A few weeks Gene and I were talking about the brewery. This is not surprising, as the brewery takes up a good half of our conversations these days (as in, when couples say, “What did we talk about before we had kids?” and “and a brewery” to that sentence and that’s pretty much our lives). The surprising part was that this conversation didn’t center around beer or brewing, but around people. His staff, to be exact.
I’ve written an ode to these guys in the past, so I won’t go into their amazing qualities here. The important part of this particular story isn’t the guys, it’s how they came to be in this place.
As Gene and I were talking about his staff and the peculiar love for some aspect of brewing geekery that each of them brings to the table, the conversation turned to how thankful he is that they do this for love, because (I think we all know) they aren’t in it for the money. Which then led to to conversation about how they are able to work for love of craft rather than need of a fat paycheck.
For a long time, I thought Gene and I were an anomaly in the relationship world in that I was the one with a steady job, a paycheck that covers most of the household bills, and (most important, let’s be honest) good health insurance. Those things allowed Gene to chase his dreams. And he has done so admirably, turning a myriad of hobbies into paid businesses (musician, boy scout, brewer). None of which would have been possible if he was required to play Ward Cleaver and bring home the bacon.
[It helps that I do love what I do (though I didn’t for a while, but that wasn’t the job, it was the environment). Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would resent his ability to chase his dreams. I’m chasing dreams too. Mine just come with a corporate bonus.]
But as I delve further and further into this world of brewers, I’m learning that we are not as unique as I once thought. You see, each of Gene’s brewing staff shares one quality – a wife who is frighteningly like me. They also have a steady job, a paycheck that covers most of the household bills, and health insurance. (*Disclaimer, I haven’t delved into these poor women’s finances, nor can I attest to the quality of their health insurance – these are generalizations based on conversations Gene has had with their husbands in the course of daily physical labor interspersed with beer sampling.) The takeaway is: without their wives giving them each license to do what they love, they wouldn’t be here. And our brewery would be much worse off for it.
Lest you think our whole brewery operation is some freak of relationship nature, let me assure you that this is not the case. In the Kansas City area, I know of several brewery owners who are brewers in whole or in part because their wife or significant other does the heavy lifting financially. This is a thing, people. Maybe even a sign of a shifting family dynamic?
I would love to explore this with some high level, extremely un-pedantic sociology, but I am not even remotely qualified to speak for a generation. I can tell you that in my family, we never really gave much thought to who would have the “grown up” job. I had a college degree (then two, then many more than I needed) and the temperament to handle a traditional, show-up-every-day-and-do-what-someone-tells-you kind of job. If you’ve met Gene, you’ll know that he does not. Beyond that, what Gene did for a living wasn’t really a concern, as long as he was able to be home to care for the kids when they needed him. Musician was an easy start. He worked weekend evenings while I was home and stayed home with the kids during the week. Then he added ropes course facilitator, which was basically a paid Boy Scout camp counselor. These days, brewery ownership has all but suffocated room for his other hobbies, but most days Gene still marvels that people pay him to do this. And that, I think is the mark of a man chasing his dreams.