To all our friends who have supported us these last three years, apologies that it’s taken this long to write this. On the one hand, it always feels a bit narcissistic to me when breweries come out with statements presuming that everyone has been waiting on the edge of their seat to get the scoop on stuff like this. When a CVS pharmacy closes down, we don’t bite our nails in hopes that management will give us an explanation why. We already know why. Side note, why is it that you never see a CVS close down? I go there for travel sized toothpaste, and never see more than two or three other customers doing the same. Why are there no Advil enthusiast groups online trying to explain that?
On the other hand, though, I fully understand the sense of sadness and well-wishing we’ve received the last several weeks. Since 2018 we’ve been building more than a beer following.
We’ve been building a community. As it was originally conceived, Katie’s Kölsch and Noble Heretic were never anything more than a particularly tasty means to an end. The end, the purpose of 6820 Hoffner and everything else, was to gather people together, to create a space where meaningful relationships could flourish. As ugly as it can get when you’re overextended on overhead, and as much as you never want to see a physical location go under, I don’t think there is any question that we succeeded in that goal. Be it gratitude or disappointment, every response I’ve seen on the social medias points back to the undeniable fact that people really loved this place. And hundreds or maybe thousands of new friendships and even a few marriages exist now because of it. Success.
I’ve also read a number of theories as to what finally happened in the end, so I thought I’d offer mine for what it’s worth:
We needed to make a bunch of money in order to stay in business. We didn’t make enough.
That’s pretty much the story in its entirety.
Though, not to be disingenuous, what they don’t tell you about closing a business, is that there never actually comes a day when you have no choice. The truth is, anytime you see a business go under, be it a small Mom ‘n Pap shop or a publicly traded corporation, there were probably years worth of sever challenges leading up to that, wherein, at any time, they could’ve decided to call it quits. But if you care enough about what you’re doing, and you care enough about the people whom you employee and the people who believe in the place, there is a nearly infinite amount of small sacrifices, and concessions, and further exposure that you can open yourself up to in order to keep that plate spinning. And the business monster will gladly accept every offering of stress and anxiety that you’re willing to burn at its alter (my training is in theology; couldn’t help myself).
So in that sense, I guess it actually is more complicated than simply saying we didn’t have enough money, because in reality, we never once had enough money in three years. It was an act of love and sheer will power on the part of my excellent staff and I that you weren’t reading this blog years ago. There are plenty of things we could’ve tweaked a bit differently or improved to try to get there, and COVID was no help at all, but no matter how much we climbed, it seemed the mountain kept growing.
The final straw for me was seeing how much the insatiable needs of the operation were making it impossible to keep people at the center of things. More and more, our fantastic brewhouse staff was being asked to turn coal into diamonds, finding ingeniously devised if absurd workarounds for equipment we couldn’t afford to replace. Much of our taproom staff was stepping up bravely to fill the gaps in management that we couldn’t afford to hire. And it was backwards how little time or energy I had in reserve to do the only thing I’d wanted to do back in 2015 when we started tapping out a business plan: have a beer and get to know you, the amazing people who had made this a second home.
The other thing they don’t tell you about closing a business is that, if you finally feel it’s time to throw in the towel on something that you’ve put so much of yourself into, the only better time has come and gone by months or even years. But the second best time is now.
That doesn’t mean that you’re seeing the end of Castle Church Brewing. Some of you have seen that a new joint, Brewlando Brews has taken over 6820 Hoffner and I wish them well. I believe you’ll even see some familiar faces there behind the bar and in the brewhouse. For our part, as Castle Church leadership, we are recalibrating. If the goal was never one big beautiful facility but to create gathering places for meaningful connections between people, there are lots of ways to skin that cat. And I’m taking a step back to reassess what business model and material surroundings will best serve that end. Like Edison, I feel like I’ve learned one way how not to build the particular lightbulb that I’m trying to invent (I obviously didn’t invent breweries, but I’ll take some credit for a particular kind of beer church social entrepreneurship), and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by a church of capable people who are ready to devise the next prototype with me.
In the meantime, we’ve been very fortunate to find friends in the community who are temporarily hosting our church community. If you’re interested in that side of things, you can find us at Rockpit Brewing on Sunday mornings at 10:30 and The Falcon Bar in Thornton Park on Wednesdays at 7pm.
The amount of love and support that you all have shown this place over the years, is precious and lasting to me, even if our first location was not. I hope you’ll share a beer again with me in the new future.
Cheers and Peace,
A blog that is too churchy for your drinking buddies and too drinky for your churching buddies.