California brewer Firestone Walker forced to delay Colorado entry

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Firestone Walker, the vaunted California craft brewer that was planning to enter the Colorado market next week with celebratory events in Colorado Springs, Longmont and Fort Collins, has suffered another setback that will delay its plans -- at least for a while.

"The licensing paperwork is not in place and we're going to have to scramble to catch up on a couple of things," says a clearly frustrated David Walker, the British beer lover who co-founded Firestone Walker in Paso Robles in 1996. "Our wholesalers import license needs to be renewed, so we're on hold for a couple of weeks."

It's news that will frustrate fans of the brewery as well -- fans who have been waiting for nearly a year, ever since Firestone Walker announced on Facebook late last summer that it was planning to enter the Colorado market by the end of 2010.

Those plans were delayed as the company searched for a distributor who would be able to import the beer with refrigerated trucks and keep the beer cold while it was in storage.

In fact, distribution problems are the reason why Firestone was planning to enter the state in several Front Range cities outside of Denver. "We have standards, like a lot of breweries," Walker says. "It was just a matter of appointing a wholesaler and getting our ducks lined up, and I kind of like the idea of launching in the outskirts first."

Walker now says Firestone Walker's lineup will be available sometime in July, but he isn't sure when or where yet. That lineup includes all of the brewery's mainstays, like DBA, Pale 31 and Union Jack, as well as its seasonal and special reserve beers like Solace, Double Jack, Walker's Reserve and Parabola.

The beers have won dozens of awards, including numerous medals at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. Located in California wine country, the brewery ferments its brews in oak barrels and uses British brewing traditions for its California-style beers.

Once Firestone Walker does finally start pouring in Colorado, it will be a special occasion for the brewery, which distributes 90 percent of its beer within one hundred miles of Paso Robles. " Colorado is one of our strategic markets. It will receive all of our beers," Walker says. "And we'll be part of an eclectic tapestry of craft brewers who are able to sell beer in Colorado."

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan.

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