I’ve gotten to write many times over the last few months about new breweries opening up in San Diego, all of which seem to be doing incredibly well. That doesn’t seem to be the case for all of our local breweries.
Today credible sources have told me that Mission Valley’s Firehouse Brewing Company is no longer in business. I have not yet been able to confirm with anyone at Firehouse, calls and emails have not been returned, but it does appear something is going on.
Firehouse Brewing Co.’s Facebook and Twitter page seem to have vanished recently (and an older Facebook profile has been locked down to show almost no information). Although their website remains unchanged and the recording at their phone number says nothing out of ordinary.
If you know more about Firehouse’s situation feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below (if you would like to remain anonymous just enter a fake name and email address).
UPDATE: I have confirmed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California that Firehouse Brewing Co. voluntarily filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on March 27th, 2011. I am far from a a bankruptcy law expert, but as far as I can tell Chapter 7 is for the liquidation of a business’s assets and the business ceases operation (as opposed to chapter 11 and chapter 13 bankruptcy which govern the reorganization of a business)
UPDATE 2: Scott Patridge (whom Peter Rowe at The Union Tribune reported took over as President and Board Chairman of Firehouse Brewing Company in February) responded to an email I had sent earlier today. He said that Firehouse did indeed declare chapter 7 bankruptcy which he says in legal terms means: “a liquidation of a business’s assets and the business ceases operation.” He notes that the assets include both the physical property Firehouse owns as well as the brand itself. He says that the bankruptcy court will make the decision as to whether to sell the business in it’s entirety (brand and property) or sell off the individual assets. Patridge says, “If the company is sold as a whole, it is therefore conceivable that the FBC could re-emerge with new owners and a new management team.”
A commenter left a link below to the blog of Justin Burnsed who appears to be a recent graduate of the UC-Davis Master Brewers Program. According to this post on his blog dated March 20th, 2011 (seven days before Firehouse declared bankruptcy) he was recently hired as part of the brew team at Firehouse. He says that he turned down at job at Dogfish Head for the job at Firehouse. From his post: “There was one remaining brewer that survived the old guard and a prospective Brewmaster that would be working as a consultant to help right the ship. That was it for the production staff. They wanted to know if I was interested in rounding out this trio.”
This may or may not be related, but Burnsed mentioned a “brewmaster consultant”. According to posts on El Cajon Brewing Company’s Facebook page, David Meadows , one of the owners of ECBC was hired by Firehouse as a “master brewer and technical consultant”. On March 26th Meadows said he would be working with Firehouse until May 22nd, but a few days later on April 1st he posted that he was no longer with Firehouse. He gives no explanation for his departure.
I’ll admit, I’m not sure what to make of this situation. Firehouse President and Board Chairman Patridge ended his email to me with the following words: “Bottom line is, stay tuned.” While the recently hired Burnsed says in his blog post: “I haven’t a clue as to what’s going to happen in the coming months. … One thing I do know is that America loves a comeback story and I can’t wait to be a part of this one at the Firehouse Brewing Co.”
UPDATE 3: I just heard from Justin Burnsed, he said he’s back on the job hunt after working for Firehouse for about a month before they filed for bankruptcy. He hasn’t blogged about his experience at Firehouse yet, but if he does I’ll update this post with a link.