This one hurts. A lot.
We have received multiple confirmations that Blank Slate Brewing Co. has ceased operations effective immediately. As one of the original, and best, local breweries – this is truly a loss for the whole region. Please keep Scott and his employees in your thoughts today, as this is surely a hard moment for him and his team.
They wouldn’t put something like that out there unless they were sure, so I started checking around with more than a little bit of dread. And damnit, it checks out. You couldn’t have screwed this one up, guys?
It’s like a death in the family. I’m way too familiar with what that feels like so I know exactly what I’m saying when I say that. I can’t imagine what Scott and everyone else is going through.
Blank Slate is the brewery I’d name if someone asked me to name a favorite brewery. I hate that question because I really don’t have a favorite per se. I spend way more time than is healthy hanging out at breweries and when I do there’s a beer there that, at that moment, is the greatest beer in the world. And I probably went there FOR that beer. So when people won’t let it go, I’d interpret the question as “What brewery are you most in awe of?” And then it was easy: Blank Slate. No question. Scott bootstrapped that place from Day One. You didn’t have to talk to him very long to know the place ran on a razor’s edge financially. He made it work.
Until, apparently, it didn’t.
I don’t know the details. They aren’t any of my business. I know owner Scott LaFollette well enough to know that the decision wasn’t made quickly or impulsively. I’ve never asked him a question where there wasn’t a beat or two while he thought it over before he answered. I know there are things he’d never compromise on. If this is what he thought he had to do, then that’s it. Everybody is going to want to second-guess this. It’s human nature. I get it. But no one had more skin in the game than Scott. I’m not going to insult him by thinking I’m somehow smarter than he is. I will think less of you if you do. I trust he couldn’t come up with a way to make the business work and put out the product he wanted to put out. Scott has integrity. I mourn with him. I don’t criticize him.
I speak of the brewery as if Scott were the only one there. That’s not at all true. The people he hired are top-notch. They made the place what it is … er … was. (Oh, I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.)
When he had time Scott blogged about the brewery. Just after he opened he wrote this:
The success of Blank Slate Brewing Company is defined by the following (in no particular order):
1. Make the best quality beer that we possibly can.
2. Always be approachable to our customers and never forget where we came from.
3. Further the local beer industry as best we can through our words and actions.
4. Make enough money to pay the bills with enough left over to keep a roof over my family’s head, food on the table, and take my wife on a vacation somewhere farther than 10 miles away sometime in the next 5 years!
The first three were accomplished many, many, many times over. I’m guessing it was that last one that did it. It’s been five years.
So Blank Slate Brewing is apparently no more. That’s a damned shame. The people who made Blank Slate are still with us. Thank them. Support them how you can.
There’s a lesson here, as there is in any tragedy. This is what happens when chasing the new and the distant and the rare becomes more important than who’s making it. You want local? Support local. You want great local? Then support the places that are making great beer. Not the trendy. Not the newest. Not the flavor of the month.
Not everybody is going to make it. The choice of who does is up to you.
1 I’ve been dealing with some medical stuff and missed that Jesse was working with Tom over at Brew Minds now. My apologies for the misattribution.