Ashley "Ash" Rowell -- former owner of Duff Beer Distribution and beloved figure in Houston's craft beer community -- was shot and killed at his Montrose home this past Friday evening.
Rowell answered a knock at his door around 7:45 p.m. on Friday and was shot in the doorway. According to the Houston Chronicle, Rowell then staggered into his living room, where he died as his wife and eight-year-old son called 911. In addition to his wife and son, Rowell's two other children -- as well as two of their friends, sleeping over -- were all present at the house that night.
The Houston Police Department does not believe this was a random shooting and has said that the shooter likely knew Rowell, which has led to speculation in the craft beer community as to whether Rowell's shooting was the result of a recent business deal in which he sold Duff Beer Distribution to Favorite Brands Houston.
Rowell's work with Duff brought popular and hard-to-find craft beers such as Clown Shoes and Wasatch to Houston. And before it was sold, Duff was a small, independent Texas distributor that promoted other small, independent Texas brands like Southern Star and No Label Brewing. By all indications, Rowell was very well-liked within the both craft beer and service industries. Ronnie Crocker, business reporter and craft beer blogger for the Chronicle, said of Rowell: "One of the nicest guys I've met writing about beer."
"I just am really without words for the slaying of a man who did so much for the hospitality industry and for his employees, and not to mention his family," said Joshua Martinez, owner of The Modular and a friend of Rowell's. "To be gunned down in cold blood? I am sickened and sad."
Reaction to the news of Rowell's death was swift on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Brandon Nguyen, owner of the D&Q Beer Station, wrote on Twitter: "He is a great Man and contributed a large factor in the craft beer in Houston. Everyone please pray for him and his family."
"Devastated by the loss of Ash Rowell, a pioneer of Hou's craft beer scene and one of our earliest supporters," read the Twitter account for Houston Beer Week. "Prayers for his family."
"We are heartbroken to learn that our friend Ash, the owner of Duff Distribution, was senselessly killed last night," wrote Ben Fullelove of Petrol Station on Facebook. "Ash was an amazing guy who helped pioneer the Houston craftbeer scene. We will truly miss him."
Very saddened to hear about the senseless shooting of Ash Rowell. Doing business with Ash was always a pleasure and that relationship grew stronger as he became our client and friend. From all of us at GW and BAC, we extend our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies for his family and hope for speedy justice in finding the animal that took such a good man from this earth. We will miss his honesty, his lust for laugh and his big heart.
Fellow industry veteran Carlos Rodriguez, executive chef at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse, wrote on Twitter: "Just heard the news about Ash Rowell. I'm totally shocked and saddened. Such a great guy. My thoughts and prayers for his family."
On Twitter, one of Duff's clients -- Southern Star Brewery in Conroe -- wrote: "We at Southern Star are mourning the loss of not just a business associate, but a dear friend Ash Rowell. We will miss you and God speed."
Further away, Clown Shoes Beer -- based in Ipswich, Massachusetts -- posted this tribute to Rowell on its Facebook wall:
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Earlier today I received the horrible news that Ash Rowell, the man who owned the company that brought Clown Shoes to Texas, was shot and killed when he opened the door to his home last evening. His wife and three children were upstairs. Ash was charismatic, energetic, had a brilliant mind, was a champion for craft beer in Texas (where being a champion for craft beer is a tough thing to be), and he was an absolute pleasure to work with. I just don't get it. Rest in peace, Ash. Thank you for being a friend. My thoughts are with you and your family.
The assailant has not yet been caught, although witnesses reported a dark-colored sedan speeding away from Rowell's home that night. According to KTRK, the police plan a "psychological autopsy on Rowell, putting together business dealings and friendships to find out who would want to hurt him." Anyone with information on Rowell's shooting is asked to contact the Houston Police Department at 713-884-3131.