The craft beer scene is mourning the loss of noted Houston distributor Ashley Scott Rowell, who was gunned down at his Montrose home Friday evening.
The 35-year-old Rowell and his wife were hosting a small sleepover party for their son and two neighborhood children at 1824 Portsmouth, when they heard the doorbell ring around 7:45 p.m. As he opened the door, the father of three was fatally shot by an unidentified suspect who police say fled in a dark colored sedan.
“Ash was a good friend, and the best man I've ever worked for. He was a man who pursued his passion against difficult odds, and who cared for his company like a family.
In a Monday morning HPD statement, investigators say they believe that Rowell knew the gunman and that the shooting was not part of a random home invasion. Police officials tell KHOU Ch. 11 that some of the children at the party possibly had seen the victim on the ground.
As owner of Duff Beer Distributors, Rowell was known as a early supporter of the craft beer movement in Houston, providing hand-selected local brews and imports to beer destinations like Flying Saucer and the Petrol Station. Duff played an essential role in promoting area start-up breweries like Southern Star and No Label across the state.
"Ash was our distributor from the start and he really helped us get off the ground," says Bryan Royo of No Label Brewery, which launched in 2010. "He was a great guy and has done so much for the Texas beer community, especially in Houston."
Rowell founded Duff in 2007 from a warehouse in Pasadena and grew to distribute in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. After relocating to Garden Oaks in the past year, the company was sold to Dallas-based distributor Favorite Brands, LLC in late 2012.
“Ash was a good friend, and the best man I've ever worked for," Duff sales rep Kyle White tells CultureMap. "He was a man who pursued his passion against difficult odds, and who cared for his company like a family. The world is a diminished place without him in it.”
"He was the sweetest man I've ever met," recalls Jake Schiffer, founder of Leprechaun Hard Cider. "Never heard a foul word from his mouth the three years I knew him, and he only wanted to help everybody . . . Literally the last man on earth anyone would think to have his life stolen in such an evil way."
Investigation in progress
At this time, KHOU reports that investigators are looking into a 2010 lawsuit against Rowell and his mother, who helped secure the company's initial liquor license.
Court documents show that an original business partner in the company — the brother of Rowell's wife — was seeking financial retribution for being forced into selling his half of the company "at an unfair and reasonable price" in 2010.
The case was dismissed in July 2012, with roughly $600 in court costs going to the former partner.
Watch the full KHOU report:
CultureMap contributor Darla Guillen provided additional reporting for this story.