Carolina Beer Guy: Couples discuss working together in Asheville’s brewing industry

CHEERS TO LOVE: Asheville's brewing industry features numerous married couples who work at the same business. Clockwise from top left are Eeva and Trace Redmond (Highland Brewing Co.); Amanda and Pete Langheinrich (Asheville Brewing Co.); Brandi and Greig Hillman (Hillman Beer); Cristina and David Ackley (Ginger's Revenge); and Erica and Joey Justice (Sweeten Creek Brewing). Redmonds' photo courtesy of Highland Brewing Co. All photos courtesy of the subjects

As the local craft beverage community has grown, so too has the number of married couples working at the same brewery. Some share a ride to work, grab lunch together and, at the end of the day, can conveniently enjoy a pint with each other. But balancing home and work life with one’s spouse brings a distinct set of challenges, especially for those who occupy the same office.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, Xpress asked a few of these couples how they make it all work.

Erica and Joey Justice met on the job at Highland Brewing Co., where she worked in quality assurance and he was the head brewer. Married for nearly five years now, they left Highland to open Sweeten Creek Brewing in late 2015. He’s head of operations, and she handles the bookkeeping and considers herself a Jill of all trades, filling in as needed in the tasting room and around the brewery.

“He’s a lot better than I am at the big picture stuff,” Erica says. Meanwhile, Joey says his wife’s role is “to keep me grounded. She’s the reasonable one.”

Sweeten Creek operates with a small staff, and the Justices see each other throughout the day, sharing rides to and from work with their dog, Beaudean, and cat, Yamar. ­”Before we were married we were friends, and we still enjoy that,” Joey says.

Brandi and Greig Hillman have been married for 10 years. Before establishing Hillman Beer with Greig’s brother Brad Hillman in 2017, they operated Subway sandwich shops in Asheville, Black Mountain and Old Fort. The couple still owns the Subway in Old Fort, the town where they’re currently building a production brewery, though, as Brandi notes, “Beer is way more fun than sandwiches.”

At Hillman, Brad brews the beer, Brandi handles marketing and public relations, and Greig oversees operations and logistics. “I’m spending a lot of time with the build-out [of the Old Fort brewery],” Greig says. “We see quite a bit of each other at one location or the other, and there are days that we don’t see each other until we come home at night.”

Regardless, Brandi says they greatly enjoy “being able to share the success of the brewery,” and Greig feels that “at the end of day, it brings us closer.”

Eeva and Trace Redmond share a workplace at Highland Brewing, where he develops new beers as the brewing innovation manager, and she oversees public relations, community outreach and charitable giving. They’ve been married three years, and both previously worked for Roak Brewing Co. in Detroit, though when Eeva’s current position became available, she was hesitant to apply.

“I wasn’t sure if we were ready to work at the same brewery again,” she says. “I’m really glad I took the opportunity, but I wouldn’t have done it without having a real conversation with Trace about the benefits and challenges of working together again.”

Trace agrees that it’s important to keep their work life separate from their home life. (“We leave work at work,” he says.) It also helps that their jobs keep them in different parts of the expansive Highland facility, though their schedules occasionally overlap. “We often pack a lunch [to share], and I enjoy that,” Eeva says. “And we get to carpool.”

At Asheville Brewing Co., Pete Langheinrich is the head brewer while his wife, Amanda, is the brewery’s merchandise manager. They’ve been married seven years — he brewed a beer for their wedding — and they see a lot of each other at the downtown Coxe Avenue brewery. “We get to take a lot of lunch breaks together,” Amanda says.

They’re both aware of the challenge of taking their jobs home. “There are times we have to raise a flag and say, ‘OK, let’s stop talking about work,'” Pete says. “Before you know it, it’s 10 at night, and we’re still talking about [our jobs].” Amanda concurs: “I have a hard time shutting off.”

Ginger’s Revenge brewery co-owners Cristina and David Ackley share an office. Their three-year wedding anniversary is in April, but they’ve been together for 11 years. He is CEO, brewmaster, sales manager and distribution manager for the ginger beer brewery, and she focuses on front-of-house operations.

“As the company has grown, we’ve found it’s been important for us to divide our responsibilities,” David says. “[Cristina and I] spend a lot of time together. Sometimes we have disagreements, but it’s an opportunity for us to grow as business partners and life partners. It’s pretty amazing to be on this journey together.”

The Ackleys initially shared a ride to work together when Ginger’s Revenge opened in 2017, but now they take their own cars. “It’s helpful in having some time and space to ourselves,” David says.

As for Cristina, she considers the best part of working together to be “that we have this shared context, and we get to build something together. And the end of the day, I look at David and know exactly how his day was.”

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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