Editorial Dept.'s picture

Duvel, Firestone Walker Combine Companies

Matt Brynildson and David Walker
Head brewer Matt Brynildson and Firestone owner David Walker

Firestone Walker, one of the most decorated breweries in American craft, has combined ownership with Duvel Moortgat of Belgium. Located in Paso Robles, California, Firestone Walker will continue to operate independently, said owners David Walker and Adam Firestone in a release.

 “Our people and partnerships will remain, and there will be no change …in and around the brewery,” said the statement.

The two companies’ media releases stopped short of stating the Belgian company has taken a majority ownership. Simon Thorpe, president of Duvel Moortgat USA, said in a statement there will be a collaboration long term to help the California brewery expand its capacity beyond the present 200,000 barrels per year. No financial terms were released and industry sources indicate pricing according to multiples of net income per year have increased dramatically in the craft segment, making it difficult to accurately assess a company's market value. When Duvel acquired Boulevard Brewing Company in 2013, the market value of the Kansas City company was asessed at $100 million according to production of 187,000 barrels. The value of Firestone Walker is considered to be higher due to its portfolio and location in Southern California.

Under head brewer Matt Brynildson, profiled in the Summer 2015 issue of The Beer Connoisseur, Firestone Walker has won mid-size brewing company of the year four times at the Great American Beer Festival. The company has won the World Beer Cup champion brewery award four times and also has won the consumers favorite gold at the European Beer Star Awards for the last three straight years.

Boulevard seller John McDonald was looking for an exit strategy, which is not necessarily the case with the younger Walker and Firestone, who launched their brewery in 1996 at the Firestone Vineyard in Santa Barbara before opening the current brewery in 2001.

Ranked 16th on the Brewers Association list for 2014, Firestone Walker, like Boulevard and the Brewery Ommegang acquired by Duvel in 2003, will remain on the BA list because Duvel’s capacity does not exceed the maximum production limits the BA uses for its definition of craft brewing.  

Walker and Firestone are brothers-in-law. They said the family operation of Duvel Moortgat was a key part of the search for a suitable partner for future expansion.  They were “searching for the right match, specifically one with similar values, culture and independence. We found this in Duvel Moortgat, a family-operated craft brewer with a track record that spans four generations.”

“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 in a media release. “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”