Weird Beard Brew Co was originally founded by 2 home brewers: Gregg Irwin and myself, Bryan Spooner. We both started doing a little bit of everything, but slowly and naturally gravitated to certain, and separate roles. Gregg was more naturally suited to the Sales and business side, with his people skills and previous experience of running his own business. While I, with my Engineering background, was much happier in the brewhouse, using my hands, hiding from people and brewing the beer.
As we grew as a company in size and staff, I like to feel that we evolved into a team; a family with everyone involved doing their bit and helping build the brand. Weird Beard is now more than the sum of its parts and indeed more than the 2 original founders. Its identity is the people who work for us: past and present. Currently, we have 8 full-time members of staff: 4 in the brewery and another 4 in the warehouse/office unit just a few doors down on our industrial estate. Both Gregg and myself take leadership of each building and the part of the business of which that represents. Maybe here lies the first signs of our uneasy relationship with each other.
The beer is brewed, packaged, and finally passes a quality control check in Unit 5. I lead the brew team (Ryan, Ben & Kit) and with their help develop and brew 95% of the beers. We have a very open door attitude to the beers we brew, and any member of the Weird Beard team can suggest ideas and help out on a brew day. (Absolutely every member of our team has had to brew with me, even if only, just one time.) With the advice and information from the Sales team, I plan the brew and packaging schedules, along with making sure we have the staff in the brewhouse to facilitate this. The brew team manages all of the consumables required for these tasks like ordering ingredients, bottles, boxes etc.
Once the beer has passed QC and is good for release, it will be taken by our Warehouse Manager, Patrick, from the Warm Room to the warehouse at Unit 9. Once in the warehouse, Patrick orders the labels etc and uses any spare brewhouse staff to get the labels on the bottles. Rachel, our Sales Manager, then manages UK sales of the beer, whilst Gregg is across Export Sales. Natasha, who has filled almost every role in the brewery at some stage, is currently running Events and Social Media. She plans and runs events, orders any promotional items and deals with Customer Support and Social Media. All this happens in Unit 9 under the watchful eye of Gregg, who spends his days chasing money, paying bills, dealing with our accounts and all of the other fun business stuff involved in running a brewery.
Obviously, all important decisions are made by both Gregg and myself. However, we’ve experienced there is often a compromise here, as both directing parties have differing visions of what Weird Beard is and where we should be going. It is not surprising that Gregg has become unhappy; sitting in an office for long hours and from time to time, butting heads with your business partner is not a fun way to spend your days. Also, the ever increasing size of the team means there are more people to attend the fun events, so one of the more enjoyable parts of a director’s role slowly disappears.
Gregg is currently looking for a new role in a new company in the beer industry. When he finds this he will give his 1 month’s notice that he wishes to leave his directorial role in Weird Beard. He will still have a financial interest in the company, remain a shareholder, although reduced to leave me the controlling stake. In the short term, this will mean little will change, except all the top decisions will now be made by just one person. The day-to-day running of the business and brewing will not change. Soon we will be appointing someone to take on the Accounting and Sales, which Gregg has and no longer wants ownership of.
Even so, we will always acknowledge that Gregg has played a vitally important part in Weird Beard. We would not be who we are today without him and would, quite possibly, not exist. But his departure need not be a bad thing. First off, someone else in the industry is going to get a dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate new member of their team. Gregg can hopefully find his mojo and get behind making some beer he is truly passionate about again. As far as Weird Beard goes, the beers we brew will be the same; it will be the same people coming up with the ideas and making the beer but with just one person at the helm, it will be one vision. There will be no more compromise, no lengthy to and thro that often end in a stalemate with no change and no progression. Any underlying tension because of differences in directors’ opinions that has hung over the brewery like a cloud will disperse, leaving morale higher and leading to a much more relaxed environment.
I'm not saying it will be plain sailing and easy from here; there are challenges ahead. We need to find the right person to fill Gregg’s day-to-day role, but we are not looking to fill his incredibly large boots. The staff will no doubt feel uneasy whilst any changes take effect and while things settle. Sales may fall as Social Media potentially gets into a panic over Gregg's departure. It’s important that people beyond the brewery realise there has always been a quieter person by Gregg’s side also running the brewery and willing to take on a lot of the responsibilities Gregg will be leaving behind . My role is the one which will evolve the most in this time and I have prepared myself for this.
We will all miss Gregg and also Alison, Gregg’s wife who has been a great help and ray of light around the brewery since day one. We all wish him the very best of luck for the future and hope to see and work with him many times yet, wherever he goes. Moving forward, Weird Beard will continue to do what we do best and keep putting out new and interesting beers. We’ve already released some excellent new beers this year and have plenty more where those came from. Also, we’re looking forward to many more prestigious festivals this year. In terms of physical expansion, we are already growing some more, taking control of our third unit in our industrial estate in the coming days. We are not going let this change in our team, as significant as Gregg has been, slow us down. We can assure you, we will be making the best of this time of change. Collectively, we have plenty of aspirations, new recipes and plans and I am determined for us to see them through.
Co Owner, Head Brewer, Production Manager