Los Angeles Business Journal

Paso Robles Brewery Taps Venice for New Restaurant

Beer: Firestone Walker sees operation as mainly market research facility. By James Rufus Koren Monday, August 26, 2013

It’ll be more than just another brewpub.

Yes, the Venice site just purchased by Paso Robles brewery Firestone Walker Brewing Co. will eventually become a restaurant serving beer brewed on site.

But brewery co-founder Adam Firestone said a Firestone Walker location near the intersection of Washington and Lincoln boulevards will be less about selling burgers and suds than about market research. Its first venture outside of the sparsely populated Central Coast, the brewery aims to build a kind of satellite campus that will serve as an outpost in the heart of its biggest market.

“Paso Robles, it’s a long way from people. Our fans are down south,” said Firestone, whose great-grandfather founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. “We want to project ourselves into our market.”

To that end, Firestone Walker plans to use the new site not only to serve its existing line of beers, but to make some new brews and test them on customers. The site will house some of the company’s marketing staff, too.

The brewery sells the vast majority of its beer in Southern California, and about 25 percent of it in Los Angeles, Firestone said. By having a physical presence here, he hopes to get insight into what its customers want, and get it better and faster than he can in the brewery’s home town.

“Most of our successful beers take us years to develop and only through a lot of sampling,” he said. “We’re going to get a much broader cross-section of people down there.”

Firestone Walker has beer-tasting rooms at its brewery in Paso Robles and a restaurant in Buellton – combined population: about 35,000. Venice alone has around 42,000, and the neighborhood also draws from millions of tourists and L.A. residents.

“Our brewery is on a dead-end street in an industrial park in a cow town,” Firestone said. “It’s remote.”

New products

Frequent launches of new products are crucial to small and midsize breweries, said Alan Newman, principal of Alchemy & Science Brewing Collaborative, a subsidiary of Samuel Adams maker Boston Beer Co. that owns downtown L.A.’s Angel City Brewing.

“If we don’t develop new beers, customers get bored,” Newman said. “Having a small brewing system with the ability to sell off new products and get feedback is critical to new product development.”

Firestone Walker last month bought two adjacent buildings along Washington, just west of Lincoln, for about $7.5 million. One is a 6,719-square-foot restaurant space, formerly a Sizzler steakhouse; the other is a 4,418-square-foot office building.

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