click to enlarge David "the Lion" Walker

Jemma Wilson

David "the Lion" Walker

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Lion Comes to Town

An interview with David Walker of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Saison is gearing up for a beer dinner with David Walker. Recognize the name?

Walker, known as “the lion,” is a co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Co., along with his brother-in-law Andrew Firestone, one-time owner of Firestone Winery. Firestone Walker is a cult-followed California-based brewery known for beers like Parabola, an imperial stout and the highly praised 805, a session blonde ale with its own website and stand-alone brand, separate from other Firestone Walker products.

For the June 11 pairing dinner, Saison chef and owner Adam Hall will prepare dishes like caramelized alliums with crème frâiche, caviar and crisps, and binchotan-grilled quail with molasses and hazelnut. The six-course meal will also feature brews from Firestone Walker like the classic lager, Parabola, UnderCurrants (an American wild ale with black currants) and Bretta Rosé (a Berliner Weisse). We caught up with Walker to see what the lion loves about his beer and what he is looking forward to on his inaugural visit to Richmond.

Spoiler alert: This isn’t his first visit to our fair city.

Style: Why do they call you "the lion"? (I've heard about the flowing locks…)

Walker: It’s a British thing and I am a Brit … my partner Adam Firestone is the Bear and that’s a California thing.

Firestone Walker beer is described as having Old World and New California influences. That sounds complicated (and delicious) — is there a way you can describe your beer in simpler terms?

We love balance, we love the blending and we love the dynamic barrels play in this.

Did you always want to be in beer? If not, where else would you be?

I love the tangible impact of beer and brewing; steam coming from the building, steel, glass, the smell of malt being steeped, smiling faces as beers slip down….hard to imagine a better place to be.

You've been in business for 22 years, what have you learned? What could you have skipped?

Patience and the power of doing something carefully are powerful forces in success.

Your biggest growth has happened in the last eight-ish years — why? Has the partnership with Duvel Moortgat been a catalyst for more growth?

805 has caught the imagination of California, a place the size of a country. Keeping that thirst quenched is a challenge. The Moortgat family are fourth generation brewers who are respectful and curious as to the beer revolution going on in the U.S. They have afforded us the ability to build a brewery in our home that can chase the 805 but at the same time allow us the opportunity to invent and continue our search for the perfect beer.

You’re big in California — why do you think your beer resonates so well at home?

The sweetest beer to brew and drink is closest to the brewhouse. It’s a universal brewing truth so it’s no surprise California is our largest customer.

We love Firestone Walker in Richmond. Why the heck is this the first time you are visiting? Maybe you want to build a brewery over here?

I have been before a few times … but never with an introduction like this. Looking forward to it.

So you’re familiar with Richmond?

The legendary charm…

As an aside, I interviewed Matt Brynildson [Firestone Walker’s head brewer] a year ago for a Beer Advocate article. He was headed home from work and pulled off on the side of the road to talk with me. It was a very memorable and energetic exchange. He has a real vibe to him. What's it like to work with him?

A privilege.

Tickets cost $100 per person, and you can reserve your spot by either visiting or calling the restaurant.

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