By Michael Kew
BEFORE THEY FIRST MET, both homebrewed alone.
Both longed for a Coos Bay brewery.
Both spent months crafting crude sculptures in a ceramics class at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
“Yeah, he doesn't remember me from that," Annie Pollard told me amid light January rain outside the 7 Devils brewpub. “I was never gutsy enough to talk to him. I was afraid I'd get rejected."
Apparently, the dude didn't date much.
Year was 2003. Running a Dutch Bros. Coffee shop, Carmen Matthews toiled the grind—literally. Self-defined as “very picky," he’d been single for a while.
"I didn't know Annie was in that class because she was hiding from me," he said with a smirk. "She was a wallflower, and I was schmoozing with all the older ladies.”
By 2007, Pollard was a grad student, grokking marine bio at the University of Oregon campus in Charleston, where Matthews lived, nine miles west of downtown Coos Bay.
"We'd cross paths, but he still didn't know who I was. I kept seeing him because he was in a band and he worked at Dutch Bros. and he volunteered everywhere. Finally, I told my friends that I had a crush."
A mutual friend threw a bash.
"We were all hanging out in a room," Matthews said. "Suddenly, everyone evacuated…except Annie and I."
Pollard: "Our friends shut the doors on purpose and leaned on them so we couldn't get out."
"They were all in on the plan to get us together!" Matthews said, laughing. "Just lock 'em in a room....But it worked! By the end of the party, we were on the couch, awkwardly making out like teenagers."
Within a year, they’d domesticated in Charleston. Next came the 7 Devils seed and many odd jobs, including seasonal gigs in Alaska and Antarctica, where Pollard researched penguins—and from where, in February 2012, she flew to meet Matthews for their Kauai beach wedding.
They hadn't seen each other for 90 days.
"I'd fallen on ice and broken a tooth," Pollard said, chuckling at the memory. "I had Carmen bring me the dress and the jewelry. He planned the whole wedding—I just showed up! It was awesome."
Matthew's dad performed the ceremony. Barbecue and a classic Hawaiian sunset.
"It was super romantic," Matthews said, winking.
But today, four years on…how's the love going, guys?
"We have two relationships," Pollard said. "We're business partners, and we're life partners. If you let it, the business side will dominate—you've got to make sure that doesn't happen. In the first couple of years, the business side (of 7 Devils) was so all-consuming for us, and it was hard, but now that things are in place, our personal life is flourishing again. It's nice." (smiles)
We three were chatting two days after the two brewers had returned from a well-deserved stint on the Big Island, where, mentally, 7 Devils did not exist.
"I barely knew that I owned a brewery," Matthews said. "We're good about 'turning it off' when we’re out of town.”
What about while in town?
“We'll be at home having dinner, or sitting next to the fire, and we end up talking about work,” he admitted. “That can be a little bit of a cloud over the evening. We don't want to talk about work all the time, so we have to be really conscientious about focusing on each other and our relationship and our hopes and dreams beyond the brewery."
They balance each other out, he assured.
“I'm a spender, Annie's a saver—you would think that would cause a lot of clashes, but we've met in the middle. And when Annie is stressed out, I know exactly why, and vice versa. It's easier to be sympathetic. There's more understanding because you know where your mate is coming from.”
“Not all business partners are good business partners," Pollard said, "but because we were excellent life partners, we had a good chance of being good business partners. If we can work with money together, travel together, and sleep in a van together, we can run a brewery together."
"But the brewery isn’t our only baby," Matthews said, grinning.
The couple is due to birth a girl in July—7 Devils' busiest month.
"I'm a little terrified about the timing," Pollard said. "And I won't get to take maternity leave."
"It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out," Matthews said. "We're really excited."
"Yeah," Pollard laughed. “We're gonna need a bassinet in the brewhouse."
7 Devils Brewing Company
247 South 2nd St., Coos Bay, Ore.