Blank Slate Closed

Blank Slate Brewing Closed And It’s My Fault 12 comments

Blank Slate Brewing ClosedAnyone that follows craft beer in Cincinnati knows that on Monday August 7, 2017, Blank Slate Brewing closed their doors for good. This came out of nowhere and without an official announcement, we were left to speculate.

I couldn’t believe that Blank Slate closed and I wanted to know why. There was no way that Scott LaFollette, owner of Blank Slate Brewing, closed because of financial reasons. Craft beer is too popular to run out of money. So it had to be something else, right?

But then on Thursday, Scott released an official statement. It was financial. The brewery that he opened, built and ran with a small staff had to close because there wasn’t enough money to keep it going. Six years of hard work just wasn’t enough to make his dream come true. It’s sad but it is very true.

Read his full statement here

Yes, Blank Slate Brewing closed and it’s hard to think that is even possible in a “booming” industry like craft beer. But it’s true and I think we all had something to do with Blank Slate closing.

Blank Slate Brewing: A Brief History

Scott opened Blank Slate Brewing in 2012. This was years before the big explosion of craft breweries. In fact, there were only a handful of breweries in Cincinnati at that point compared to the 40’ish that we have now. A small industrial warehouse off the beaten path on the east side of Cincinnati is where he set up shop.

Blank Slate Brewing Closed Location didn’t matter much at that time because taprooms were not legal. His plan was to make beer his way and distribute it. Then things changed and taprooms became legal. Location and atmosphere started to mean more than the beer.

During this entire time, Scott was running his brewery without any investors or much help outside of a minimal staff. He also wasn’t paying himself because every dime was needed to pay the bills. His beer was well known and enjoyed by most.

From the outside, it appeared he was growing his business slowly but was doing good. But that obviously wasn’t the case at all.

My Reaction

There’s one part of his farewell post that hit me hard.

Just remember that supporting the ones you like means more than just saying “I went there once and really liked their beers.”

As a craft beer enthusiast, I’ve tried to make it a point to visit all of the breweries in the Cincinnati area. I’ve been relatively successful with this goal so far. So I thought I was doing my part to support local craft beer, right?

But in the end, I had only been to Blank Slate once. “I went there once and really liked their beers.” I’ve ordered their beers at restaurants and picked up some of their canned beer from time to time. But at the end of the day, they weren’t a brewery that I had made any real effort to support.

In fact, when I really look at how I consume craft beer, I don’t know if I do a good job supporting any of the local breweries. When I try to “support” all of them, do I really support any of them?

I have a friend that drinks Rhinegeist Cougar 90% of the time. He literally buys it by the case and has a refrigerator full of it. He is doing more to support local craft beer than I am because Rhinegeist can count on him buying the same beer week after week. Breweries depend on repeat business.

I am at best an occasional customer of most breweries. Yes, I visit more breweries than most and drink a fair amount of local beer but am I doing my part? In my cases, I am waiting for the next great release before I open my wallet. Is that really helping these businesses? I would have to say it isn’t.

Blank Slate Brewing Closed And It’s My Fault

So it is my fault that Blank Slate Brewing closed. And in many ways, it is the fault of all of us. To survive, they needed more people to visit the taproom, buy their canned beer and provide them the cash flow to stay in business. They needed me to use my dollars to say that I liked their beer enough to make it something I drank on a regular basis. Not visit once and say it was good.

Blank Slate Brewing ClosedBut I can’t support every brewery and neither can you. I can only buy, drink and visit so many places before my efforts are spread too thin to matter – or I run out of money and time.

What we can learn from this is that each of us has a decision to make every day. We must support the businesses that we believe provide the product, service, quality, etc that we value. For me, I’ve made efforts to focus more of my drinking on local craft beer but I could always do better.

Am I sad that Blank Slate Brewing closed? Yes. But based on Scott’s comments, I think he wants to make sure that we all know that he loved what he did and did it his way. All of his effort would be for nothing unless we are able to learn from his hard work. So support local craft beer as I am sure that is what he will be doing as well.

Related Post: The Brewery Who Owns Who List

What To Do Now

This is simple; we must speak with our dollars. Support craft beer; focusing on local first.

That means knowing who made your beer and not buying “big beer”. The large beer companies have bought many craft breweries and we need to avoid those brands and instead focus on our local craft beer.

Blank Slate Brewing ClosedWhen deciding where to go or what to buy, we must consider where we are not going and not buying as a result. If you’ve heard of the concept of Opportunity Cost then this makes sense. By doing one thing, you are deciding not to do another. When I spend money at a brewery, I am not spending at any of the other 40 or so in my area. And you are doing the same.

Have We Hit Our Brewery Limit?

No, this isn’t about a “craft beer bubble” but it is about understanding that the craft beer industry is shifting a little. Being a regional brewery isn’t going to be easy but we are still in need of neighborhood breweries. That is where the growth will be in the immediate future.

And the reality is other breweries might close. It happens; it’s business. Don’t assume just because a place is well known or makes good beer that they will be able to survive. They only stay open as long as people are drinking their beer.

It’s been a rough week in Cincinnati for craft beer fans but Scott’s legacy lives on in every brewery that he helped and encouraged. Yes, Blank Slate Brewing closed but we can honor their hard work and great beer by realizing our decisions have power. In other words, support local craft beer.

Cheers to Scott and Blank Slate Brewing For Years Of Great Beer

12 thoughts on “Blank Slate Brewing Closed And It’s My Fault

  • Carl Lipton

    Why is no one talking about the fact that Scott was almost religiously against taking any equity investment? He even wore a T-shirt that expressed his opinion about venture capital.

    As I understand it, he tried to go it alone, more or less. MadTree took a different approach, and look at them now.

    I wonder if Blank Slate could have been saved from an equity infusion. Perhaps then Scott could have made a salary, followed by selling the business in a few years as a going concern.

    The point is that there were probably some options.

  • Erich Stegmaier

    Wise words, Joe. I assumed Blank Slate would always be there and that’s my fault. This closing really hurts because I respect Scott more than any other craft beer ambassador in this city. His blog that he posted as he was starting the brewery and since tells you the honesty and good-nature of his efforts. He was all about explaining and helping others that were interested in what was involved in the process. His was truly a labor of love. You really root for people like Scott and hate when it doesn’t work out. I hope that he continues his trade somewhere. He is needed.

    Erich Stegmaier

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      Thanks for commenting and providing that personal touch. I never got the chance to know Scott but I hope I cross paths some day with him. I’ve heard so many good things about this recently and hope that he finds himself involved in craft beer again.

  • Louise

    I think that this is, sadly, the story of so many small businesses. If you want small craft breweries to survive, support them – on a schedule! If you want access to local food produced by small farmers – attend the farmers market every single week. Your favorite restaurant? Make a habit of visiting them. The same goes for any small business. It’s tough to make it in today’s world being small.

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      You are right, this isn’t just about breweries. Every small business survives based on their “regulars”. Stopping in once and spending $10 doesn’t keep the lights on.

  • Backburner Brewing

    Great article Joe. I regret that I never visited Blank Slate and that’s shame on me. It’s funny, I always make it a point to seek out Craft Breweries when I go out of town, but I take for granted the ones we have here in our area. This article inspires me to make sure I visit, and keep going back, to our fine local breweries. I wish the best for Scott LaFollette in his future endeavors. And still, quite an accomplishment to have a brewery and have your product out there for the public to enjoy. That’s a dream that few of us get to accomplish.

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      I am the same way; if I go out of town then I am doing my best to get to breweries but at home there’s not as much of a push.

      And you make a good point, Scott lived out his dream for a handful of years. That is a victory in my book!

  • Forest City Brewery

    It is very sad to hear of Blank Slate closing. We are very similar in that we don’t have any venture funding, or bank funding involved in our project. We know how hard it can be to keep a small neighborhood brewery going, and can sympathize with Blank Slate. Great article! Hopefully all our local breweries can stay open, and find a niche where everybody can make a decent living…and amazing beer!

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      Yes, finding a niche and a neighborhood is key to success. I checked out your site; looks like you have a great spot. I’ll be sure to stop in if I get to your area, cheers!

  • Rachel

    I just need opera cream beer after this pregnancy! That was the one thing hubby was to have on hand when we got home from the hospital! 🙁 But I think Scott said it best when he said (along the lines of) find your spot and continue to visit your spot and not just always the new hip place. Which I feel is what over half of Cincy brewery goers do. They just swing by the new cool hip place and that’s about it until the next. I consider Blank Slate one of “the originals” in Cincy that got it going. And we may have only gone once a month, but we still tried to make it a thing when on that side of town. I loved my Bad Tom/Blank Slate/Streetside trifecta and now it’s unrepairable and it makes me sad 🙁

    • Craft Beer Joe Post author

      Hopefully there are still some kegs of Opera Cream floating around out there that will pop up from time to time. And I agree with everything you said. I love hitting the hot spots but don’t forget about your favorites. Visit your spot, buy their beer and let them know that you value them, cheers!

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