Between them, Renae and Scott McKinnon (Wolf of the Willows Brewing Co), Diti and Dereck Hales (Bad Shepherd Brewing Co), Deon and Maggie Smit (CoConspirators Brewing Co) and Jacqui Sacco and Tim Martin (also of CoConspirators) spend a lot of time working with their respective partners. Wolf of the Willows and Bad Shepherd share a warehouse in Cheltenham, which is also where CoConspirators – a nomadic operation where everyone still works day jobs – produced one of its first beers. We brought the four couples together to talk about the highs and the lows of working with their partners.
What are the best aspects of working together?
Renae: Seeing just what an amazing leader he is. I really do look up to him.
Scott: Being able to build something together. If we weren’t in the business together, we’d probably have to get up, get the kids ready for school, run off to work, get home, put the kids to bed, whinge about our days with other employers and go to bed.
Diti: That we can share in this together. If good things happen we celebrate together. If bad things happen we can support each other.
Dereck: Having my rock next to me. I’m a really passionate guy that can border on stress and overly zealous enthusiasm, so having someone that grounds me at home and at work. Basically she helps me grow up.
Tim: I find I’m extremely difficult to work with. I’m challenging and demanding and stubborn and they’ll all probably agree immediately [laughter]. Jacqui is incredibly patient and tolerant. I’ve learnt a lot about customer service and being nice to people from her.
Maggie: Handballing stuff to him [Deon] when I don’t feel like doing it. We worked in the same industry together before and clashed because of that. He told me how to drive … no one tells me how to drive [laughs]. We were both paramedics and we had fun but butted heads. In beer we don’t butt heads.
And the worst aspects?
Renae: There’s never really an off switch. I guess that’s probably with all small business, there’s a negative side of always being happy to talk about the business at all times and it just kind of comes up. It sometimes feels like there’s no relief and that can put a strain on our relationship.
Diti: My boss follows me home. My boss waits for me to get out of the shower to ask me a work question. My boss is there just when I’ve put my baby to sleep, the kitchen’s cleaned and I just want to put my feet up. There’s no nine to five.
Jacqui: He’s very set in his ways. He’s the first person to say he is, in both business life and home life. But that’s also a positive because he can be the hard-arse for the business and get the best deals for us, ensuring we pay the right amount for wholesale goods. I come from a sales background so I’m a fluffy customer service person and he’s not.
Maggie: Bringing it back to our other job, we always made a point not to bring that kind of work home because it can seep into your life and take over and not be the greatest thing for your mental health. Beer doesn’t have that aspect but we do need to maintain a relationship outside of beer.
Do you both like the same beers?
Renae: Usually. I’m not a fan of full on bitter beers, like IPAs and that sort of thing. I probably stick to more easier drinking.
Scott: I think you have a more refined palate though. The India Saison was a key beer that Renae designed through her palate, which I think is one of our beers with layers of depth and character.
Jacqui: I don’t really have a time of year, I just drink what I like. I’m willing to try anything because I’m not as experienced as the other three. So anything we’re trying to make I try to drink as much as possible, because the others have homebrewed and been involved in beer for a lot longer than I have.
Tim: I think I’m more seasonal. I love stout and dark beers in winter, but on a hot summer’s day I love a gose. And I’m always a fan of classic west coast IPAs.
Maggie: We have pretty similar tastes. We’re both willing to try new things; a little bit seasonal like Tim. The thing we don’t really drink too much of is lager.
Deon: We sort of started our beer journey at the same time, and evolved at the same time. I think where our palate lies is similar.