Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Who’s Getting Hurt by Flat Sales?

Data compiled by the Brewers Association show that the bigger craft breweries bore the brunt of last year’s slump.

Twenty-five of the top 50 craft breweries, as defined by the BA, didn’t grow in 2016; and more then one-third of BA-defined regional breweries had either flat or declining sales. The damage was heaviest at the top of the standings: four of the five biggest crafts—D.G. Yuengling & Sons, Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Gambrinus Company—suffered a sales decline. The top five’s only gainer was New Belgium Brewing Company.

According to the BA’s Bart Watson, the regionals are getting squeezed by both ends of the industry. Anheuser-Busch Companies, whose acquisition of craft brands has stirred up controversy, is snapping up retail space at the expense of the regionals. Meanwhile, many retailers are focused on getting the products of small local breweries on their shelves, again to the regionals’ detriment.

There were some bright spots, however. Regionals that upped production in 2016 include Bell’s Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, and Rheingeist Brewery. Several others that no longer meet the BA’s definition of “craft”, such as Founders Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company, also posted gains for the year.

Another Big Beer Merger

On Thursday night, Firestone Walker Brewing Company announced its acquisition by Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat. By one estimate, Duvel will pay $250 million for Firestone Walker.

Firestone Walker is the third brewery to be acquired by Duvel Moortgat, following Brewery Ommegang and Boulevard Brewing. Duvel Moortgat made the following statement in its press release:

“The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth,” said Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat. “We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA”

The King of Craft Beer?

Jay Brooks has a secret to share: America’s most-decorated brewery is the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, in Paso Robles, California. Firestone Walker was named Brewery of the Year in the mid-size category in 2007, 2011, and 2013. It also won that title in 2003 for Nectar Ales, a label it acquired from the former Humboldt Brewing Company. And it won a fifth GABF award: it went to brewmaster Matt Brynildson when he was with SLO Brewing, which now bears the Firestone Walker name. And if that weren’t enough, Firestone Walker won five Brewery of the Year awards between 2004 and 2012 at the World Beer Cup.

The brewery is named for its founders, Adam Firestone and David Walker, whose operation uses a system of linked barrels based on traditional brewing methods in the English town of Burton-Upon-Trent. Firestone, who’s a member of the famous tire-making family, grew up in California’s Central Coast wine region, but he turned his attention to brewing. His homebrewing experiments led to Firestone Walker’s flagship beer, Double Barrel Ale. The Walker half of the operation is Firestone’s brother-in-law David Walker, a transplanted Englishman who wanted better beer choices.

Firestone Walker offers brewery tours, and has added a tasting room with a restaurant. There’s also a Firestone Walker restaurant, which serves all of their beers, in nearby Buellton.

Craft Beer Power Ratings

You’ve seen them in the sports section, but power ratings for breweries? FoodRepublic.com has ranked the ten most influential craft breweries based on new product releases, critical reviews, and “general buzz within the industry.”

The top spot belongs to California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company. This Anglophile brewery, which features a Burton Union oak-barrel fermenting system, is about to open a facility specializing in sour beers. Also coming soon: its highly-anticipated XVI Anniversary Ale.

The Tuesday Mash (News Glut Edition)

Because it’s Ludwig’s job to keep you informed.

We begin in Whitefish, Montana, where the Black Star Brewery has launched its latest contest. Tell Black Star what you would barter to win a trip for two to Montana plus free beer for a year.

Watch out, Guinness. Camden Town Brewing, a London micro, wants to challenge Guinness Stout’s domination of the British stout market. Camden Town’s brew is called “Black Ink.”

Kai Olson-Sawyer of EcoCentric.com gives us two more reasons to “drink locally”: microbreweries strengthen communities, and have a positive impact on the environment as well.

The Mother Road Brewing Company of Flagstaff, Arizona, is not only located on an older alignment of Route 66, but three of beers’ names are inspired by the famous highway.

SeriousEats.com pays attention to an underappreciated style–namely, American Brown Ale. Nick Leiby says there are plenty of good versions to choose from.

Eric Asimov of the New York Times took note of the popularity of sour beers in America. He and his friends’ favorite was a Kriek ale from Cascade in Portland, Ore.

Finally, California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company brews its flagship a pale ale using a brewing method based on the Burton Union fermentation system. Why? Because
Englishman David Walker is in charge of brewing.

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