Thursday, August 10, 2017

This is the end...beautiful friend...the end.

As most everyone knows by now I had to make the tough decision to close Blank Slate Brewing Company earlier this week.  My intent was to do it with little fuss or fanfare…just fade off into the sunset as they say.  I didn’t want to leave a sappy farewell.  I removed all social media to save myself the heartache of reading whatever comments would be written.  I have purposely “gone dark” with respect to anything in the media, whether social or traditional.  I am grieving at the loss of the business, the dream that I have worked tirelessly at creating for the better part of 10 years.  There’s a lot to process emotionally and I didn’t want to add the stress of having to deal with it publicly.

It has come to my attention that in the absence of an official explanation there has been much speculation as to the reason for the brewery’s closure.  It was never my intention to mislead anyone in that respect.  With as many breweries as there are now I didn’t think anyone would really notice if our little operation just faded away.  The reason for our closure is pretty simple.  We ran out of money.  There is no big conspiracy, no secret takeover, no legal troubles or personal issues.  We simply don’t have enough cash to keep going.  

If you know anything of the history of Blank Slate you know that it was built on a shoestring budget.  Just me, myself, and I in the beginning.  Every penny I have or will probably ever be worth went into starting and growing the business one day, one customer at a time.  It might surprise some people to know that the entire operation ran with 3 or less people for its entire existence.  It might also surprise some people to know that I have never personally made a dime from it.  I never even drew a salary.  I have relied on my loving wife for personal financial support for almost six years now.  Keeping the operation afloat has been a struggle every single day of its existence but we made it work...until it didn't.  There have been at least a half dozen times through the years that I thought we were going to have to go out of business but I always managed to cobble together enough money to pay the bills.  I was determined that we would succeed doing things “the right way” by putting the product above all else and growing business honestly and organically, on our own, by our rules, and without outside influences.  I never had much access to capital.  I never ran in the circles that put me in the same room as a bunch of rich guys who I could get to “fund my dream”.  I had to build it myself, physically and figuratively, and truth be told I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.

Eventually as we grew I did ultimately find some people who believed in our product and philosophy enough to fund a needed expansion beginning in 2015 that would get us “over the hump” towards profitability.  However, by the time everything was in place by late 2016 the brewing landscape had seemingly changed.  A dozen more breweries had opened, all better funded than us with nicer taprooms and slicker marketing.  Instead of our volume growing as expected it stagnated and in some areas actually decreased.  We simply did not have the means to keep up with the ever increasing costs of trying to stand out in a crowd when compared to the next shiny new thing coming down the pike.  Put all this together and an already tight situation becomes untenable.  I tried raising more money but to no avail.  The shoestring finally broke and thus here we are.  Pretty simple in its complexity isn’t it?

I am truly appreciative of everyone who supported us through the years and I am sorry to anyone I have disappointed.  I am also sorry to the employees that I had to let go.  It’s like breaking up a family and I have cried many times since Monday about it.  Although there were many things left undone, many beers left unmade, I am very proud of every single thing that we ever did as a company.  Everything we brewed was for the love of the craft above all else.  Maybe it wasn’t to the extent that I had hoped but I’d like to believe that we helped educate and evolve the palate of beer drinkers in this town at least a little bit.  In the end there just wasn’t enough people who liked our beer or agreed with our philosophy to make us a viable company and that’s OK.  We gave it our best shot and it just didn’t work out.  There will be another ten breweries in this town in the next year to take our place (along with the 30+ that are already here).  There are more craft beer choices than ever in Cincinnati and in many, many ways that is a good thing.  Just remember that supporting the ones you like means more than just saying "I went there once and really liked their beers.”

I have heard bits and pieces about the outpouring of support that we have received in the last few days on social media and I am truly appreciative and humbled by it.  Whether Blank Slate ever exists in a physical nature again is pretty hard to say at this point but it appears that it may live on in people's memories for quite some time and that fills me with a sense of satisfaction that at least we accomplished something worthwhile.

As for me, I have a lot to do and a lot to think about.  I started this business by myself and now I have to dismantle it by myself.  I need time to grieve and time to heal the “wounds” that this experience has left me with.  There is still some product working its way through distribution that I need to deal with so be on the lookout for that in the coming few weeks.  

Hopefully we will all cross paths again at some point down the road.

Thanks again for the memories.
Scott LaFollette
Former Proprietor, Janitor and Yeast Farmer
Blank Slate Brewing Company

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
- J. Morrison