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Quit your day jobs, open a brew pub. Two California teachers - a husband and wife team - have had that very idea as sales of their basement-brewed beer increase and their hobby turns into a near obsession. But these teachers have found a way to build a professional beer business and keep their day jobs. For our series The Secret Lives of Teachers, NPR's Eric Westervelt introduces us to this couple.
P.T. LOVERN: My name is P.T. Lovern. I'm a full-time physical education teacher and I'm the owner of Line 51 Brewing Company.
LETI LOVERN: I'm Leti Lovern. I'm a community college math instructor and I'm co-owner of Line 51 Brewing Company.
ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Teachers by day, brewers by night. It started as a passion project. It's now gone wild. Big basement batches of India Pale Ale and porters that just got better and better.
P. LOVERN: I'd been entering my beers into competitions, and they were scoring well. And, you know, all my friends were like, you should take the next step. You should quit your job, open a brewery. Your friends are going to tell you that your beer's great no matter what 'cause they just want to drink for free, so it's another thing for people in the market to actually buy it and drink it.
WESTERVELT: Now people in the San Francisco Bay Area are buying and drinking Line 51, which is named after an Oakland city bus route. In a West Oakland warehouse, teacher P.T. Lovern backs up the company's bright red bus they call Half Pint. Holes bored on one side allow for easy-access beer taps.
P. LOVERN: This is what we deliver in.
WESTERVELT: You've turned the short bus into a beer delivery truck.
P. LOVERN: Yeah. Well, it's ideal. The driver can just wheel the kegs right out of the back, right here.
WESTERVELT: P.T. masters the alchemy of hops and grains. They're his beer recipes. Leti does the books, payroll and, she says, offers moral support. They contract with a craft beer producer to make P.T.'s recipes. Then he and two employees work to distribute and market the beers around the area. As interest in their beer has grown, P.T. toyed with leaving his teacher job of nearly 18 years. But he says he simply loves it as much or more than being a brewmeister.
P. LOVERN: Now I'm comfortable doing both. It's kind of hard to think of a day where, you know, in September 1, I don't come back to a class. I couldn't see leaving them right now.
WESTERVELT: After barely two years, Line 51 is almost breaking even, and its popularity is slowly growing.
L. LOVERN: I said just don't quit your day job. It's his passion project. And it keeps him happy because who wouldn't want to pursue their passions, right?
WESTERVELT: It takes a little bit of the stress out that, you know, you're not depending on this for the mortgage.
L. LOVERN: That's exactly why it's still fun, yeah.
P. LOVERN: Yeah, and that's true.
WESTERVELT: Leti Lovern says she doesn't really worry what her community college math students think about her off-campus business. She does the books. It's math, and most of her students are of legal drinking age. But P.T. - well, he teaches middle-schoolers, and he seems a bit conflicted. He wants to be seen as a teacher with an innovative night job - a businessman, not a boozer. Our series is called, tongue-in-cheek, The Secret Lives of Teachers, but P.T. says at first, he really did try to keep the whole beer thing a secret. He remembers a surprising, initially awkward moment with his boss at a district-wide phys ed. planning meeting.
P. LOVERN: She said oh, I saw - I had your beer the other night. And I was like - you know, my jaw dropped - and I was like - because she was my new boss, and she didn't know anything about me. She's like it was really good, and my husband loves craft beer. And I was like oh, OK, great. And then, you know, it wasn't long until I didn't need to worry anymore.
WESTERVELT: In fact, the beer itself is named after responsible drinking. Whenever they do a craft beer tasting - market research - they take the bus - Line 51. They now encourage other recreational drinkers to do the same. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Oakland.
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