A neighbor complained about a lively day of business at my brewery, and that was the beginning of the end.
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It was May 12, 2014.
I’ll never forget the day we received our cease and desist order because it was my husband’s 33rd birthday.
A few days earlier, we’d had one of the biggest weekends our organic farm and brewery had ever had, so we were ready to celebrate! We were completely blindsided by this small envelope that contained a piece of paper that would change the entire trajectory of our lives.
Let me back up a little bit.
My husband and I are originally from New Orleans (well, technically, Slidell, Louisiana, but nobody knows where that is), and we decided to leave about two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged our area. We were young, my husband had a nice amount of savings from renovating houses, and we were hot (it is so hot there; imagine taking a steaming hot shower, not drying off and putting your clothes on), so we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, where my parents had relocated a few years before.
We found an amazing property in the Columbia River Gorge that looked out onto the Columbia River and the Oregon Cascades. Again, we were young, and starting an organic farm of our own sounded like a fantastic idea at the time! And it was, but it was also brutal. There were long hours, little profits and a seasonal way of living at best. A few years into the farm, we started homebrewing because let’s be honest, our farming operation didn’t quite support our love of craft beer. And we got pretty good at it! My specialty was fondly named Hair of the Dog Stout, and not for the reason you might think, but because the first time I tried to brew, I dropped the oats on the floor, and my dog’s hair got all mixed in! Don’t worry — those were the early days before we let anyone else try our beers.
The rise of craft beer
At the time, #craftbeer was all the rage; this was circa 2010, and breweries in Portland like Breakside and Amnesia and breweries in the Gorge like Double Mountain and Full Sail were crushing it! We realized this was an opportunity for us to create a product that wasn’t seasonal — we could brew and sell our beers all year. So my husband and I built our tiny little taproom from the ground up on the edge of our top garden We had two: the “top garden” and the “lower garden.”
We did all the necessary paperwork (and there was a lot!) to get our brewing operation up and running. But there was one thing we didn’t do: read the fine print. However, we did work with county, city, state and federal officials to get everything in order, and we were approved.
So off we went brewing, farming, baking bread, making cheese and raising chickens, goats and sheep — all the things to make our dreams a reality. And things were going along quite nicely for a few years; our precocious daughter was about two when we opened and enjoyed playing with all the visitors (and digging in their purses), we had our sweet son in 2013, pu
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I Made This Simple Mistake and Lost My Entire Business at Its Peak