Firestone Walker Brewery partners with Duvel Moortgat
Local management to remain in place
– Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles announced Thursday that it is entering into a business partnership with Duvel Moortgat, a European brewer with a growing presence in the United States. Financial details were not released by either company.
“Duvel Moortgat’s investment in us is an elegant solution that will enable us to grow within a framework that meets our standards — all without losing focus on the traits that got us here,” Firestone founders David Walker and Adam Firestone said in a press release. “We will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles as we have always done. Our people and partnerships will remain, and there will be no change discernible in and around the brewery. In other words, we will not miss a beat.”
When asked what percentage of company the founders still own, Adam Firestone declined to answer, instead emphasizing that the brewery will keep all 360 employees, including David Walker and Firestone at the helm.
“We are obviously a family-owned business, and we’re private about that; we’re private about money,” Firestone said. “We describe this as a collaboration. David stays; I stay. We’re all remaining. This is very much a partnership. We maintain control of all the governance and management.”
Asked if he and Walker have retained any ownership in the company, Firestone said it’s complicated. “We are tied into this thing,” he said. “We can’t go anywhere. We retain our titles, our positions, our authority; this is 100-percent locally managed. The structure is complicated, and I don’t want to comment on that. We’re just not discussing that. We don’t comment on ownership.”
Duvel was founded in Belgium in 1871 and moved into the U.S. in the 1990s. In 2013, Duvel purchased the Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Mo. The New York Times reported on that acquisition saying it would significantly broaden Boulevard’s distribution in the domestic market and open doors to the international market as well. Firestone said he expects the same growth opportunities for Firestone Walker.
“For us, there’s an opportunity for us to increase beer sales in the U.S. but also to take it to Europe,” Firestone said. “To get our beers into the European market, I wouldn’t know where to start. There could be Paso Robles beer in Antwerp, for goodness’ sake.”
Around the same time Duvel was looking to expand into the United States, Firestone Walker was starting its first warehouse in Los Olivos, Calif. in 1995 with one employee. Twenty years later, Firestone Walker is in Paso Robles with 360 employees, Firestone said. Meeting Michel Moortgat at trade shows is what got the ball rolling on their new partnership.
“We met Michel Moortgat at trade events, and the conversation just kind of grew,” Firestone said.
In the press release, Walker and Firestone said, “We found this is Duvel Moortgat, a family-operated craft brewer with a track record that spans four generations. Duvel Moortgat maintains a singular focus on quality. They begin and end each sentence with that word. This is a universal language we understand. In the end, our conversations always return to the beer, and this is the driving principle that underwrites this partnership. There is a clear respect and reverence for the art and work of brewers that aligns with our values and plans for the future.”