A letter to our Craft Community,
It isn’t easy to compose a letter that tells the story of a company which started almost 8 years ago, only to know that our journey is soon coming to an end. We built our company on the idea that we would offer up our lives, freedom, security and comfort zone to build what we consider a brewery that will stand tall and be respected in the eyes of our craft community. Quitting my day job, taking loans for capital, selling just about everything we had are just a few examples of actions we had to take to turn our dreams into reality. We traveled down a road in which we could not return.
Joining the scene we knew that we were in good company among craft beer lovers. We were eager to embark on our mission to add to this amazing craft beer scene and provide another choice of craft beer to the world, viewed through an entirely new set of eyes. We plunged forward and did whatever it took to make it happen. As an example, I was working for 9 months during the brewery build where I had to work at my engineering job from 1:30am to 11am in the morning, then jump over to the brewery to continue to build until 10pm. The 3 hours of sleep for 9 months took a toll on my health and life. Even so, the hard work paid off! After numerous sacrifices and constant perseverance, Valiant was officially open to the public on February 13th, 2013!
Big ambitions and ideas are the backbone of new business. The term big was something that I didn’t take lightly. All I could think about was brewing BIG beers with bold flavors. Our facility, well BIG right, who opens a new brewery with a 20bbl system?! When I thought about Valiant, I thought of things like taking the leap of faith, giving it everything you have, being bold, courageous, strong, taking the road less traveled, but lastly, not giving up. As if it was a match made in heaven, Valiant encompassed simply everything that was natural to what we wanted to brew, how we operated and simply how we tackle the adventures of running a brewery. All these fundamentals were branded in our beers, in the way we ran the business, and the heart and soul of each of our employees. This is why the name Valiant was nothing short of perfect for us.
If anyone asks if it’s hard running a brewery, I would totally say YES! Usually the next is inevitable: it must be so fun to drink all day right? Umm, kind of but…YES! It would be wrong to say that it was anything but fun to have twenty samples of beer sitting on my desk at 9 am in the morning and watching the mailman’s face light up in shock seeing all this beer in front of me, usually words never make it out of his mouth, I mean what can you say! It’s times like these which make running a brewery so unique. When I reflect about being with our customers, I think about when I’d be having one of the most challenging days but then I get the opportunity to sit down with a customer to have a beer in our tasting room. We sit there, talking about life, problems, joys, fixes for our world or really just whatever comes to mind. I forget about my difficult day and I get caught in the moment having a truly enjoyable experience knowing that my beer is allowing this event to take place. That’s special, I truly mean that. What other industry has a story like this. Helping people enjoy life or simply knowing that what I have made with my hands is adding joy to their day, is truly an amazing reward.
At this point, you might be asking yourself: now why is Brian telling me all this? Well to be honest, it’s hard, very hard, letting go. What I mean by this is that sometimes life throws things our way that we aren’t ready to handle or know how to deal with. And we have to make a decision. Sometimes we know exactly what to do, sometimes we fake it, but most of the time we simply gather all the facts, put them together and form a response or action. We all know that when doing this, we might be wrong, we might miss something or as humans are, we make decisions that affect others. Consider this last circumstance something that became a reality for me to figure out with the direction of our brewery.
Slowly over the years while being open, we’ve gone through highs and lows. We have made our mistakes at running our brewery; we have made good decisions and some bad ones. Some of these not so good decisions did set us back as a company, but hey that’s how you learn! The main motive for the company was to keep it growing in awareness, beer selection, quality, diversity and a genuine love of craft beer. Our team rose to the challenges, sometimes taking on new roles within the company simply to make it through these low times. No matter what the task, Valiant persevered those times and continued to move forward. It is a true testament to our employees, those who have gone before us and those that currently work for us, that demonstrates their abilities, dedication, strength and passion that is in the heart of our team, which has helped a small business survive and better yet thrive! My wife and I are truly blessed with our current team; we know that without them, we simply wouldn’t have had the same amount of success.
The road up to this point in time has been long. As I mentioned, it’s been almost 8 years since committing ourselves to this brewery. We had visions and predictions of where we would be along that time frame, we had goals, and most importantly knowing that after a certain time frame that our operation would be self-sufficient meaning it made enough to pay for itself and support those who worked there.
This was important since when we started, we simply spent all our capital on our facility and equipment leaving us little to no extra cash to advance with. This put a lot of stress on the brewery performing right out of the gate, which is somewhat ambitious on our behalf, but like I said prior, we did take the road of no return so we pushed onward.
This decision did have a repercussion in that during these ups and downs, when money was tight, it came out of payment to us, a simple paycheck. This situation occurred more times than I wanted, but we kept pushing forward, reinventing the wheel and giving it our best. As time catches up, as it always will, this occurrence of not receiving a paycheck started taking a toll on me and my family. Therefore, the time came when we had to evaluate the situation and decide if this is something we would continue forward with.
When we started this company, we made a strictly personal decision — we never wanted to bring in investors. Maintaining full control of the company and what it represents is very important to us. The direction to have additional resources could have put Valiant on the road to greater success, but at what cost to who Valiant is? That’s the underlying question and as such, both my wife and I made the choice that since we couldn’t give up our company to investors, in addition of running short of funds to support our family, we made the extremely hard decision that we needed to find someone who would purchase our equipment before continuing and risking the chance of harming our family. This event has taken place and as such, after March 31st, 2017 Valiant Brewing will no longer be in business.
There isn’t really a whole lot more that I can elaborate on with what will happen after we close, but I do know that while this news is sad and somewhat sudden, it is the honest truth in that everything happening at this point is really one man’s obligation to his family to ensure they are protected and taken care of. As to what will happen after this time frame, we will simply stop selling beer and hope to hold everlasting good memories of what Valiant Brewing Co. has provided to this industry.
We, meaning myself, my wife, and our amazing employees, are all going to miss serving everyone at Valiant. I could spend days writing on just this one part of my goodbye message but the main thing that I wanted to share is that during this journey I have learned so much and what I’ve learned will forever be with me in a way that I can apply to everything that I do and who I am.
You might be asking yourself now, what is Brian going to be doing after the brewery closes? To be completely honest again, I simply don’t know. Not enough time has been given to me to really figure that out. Our brewery up until this point has been the main focus, taking every ounce of my ability. After the closing of Valiant, I will evaluate my options and make my move. Going back to race car building, building customer ballistic solutions, becoming a brewery engineer consultant, who knows! One thing you can count on is that I’ll be setting up my homebrew equipment and from time to time keep up my skills of making craft beer!
In conclusion, we owe so much to our loyal fans. Without your support, this adventure wouldn’t have been possible. Of all the memories that I personally have, this is something that I will forever have to share, to reflect and to live my life with. It has been truly a pleasure to provide you with our craft beer and nothing brings me to a better conclusion then allowing us to make our last time open full of special releases and consider this our extended 4th Anniversary! So do me and my team one last favor, and get up and head over to Valiant to pick up some beer and allow us to say Thank You and Goodbye!
As for the journey that we started with, it will never end, but will continue onward in another direction. Being Valiant is something that we all need to do and be living examples of. We should never give up on our dreams, but changing paths and moving forward isn’t giving up — it’s the start of a totally new and exciting journey!
Brian Schroepfer / (for the last time) Owner and Head Brewer!