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Fathers of BC Brewing

I have noticed a trend in articles written about women in the beer industry, and it falls into an archetype that I don’t think entirely applies anymore. When we talk about women, we almost always talk about motherhood. As a woman and a mother, I see nothing wrong with this, except that we don’t acknowledge men and fatherhood in the same context.

I believe in equality in the workplace, and I see the craft beer industry support that. There are a lot of amazing women doing great things in our industry and I celebrate them and recognize their achievements. But I find women are often singled out as caregivers and parents, while our men and fathers are just not discussed in the same way. Jen Wint’s recent article in Taps magazine, “The Mothers of Brewing”, got me thinking about this. Why don’t we talk about our industry’s men as fathers? How would their answers be to Jen’s questions be different? How would they be the same? So I posed the same six questions to five brewers who are also fathers. Their answers were sweet and thoughtful and a great reminder that all parents struggle with the work and life balance, not just us moms.

The Dads

Matt Smith, Brewer, The 101 Brewhouse and Distillery Dad to Hazel (18 mths)

Jorden Foss, Owner/Operator, Steel & Oak Brewing. Dad to Jude (1)

Michael Lewis, Owner/Operator, Three Ranges Brewing. Dad to Isadora (4) and Keslin (5)

Scott Martin, Head Brewer, Townsite Brewing. Dad to Hugo M. (3)

Ross Thompson, Head Brewer, Cannery Brewing. Dad to Nora (22 mths)

How has fatherhood changed your career?

MS: I now work a slightly different work schedule to allow me to spend one weekday with my daughter. I don’t go to as many beer events anymore.

JF: It’s helped me to put things in perspective. Issues that always come up when you run a small business don’t seem as large as they once did.

ML: Dealing with the mayhem. Having never really been involved in the brewing industry, I didn’t understand how quickly things could change in all aspects of the business. The rapid attitude change of a child is similar. My girls have taught me the patience I need to properly react, or not react, to those changes.

SM: I’ve heard brewing for a living described as a lifestyle career. We work long hard hours for not a lot of money. At one point I was working two brewing jobs about 65 hours a week and drinking the remaining hours. For me, this job is a large part of my identity. I think that I would still be working that hard if I didn’t have a child. One 40-hour-a-week brewing job and a toddler is way harder. I’ve had to slow down on work.

RT: I have always tried to look towards the future but the nature of our jobs has us looking season to season, fermentation to fermentation. But now being a dad, I find the decisions I make in my career now require me to examine the impact it will have on my little girls’ life, whether it is tomorrow or 10 years from now.

What experiences in craft brewing have prepared you for your role as a father?

MS: You can’t really speed up or slow down a batch of beer. You can’t reason with yeast. But you can create the conditions where it will do what you want it to. Kids can be a bit like that.

JF: I’m pretty good at troubleshooting technical issues at the brewery. I can also now troubleshoot a baby’s toy or clothing that doesn’t fit properly.

ML: I was a father before I started brewing. I would say my children prepared me for the complexities of dealing with different personalities in one environment while trying to get both to go in the same direction. When you’re trying to get different products ready on a schedule and each requires a different level of care and attention, it reminds me of my girls every time.

SM: None. Other than I used to work shifts and the lack of sleep is nothing new to me. Also, in brewing, you can logically fix almost any problem that arises and it feels good when that is accomplished. With a baby, you often need to sit in shit, literally and figuratively, until the moment passes and move forward.

RT: Well, we are all really a bunch of children chasing our hobby/dream so working with like-minded individuals has really given me insight into how children think and function.

What is the biggest challenge of raising a family while working in this industry?

MS: A big challenge is just holding off on suds until you get things squared away with the little ones. Not too hard though, and probably better for my health.

JF: Events. Events are evenings and weekends and often I’m away from home. This can be a touch hard on my wife but on the positive side I sleep insanely well while I’m on the road. It’s not just a 9–5 job, and that can be difficult when you’ve got a baby who relies on routine.

ML: As a start-up brewery, the hours are the challenge. Knowing that one of your babies has to be fed, and the other ‘baby’ (your brewery) is what feeds them creates difficulty in managing your time. It takes a lot of time dedicated to establishing a brand in the market and ensuring you’re putting out a consistent quality product. Those kids require just as much or more time to maintain a close relationship. Luckily, as they get older, my wife can spend more time at work and I can spend more time at home with them.

SM: It’s challenging raising children. I’m sure it’s hard no matter where you work.

RT: I find the hardest part to be the amount of time spent away at events, festivals and even late nights in the taproom. Also, none of us are ever ready for the crazy onslaught of summer and the time required to get through it.

What’s the best part of being a dad in the craft brewing industry?

MS: The best part for me was when Emily was on mat leave, she would show up at the brewery with Hazel for a visit or to bring me my lunch. Or just thinking about them throughout the day and feeling happy.

JF: Bringing my son to the Tasting Room and pulling pints for customers. Nothing brings people more joy than a baby behind the bar. I’m fairly confident my liquor inspector would be chill about it too.

ML: Exposing my girls to a product I’ve created and showing them what pride in craftsmanship is all about. Establishing a sense of a work ethic in your kids is hard to do if they never see you at work. My girls get to come and spend time at the brewery with me, they see the operation, they see how it’s made, and they see the people enjoy it in a responsible manner.

SM: It’s fun to see my son want to learn what I do and how all the machines work.

RT: The craft brewing industry in BC is full of amazing, driven people. I am excited for my daughter to grow up surrounded by these types of people, no matter how weird we all are.

What’s your secret to getting through the workday after a sleepless night?

MS: A lot of the things I do at the brewery are things I have done over and over, so you develop routines. Your hands just know what to do after a while. But it’s always good to double check things before you start opening valves.

JF: I have a couch by my desk and come in early to catch up. Oh, and we have coffee on all the time. In fact we drink more coffee than beer.

ML: Luckily, my wonderful wife dealt with most of the sleepless nights. However, when it was my turn, it was caffeine and adrenaline the next day. The passion for my work and the desire to make a great business that my kids could be proud of and take over someday, if they choose, is always my motivator.

SM: They are the same thing. Work or home; things need to get done. Just keep going until you run out of energy.

RT: One word: coffee.

What career advice do you hope to pass onto your children?

MS: You spend so much of your life at work. Try to do that in a place that brings you happiness. And put your tools away.

JF: Do what makes you happy in life and find a job that you love. I left a job that I liked to start a brewery, which I love. Every day, even the bad ones, are still a joy and as long as you’re doing something you’re passionate about.

ML: Hard work and dedication pays off. Always treat people fairly and with respect. Most importantly, make a quality product that you love, and people will see your passion for it. That will sell more than your words ever can.

SM: Find a career that keeps you curious and passionate about learning.

RT: Never quit improving yourself and always surround yourself with lots of great, intelligent people (and lots of craft beer).

It is time to change our language around parenting. The fathers in our industry deserve recognition for their roles as parents and caregivers as much as the mothers do. Writing this article, I was struck by the emotional responses of the men I interviewed. It opened my eyes to my own narrow view of fathers in brewing. I believe that if anyone can make a societal shift happen, it is craft brewers. We are the kings and queens of outside-the-box thinking, after all. To make gender equality a reality we can start here, now, with this.

Many thanks to Cody Gregory for helping with this article


Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is General Manager of Townsite Brewing, and mother to Béatrix (5) and Hugo (3). Townsite: with the most Hugos per capita in BC brewing.

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