Two weeks ago, June 6, marked the three-year anniversary of the date that I created the business plan for our brewery in Google Docs. In an inadvertent metaphor, Nicole and I also hiked up to the summit of Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina. At 6,684 feet, it is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Starting from Black Mountain Campground, it was a 3,000 foot elevation gain over 6 miles.
Geared with plenty of water and snacks, we started at 10 am and began the three and a half hour uphill trek. Despite the constant glute burn, we were treated to beautiful wildflowers and views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
Finally, upon reaching the summit (and why does the last mile of a hike seem to take as long as the previous five?), we got the payoff: clear skies, 360 degree panoramic views from atop the pinnacle of the East Coast. Off in the distance we could see two other mountains we’d hiked: Grandfather Mountain and Craggy Dome.
Sitting on the observation tower, we ate our cashew butter and jelly sandwiches, which were probably the best we’d ever tasted. I also splurged on a Snickers Bar from the concession stand at the gift shop. I forgot how great a candy bar that is. Somehow, everything tastes better after you’ve walked up a mountain.
After a short rest and soaking up the views, we headed back down the trail. Even though gravity was working with us, the burn goes from the glutes to the quads. Up or down, hiking a mountain is never easy.
Keeping a leisurely pace downhill, we made it back to the truck shortly after 5 pm. Pretty exhausted, it felt great to take off those hiking boots and put on flip flops. We threw our packs in the truck and headed to one of our favorite post-hike destinations: Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain.
There are fewer things better in life than the post-hike, post-ride, post-whatever beer. You’re exhausted but totally relaxed, recounting the amazing events of the day and sipping on a delicious beverage. (Remember, everything tastes better after you’ve walked up a mountain!)
Pisgah Brewing is a great post-hike destination for two reasons: the beer is great (Pisgah Pale Ale may be the perfect post-hike beer) and it’s a no-frills, come as you are place. You can show up covered in dirt and sweat and no one cares.
While sitting on the faded picnic tables sipping our beers, Nicole and I were reminded of why we’re doing what we’re doing with Fireforge. It’s to create a place that feels just like that. Enjoy great beer with friends and family. Encourage people to get out in the world and give them a haven to return to and relax. It’s our version of heaven.
We’ve spoken with a lot of entrepreneurs who have told us various versions of, “If I had known what it was going to take to start my business before I started, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But now that I’m through it, it’s the best thing I ever did.” In many ways, that statement applies to us.
Back on June 6, 2014, the brewery was going to be called Croxbone (pronounced “crossbone,” and we learned to not spell things to confuse people) Brewing Company, and Nicole and I were still living in Tampa, FL.
If someone had come up to me on June 7, 2014 and told me that three years later, we’d be back in Greenville, we had to rename the company and we still would be at least four to six months from opening, that sprout of a dream probably would have died right there.
Just like climbing a mountain, the best thing to do with any goal that seems monumental is to have a vision of where you want to go, and build the dream one task, one conversation, one action at a time. And adjust course as often as you need to.
Our original plan for this past weekend was to take a three-day backpacking trip to the top of Cold Mountain. A string of thunderstorms dashed that idea, so instead we went to Asheville, visited our friends at Hillman Beer, checked out the new Wedge at Foundation, and made an epic day hike up Mt. Mitchell. Not a bad consolation prize!
While I’m often frustrated at the slow pace at which our start-up process is going and I’m chomping at the bit to get open, anniversaries are a great time to look back at the progress we’ve made. And man, have we come far.
On June 6, 2017, the Fireforge Crafted Beer that we’re creating is so much better than what we started to put on paper June 6, 2014. Thanks to the help and support of so many people, we’re building something bigger than we thought possible at the time.
I hope that on June 6, 2018, I’ll be able to tell you stories of our start-up journey while sitting down over a pint at the bar in the Fireforge tasting room. Until then, dream big and start small!