Next up in our Interview with a Brewer series: Firestone Walker out in sunny California. For the East-coasters, Firestone Walker is a much-acclaimed brewery formed in 1996 by Adam Firestone and David Walker. Scholars still argue over how the brewery got its name.
In addition to other honors, Firestone Walker won the Brewer’s Association “Mid-Size Brewery of the Year” in 2007. Firestone Walker is unique in that they focus on pale ales and use a patented oak barrel brewing system based on the not-quite-extinct Burton Union system of brewing.
Head brewer Matt Brynildson has left his unique mark on Firestone Walker in the years since he’s been there. Jamie, Marketing Director, was kind enough to share his thoughts on the company as a whole:
1) Why focus exclusively on pale ales?
Passion for the Pale didn?t really come from any sort of plan in the beginning. It was born from a process of looking at ourselves, what we brewed and what we were recognized for doing well. Over and over again, we were receiving awards for our pale ale styles.
2) What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
Producing something that people truly enjoy and brings happiness and quality to their lives. Beer is something almost anyone can get excited about and we feel honored to be a part of the ?Craft Beer Revolution? in America and the World.
3) How does the acquisition of Nectar Ales fit in with your long-term goals as a brewery?
We felt that this brand was an original pioneer in the craft brewing scene, having been founded in 1987. It had legs and where Firestone is, in our minds a premium product, Nectar has deep roots in craft beer. It made sense to rescue and resurrect that brand.
4) Your brewing process is very unique. What benefits do you see from the Firestone Union method?
Aside from adding to the wonderful tradition of fermenting in wood like those brewers from years past, it adds a dimension and quality to the beer which is unparalleled via any other method. The flavor and mouth feel that the time in oak contributes is unique and it showcases our commitment to hand crafted beers.
5) Will we ever see any of your beers on the East Coast (short of smuggling them ourselves)?
We do not have plans for distribution to the East Coast at this time. We are strong believers in representing our beer in the best way we can. To us this means keeping it local and fresh. Our beers are unpasteurized and show best close to home. If we discover a way to maintain that quality over long distances?that may be another story.
6) What marketing tactic has had the most unexpected return for you and what was it?
Local loyalty. We started off locally and were embraced for that. We love our region and are supported for our contributions to the community.
7) If you were to start a brewery from scratch (hypothetical, of course), what is one thing you would do differently this time around?
I don?t think we?d do anything differently. We feel so fortunate for our success and the wonderful thing about craft beer is the spirit. Some of the so called ?mistakes? actually endear people to your company and make you real. We wouldn?t change a thing.