This is excerpted from a Craft Brew News article from April 1st, following a visit to Firestone Walker's facilities in March.
Firestone Walker rose up out of California's Central Coast wine country immortalized in the movie "Sideways." And the Firestone family, which had earlier made its name in the tire business, owned a pioneering Firestone winery in the region for decades. Indeed, the original tiny brewery of 6000 square feet was "very much a hobby," built on the grounds of the family's winery in Los Olivos back in 1996. The wine connection remains strong (including a number of beer/wine collaborations). "The culture that exists in the wine community is a big part of who we are," said co-founder David Walker, which "speaks to the artisanal, experimental and quality" aspects of Firestone's identity. Firestone Walker makes some of the most acclaimed "big beers." Firestone Walker and its brewmaster Matt Brynildson were recently dubbed "the most decorated American brewery" by San Jose Mercury News beer columnist Jay Brooks. He pointed to its repeat wins at GABF as midsized brewery of the yr and also at the World Beer Cup as Brewery of the Year. These aren't major publicity ploys for Firestone (so far), but they are key to the company's culture, which focuses on the brewmaster and his team (Matt is a partner) and gives them a lot of latitude. "My function," said co-founder Adam Firestone, is "to enable beer-making." Adam also ran Firestone winery from 94 to 2006.
Firestone Walker Goes Deeper With 805 At the same time, Firestone Walker is also making its play for the mainstream. "We need to talk to the 85%" of people that haven't noticed craft, as David "optimistically" estimates. Leading the charge in that regard is of course its 805 brand, an easy drinking blonde ale that is so far a runaway success along Calif's central coast. The brand with the area code for a name (like Goose Island's 312) is "more of a lifestyle than an area code," said David, and it's become a source of local pride. This spring 805 has expanded further into Southern Calif and will also sell in cans starting in May.
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A "Cathedral" of Barrels in Buellton; Feral One Firestone Walker has a second facility in Buellton, 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, that includes a taproom/restaurant, a tasting room and Barrelworks, which opened in Jan 2013 and houses its wild and barrel aged beers, which the co calls a "Cathedral of Barrels."