This one hurts, guys. Blank Slate is closed and the beer community is stunned.
I won’t pretend that Ei8ht Ball didn’t hurt too when they closed their doors, because it did. This one is different though. Ei8ht Ball closed in a very different way, for very different reasons that Blank Slate did. Yes, the announcement caught a lot of people off guard – but there wasn’t the sting that I feel from this Blank Slate announcement (or lack of announcement).
I’m sad for the brewery to close, I’ll miss their beer – I’m sad that a small group of great employees are without jobs (even if I’m confident that they’ll land somewhere else) but most of all I’m sad that the unique outlook Scott had on craft beer is going to be harder to see now.
The Doors Have Closed, But Blank Slate Didn’t Fail
No – I’m not going to answer the question that I’ve been asked countless times today: “Why did Blank Slate close?”. The answer to that question lies with one person to answer correctly and honestly – Scott LaFollette. What I will tell you is that Blank Slate didn’t fail, despite what people are going to tell you. When you look at what Blank Slate was all about you have to remember what the whole very idea of the brewery revolved around:
We brew our beers by hand, without a lot of fancy computer controlled equipment. We believe that the soul of a beer is created with your hands, not with technology. Our focus is on creating unique beers that have a sense of time and place for the season in which they are brewed and the ingredients used to create them. Many of our beers are seasonal and/or culinary influenced. We create beers that are not just the same as everyone else. We start from the ground up with no preconceived notions of what beer should or should not be. Start with a Blank Slate. Think Different. Drink Different. And do it all for the love of the craft.
When I read this I think Blank Slate nailed it. Yes – the idea didn’t last forever the way we all thought that it would, or should. I can assure you that you’re going to be experiencing Blank Slate for a really long time, and I’m not talking about the beer – that won’t last on shelves very long now.
The pieces of this idea are all around Cincinnati – I’m not just talking about the pieces of equipment that have been sold around from brewery to brewery, or the brewers who cut their teeth learning from Scott. Blank Slate lives on in the very mindset that you couldn’t shake from the way they did things. There are countless people around this city who have been inspired and formed their very brewing identity based off of Blank Slate and for that alone – no one can say that Blank Slate is a failure and be even remotely right about it.
Despite the sting of what we all went through today – Blank Slate didn’t fail. Blank Slate certainly didn’t go away. The brewery just closed it’s doors.
What Can We Learn?
Here’s the more important part of this week’s news. We can learn a lot from the closing of an iconic Cincinnati brewery like this. There are easy things to learn, like sticking to your guns, knowing who you are, and understanding why you are doing what you’re doing. These are all extremely important things to know and follow.
But what does this all say about the craft beer community here in Cincinnati?
Again – you’re going hear a lot of people tell you that Blank Slate closed because they didn’t brew the types of beer they were “supposed” to – they’re going to tell you it’s your fault for not drinking more of Blank Slate’s “core” beers, or that you didn’t tell enough people about the brewery. You didn’t retweet them enough. You didn’t put a sticker on your car. You didn’t buy enough Turn for the Wurst. It’s your fault. It’s our fault that things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to.
When they tell you these things, they’re missing the point of what we should be walking away from this closing with.
What we can collectively learn from Blank Slate is to stick to your guns. If you only like to drink one-off, special releases, well… drink em. If you only like lagers, find your favorite lager brewery and own it, drink them. If you like the shiny new thing, the latest and greatest – do it. But… and this is a big but and something for you to think about. You’ve got to start knowing what you like, what you want this craft beer “thing” to become… and you’ve got to be that. If you enjoy lining up for special releases, and you don’t want to buy a breweries standard IPA off the shelf, don’t ever let someone tell you that you’re wrong.
If you like local, craft beer… drink local craft beer. We are currently shaping what Cincinnati’s craft beer scene looks like and feels like. If everyone tells you that a brewery sucks, and you like it… stick with it. And if everyone tells you that a beer is delicious, and you hate it… don’t drink it. But BE who your craft beer is supposed to be.
Put yourself into this, Cincinnati… all the way. Be. Gnarly.