The saga of how one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering wine families launched one of the country’s most respected beer-making companies just got even more interesting: This week, it was announced that Firestone Walker Brewing Company will “combine” with 145-year-old Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat in order for the Buellton-founded, Paso Robles–based company to grow capacity while maintaining quality.
Firestone is a darling of the United States’ massive craft brew movement, frequently being named best mid-sized brewery in the country, strongly pushing the envelope of beer styles, and hosting one of the most anticipated beer-tasting events on the West Coast calendar.
The deal is reportedly not yet finalized, and the terms will most likely never be fully known, as both family-owned companies are privately held. Some are calling it an acquisition of Firestone by Duvel; others describe it as an investment. But co-founder Adam Firestone, who is the son of pioneering Santa Ynez Valley vintner Brooks Firestone and started the beer company with brother-in-law David Walker back in 1996, said it was certainly unique.
“This was a rare transaction,” said Firestone in an email. “We’re calling it a combination. They’ve invested and committed to more as we grow.” Reports of the deal range from $100 million to $250 million.
He also assured that there were “no leadership changes whatsoever.” A post on the brewery’s website explained that the brewery would remain much the same, but hinted that Firestone beers — of which 80 percent are sold in California — will likely be more available in other parts of the country in the years to come.
“The company is not changing at all,” said Firestone to this newspaper in an email. “We have been blessed with strong growth the past years and are up 30%+ YTD. Equally, we’re blessed with an amazing talent pool which is why we like the Central Coast so much. So there will not be a single layoff.”
Instead, he said that the brewery is actively hiring. “We are hiring vigorously right now and if anyone in your newsroom with PLC and automation experience, sanitary welding, logistics and warehousing or human resources management reads this, we’d appreciate them calling us,” he said.