Well here we are. All the years of planning, stressing, multitasking, fixing, solving, sometimes breaking down and crying (literally, and more than once), writing, calculating, reevaluating, re-planning, iterating, and formulating come down to the next couple of weeks. My pale ale is about to be transferred to the bright tank. From there, it goes into kegs, then out to my distributor, with a few kegs staying with me for self-distribution to bars near the brewery.
I'm excited, exhausted, trepidatious, elated, stressed, worried.
This brewery isn't just a business to me. It's a journey. It's the realization of a dream. It's knowing that incredible focus and hard work can get you to your destination, which is really just the beginning of the real journey. It's the financial future for me, my wife, and our two crazy, wonderful boys. It's personal. Very fucking personal.
It's a Hail Mary pass. There are no second chances.
This brewery has taken me to places I've never been psychologically and emotionally. It has stretched me beyond all the limitations that I've always held onto so fiercely all my life. I've overcome incredible doubt and the constant second guessing of what I should've done, what I could've done, and what I'm doing now. Never have I worked on anything this demanding, with this much intensity, and this long in my 47 years on this Earth.
What happens now? Will the first batch of beer live up to my expectations? Will it live up to the expectations of all the great people who've followed me or supported me all of these years? Will I disappoint? Will people be forgiving if I do? Should they be? Am I just a self-hyping, run-of-the-mill craft brewery?
I do not yet know. What I do know is this: I will never stop trying to make sure my beers are as good as they can possibly be. I will always try to be my own worst critic. I will make mistakes. I've made quite a few already. I will try to learn from these mistakes and I will try become a better brewer, a better business owner, and a better person because of them.
I will tweak recipes and processes over and over until I figure out how to make the best beer I know how to make. I will run this business in a highly ethical and honest way. I will become an important part of the community that has embraced me so enthusiastically.
But even that might not be enough. I just don't know. I'll be damned if I'll ever give up though.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this, the eve of the beginning. I stand on the shoulders of so many giants in so many ways: family, friends, other brewers, investors, all the amazing volunteers, and so many more.
To those of you out there who have been so supportive of me over these five-ish years, thank you. Most of you I've never met. Many from other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. You've sent me emails, posted comments here and on Facebook. You've tweeted, retweeted, shared, favorited. Those things might seem trivial in a world of social media clutter, but they sure as hell mean something to me, a millisecond of caring. So thank you a million times over. You have no idea how important these things have been to me on this journey.
To all of you whom I've actually met, thank you. Thank you for introducing yourselves and saying all of those wonderful, encouraging things. That too meant and continues to mean the world to me.
I will repay all of you by making the best beer I know how to make and hopefully spreading some joy to you and yours in some small way.
After all, I think that is what this is all about.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Gary Gulley Chicago, IL March 7, 2015.