Monday, May 3, 2010

Fireman's Brew: A Tale of Two Guys, Beer, and a Goodwill

"Fireman's Brew: A compelling story behind the craft beer."
Los Angeles Times (May 1, 2010)

"Just about every amateur brew master who has made a tub of beer in the garage has dreamed of going pro.

"But Los Angeles County firefighters Rob Nowaczyk and Ed Walker, who expanded from home brewing to founding the commercial Fireman's Brew Inc., had an edge over most would-be brewery owners.

" 'Everyone likes firefighters,' Nowaczyk said. 'People respect what we do and that we put our lives on the line every day.'

"That goodwill helped kick-start their brewery into profitability after only about three years. It also didn't hurt that Fireman's Brew donates 5% of its net income to the nonprofit National Fallen Firefighters Foundation...."

Brewing good beer helped, too, I suspect. Goodwill and good intentions only go so far.

The small company isn't doing at all badly:

"...Woodland Hills-based Fireman's Brew is now sold in upscale supermarkets such as Gelson's and Whole Foods, and in restaurants such as the Barney's Beanery and Hennessey's Tavern chains. In 2009, the company - which offers three types of beer, plus a brand of coffee sold only to firehouses - had $500,000 in sales.

"That's not even a swig compared with the $36.8 billion in revenue that industry giant Anheuser-Busch InBev had last year.

"But while it's not a great time for the beer industry overall — sales of domestic brews slipped 2.2% in 2009 and foreign brews fell 9.8% — the craft-brew segment made up of small, independent breweries that produce less than 2 million barrels a year is growing, according to the Brewers Assn.

"Indeed, sales of beer from craft breweries were up 20% in the last two years, the association said.

"The rise of craft brews is all the more impressive in that they generally retail for about the same price as imports.

" 'The difference is most imports don't have a story behind them,' said Eric Schmidt, research director for the Beverage Information Group. 'Having a story plays into the authenticity of the beer. It's not being sold to you by a guy in a suit in a boardroom.'..."

Bingo. I think Mr. Schmidt has a good point. Major brands, with their industrial brews, can have a sort of "personality," but that's a little harder to do these days. Maybe America's masses need to be protected from the Hamms Bear, but I'm not so sure.

Still, it's nice to see that a couple of guys who like to make beer can do so - and make a little money, too.

The company has it's own website (no big deal, these days):Related posts:Or click "beer" in this blog's

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