Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s long-rumored plans to open a brewery outpost in Los Angeles have been confirmed. The Paso Robles-based craft brewery recently announced that they’ve acquired a space in the Venice/Marina Del Rey area where they’ll not only be pouring their beers, but also serving up food. Growler fills too? “Very definitely,” declares co-proprietor David Walker. He also confirmed via email that there are hopes of installing a “very small pilot system to brew a series of Venice/experimental beers”.
The new location will occupy 3205 and 3223 West Washington Blvd., just west of Lincoln Blvd., utilizing two separate buildings that previously housed a Sizzler and medical offices. As for when the new venture is expected to open, Walker offers, “We are in the ‘lap of the gods’ on this one, but our sincere hope is the second half of 2014.”
The brewery proper began operations in 1996, and their Los Angeles project has been in the making for some time. “We’ve been talking about [coming to LA] for at least 10 years, but haven’t been able to seriously consider it until the last two years,” Walker reports. And he’s no outsider phoning it in; in addition to living in Santa Monica back in the early ‘90s, he has remained a familiar face at many local craft beer events, as has brewmaster Matthew Brynildson.
Since its inception, Firestone Walker has garnered a great deal of respect and popularity in the Southern California market, as well as internationally. They’ve been named “Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company”—a prestigious top honor—at the World Beer Cup an unprecedented four consecutive times. Brewing an estimated 110,000 barrels of beer in 2012, they’ve grown to become the 20th largest craft brewery in the US by sales volume, and they’re projecting 150,000 barrels for 2013, a 36% increase over last year.
Walker fully admits that they are very early in the planning stages for Venice, and it’s not clear yet how they’ll be handling food quite yet. They will draw some inspiration from their two existing taprooms, one adjacent to the brewery in Paso (close to a four-hour drive from Venice on a good traffic day) and another in Buellton (two hours and change), but they’re also looking to incorporate some local flair. “Over time, we have created food we love—and think others love, too—that pairs well with beer,” says Walker of his current taprooms. “This will be a starting point [for food at the Venice location], but much will be decided as we dig into the neighborhood and discover what the locals are looking for.”
He describes the number of jobs that will be created in Venice and the size of their financial investment as “significant”; obtaining the two new buildings already reflects a buy-in of approximately $7.5 million. He continues, “I’m neither economist nor politician, but we hope to have a marketing crew, some educational staff, and a full taproom contingent pouring beer, serving food, and making folks happy.”
All told, he and the company are excited to become a bigger presence in the burgeoning Los Angeles craft beer scene, closing our interview with this last note: “Although many of us have been living craft beer in LA for decades, I think LA is just beginning to officially romance craft beer… and like all its romances, it will be steamy. I think the party is in full swing and we are pleased to be part of it.”