Has the craft beer bubble burst? Our brewery’s co-founder, David Walker, discusses the industry he’s called home for 25 years in the latest BroBible article by Connor Toole.
Read the full interview here, or check out short excerpt from the article below.
Excerpt from BroBible Article:
David Walker left his native England for California in the 1990s to pursue a career in the tech business while growing grapes on the side. He eventually crossed paths with Adam Firestone, the operator of a winery in Santa Ynez Valley that his family had been running for generations, and the two men quickly bonded over their love of the beverage they were truly passionate about: beer.
In 1996, the duo decided to pivot when they founded Firestone Walker, joining the ranks of Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, and the other California breweries who would play a major role in putting craft beer on the map. I recently got the chance to talk with Walker, who was nice enough to share what he’s learned and observed over the course of his 25 years in an industry that looked decidedly different when he first took the plunge:
“The mid-90s was a tough time to start breweries. There wasn’t the expertise or the equipment or the route to market that is abundant nowadays, but our biggest hurdle was probably the indifference to the concept that beer could be anything more than a sort of refreshment.
We wanted to talk a little bit like winemakers; about provenance, recipes, raw materials, tradition, and the experience that comes with wrapping all of those things together.”
Their decision to figuratively defect from wine country was largely met with indifference by the vintners they were surrounded by, as Walker says, “They mostly shrugged. It was like, ‘OK, we make wine, you make beer.’ It wasn’t a big deal. It just seemed like a natural evolution.” The indifference of the typical American beer drinker was a much bigger issue, and in an attempt to address it, they took a page out of the wine-making playbook:
“Like the few hundred other craft breweries that were operating at the time, we tried focusing on connecting with our local community and telling our story.
The problem with the national scene at the time was the dysfunction. There were ‘craft’ brewers who were calling themselves craft brewers even though they were really contracting their beers to preexisting breweries. When new breweries started to get built, the theater—being able to touch the equipment, meet the brewers, walk through the facilities, taste the beers—made it more than just a label.
That was huge, and I think it was the magic that really got the industry rolling.”