrates its 20th anniversary. With that in mind, what does the future of the brewery look like?
Well if it's anything like the last 20 years it will be a wild ride; my hope is it will continue….no reason it shouldn’t… cheers!