David Walker, Co-founder, Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Well known as one of the most affable guys in the industry, David Walker runs a humble, family-oriented company that just so happens to be pioneering the experimental beer market. The British expat offers his insight into the business of brewing… and what he’d do with some time off.
Which brewers inspire you?
Our own—Matt Brynildson (aka Merlin). He’s a low-key genius with a competitive streak. My steely-eyed partner, Adam Firestone, and myself managed to talk him into joining our partnership last year. A rare stroke of brilliance on our part—surprisingly, he said yes. He also proposed to his missus this year … yet more brilliance … it must be the beer.
If you weren’t in the beer industry, what career would you be pursuing?
No idea … never been much of a career planner. I often walk into the brewery, smell the mash, hear the steam, and think, “How the **** did this happen.”
What do you see in the long-term future for Firestone Walker? For American craft beer?
American craft beer has changed the American drinker’s palate and is beginning to influence the world. The future is unknown and unlimited. Craft brewers are responsible for this revolution, but sadly, don’t own the rights to it, so I am sure the international brewers will slowly climb onboard and maintain dominance. Craft brewers will always flourish next to them and hold the high ground with consumers. The key to our survival and future is being authentic and involved—not hard when you are our size. The challenge comes when you are 10 times bigger. Call us in 15 years, and I’ll give you an update.
What couldn’t you live without every day?
Coffee, a pair of running shoes, a real beer… the BBC.
Has your European upbringing influenced the culture of the company?
Britain didn’t influence our approach to brewing or beer … California did. Firestone Walker is a West Coast brewer and heavily influenced by the pace, palate and people who live here.
What goals have you yet to achieve, both personally and with the brewery?
It seems our brewery has been one endless, elusive goal; as soon as we fill a tank, a cold room or a market, another one appears. Quality and freshness are likely the most elusive goals to any brewer, as this is essentially a never-ending quest. So to have perfect-tasting beer in the market at all times would be a worthy goal. On the personal front—a low-slung Italian sports car (around my age), a map of France and Belgium, and nowhere to be for six months. ■