What do you do at Rhinegeist?
I am the Safety Coordinator, in charge of making sure we are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant and that everybody goes home safe. The way that our employees walked in, that’s the way I want them to go home. With no injuries.
What does OSHA-compliant mean?
OHSA compliant means that we [Rhinegeist] have a set of rules and regulations that we are required to work by. When Rhinegeist was small we did not have as many regulations to follow. Now that Rhinegeist has grown to the size that we are now, we fall under a lot more regulations. We need to give employees the proper tools, policies, and procedures to stay safe on a daily basis.
What did you have for breakfast?
I had strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. That’s what I normally eat every morning before I go swimming at 5am at the YMCA.
Wait, OK, let’s pause a minute here. What time do you wake up?
I wake up at 4am. I have my blueberries, strawberries and raspberries and one cup of coffee with cream and raspberry flavoring. Then I go swim at the Y, at least a mile, every day. I’ve been doing that for about six years. I usually get to work between 7am and 8am.
When I was a firefighter for the City of Cincinnati our shift started at 7am and went until 7am the next morning. Twenty-four hours. I would get my workout in before shift, so that meant getting to the fire station around 5am. That’s the way I’ve been and old habits are hard to break. I feel better getting my workout finished early.
You’ve had a variety of jobs during your lifetime. Can you talk about the most recent ones?
I drove motorcoaches for a bus company. We do weddings, we do commercial shoots, haul rockstars in Prevost buses, very expensive buses. I’ve worked as a Safety Officer on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. That lasted a couple of years until oil went upside down. And then I’ve worked here!
Talk more about the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico!
When I started it was the beginning of 2014 and the ship was actually being sailed from a China shipyard. I sailed on it for thirty-two days from the the east coast of Africa to the west coast of Africa. Then I was flown home and, fifty-three days later, I met the ship in Curacao when it got across the Atlantic Ocean. From Curacao, I took it to the Gulf of Mexico, getting prepared to drill for oil. That was an unbelievable job — I didn’t know anything about the oil business, but I knew a lot about the safety.
There was a crew of one hundred fifty on our ship at any one time with two safety officers. You worked twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week. You worked twenty-one days at a time and then were off for twenty-one days. I worked with people from all over the world. I dearly loved it, it was a really neat experience.
What are some of the challenges that get thrown your way?
Just the basics. Wearing your safety glasses, wearing gloves when they’re needed. And not just leather gloves, but your chemical gloves. It’s teaching people that these are the basic things, but then there’s also things that go hand-in-hand with those basic things. But basic PPE, personal protective eyewear, gloves, safety shoes are your first line of defense. Then, as you get into working with chemicals, additional PPE, working with machinery to do maintenance, that’s where you have to learn “lock out, tag out,” where you take all the energy away, so when you work on a machine, it doesn’t start up. Doing it the same way every time. And, if we have a new machine, figuring out if there’s a new procedure that needs to be worked on.
Do you have a spirit animal?
An eagle. An eagle is top notch, the epitome of our country, of the United States of America.
I always thought that I’d only see one in captivity. Then I took a trip to Alaska with my family in 1986. It was September and that’s when the salmon run and that’s when thousands of eagles go to Alaska to hunt and fish for salmon. I would wake up in the morning and there would be two hundred bald eagles flying over the river where we were staying. It was an unbelievable experience. You would go past trees where they would roost, just imagine seeing that many bald eagles in a tree — I didn’t know there were that many in existence!
What's your favorite TV show?
Right now, it’s Blue Bloods. It’s Tom Selleck, the whole family are police officers. My Dad was a fireman, I was a fireman, my son is a fireman. Three generations. The show is very true to life, it’s a good depiction of what goes on in the world, this is what happens to people, and then on Sundays the family comes together and sits down to dinner. That’s important and sometimes is forgotten in the world today. You’re so busy running your kids to this and that and there’s no sit-down time.
What’s your favorite Rhinegeist beer?
Panther. I am a dark beer drinker. If there isn’t a Panther for me to drink and I’m just in any other bar, I’ll drink a Guinness. I consider Guinness to be a pork chop in a glass.
Have you been to Ireland?
No, I have not. My wife is Irish and she’s been there, but that’s on my bucket list!
My wife used to work for American Airlines, she was a reservationist, so she’s been all over the world, a lot more than I’ve ever been. For a long time, I would not go out of this country, I didn’t even have a passport. I always told her there was so many beautiful things in this country to see before we start going abroad. I finally did get my passport because I’m part of The State of Ohio Urban Search and Rescue team.
Talk more about the Urban Search and Rescue Team.
The Urban Search and Rescue Team, Ohio Task Force 1. They are a group (the best of the best!) of firefighters, civilians, engineers, dog handlers, etc., that in major incidents — 9/11, hurricanes, earthquakes — work with the State to assist local entities. When the federal government comes-a-calling, we go to work for FEMA. We have all these specialty people — one hundred plus — that can go out the door on different teams.
I’ve personally been deployed to Hurricane Katrina and searching the town of Pass Christian for survivors. Our team was at 9/11 and they were there for twelve days. There are twenty-eight teams like this across the country. These teams are self-sufficient, which means we roll out the door with equipment, food, water, lodging, enough for fifteen days before getting replenished.
What do you enjoy most about this place?
Our founders have taken something from an idea — we want to get into the beer business — and had no inkling that we’d be where we’re at at this time in four years. It’s amazing to watch! Even the owners, Bob [Bonder] and Bryant [Goulding], go, “Holy crap!” this is nuts and it is.
I had businesses over my career — a construction business, a snowplow business — and it took me fifteen, twenty years to get the kind of reputation we’ve got, selling beer and having a product that people want to get their hands on so quickly. And then to be able to keep it together, ‘cause I know in business, you make a few small wrong moves and your business is no more. That’s what really amazes me, and then the team they’ve put together here. Bringing in, finding the best people that fit what we do. There is no sign of stopping. It’s a remarkable feat.
Where’d you grow up?
I grew up here in Cincinnati. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, there for six weeks. Then, my Dad got into the fire department here in Cincinnati and I’ve lived here ever since. I was raised in Northside, College Hill, Price Hill, we moved around a lot because my Dad was a Cincinnati Firefighter and at that time it depended on your contract where you could live, either in the city limits or outside the city limits.
What did you get up to in school?
I went to Finneytown High School. I was the drum major of the band, I was a baseball player, I was a wrestler and I played pickup games of basketball. I didn’t get serious about basketball until I went to Cincinnati State to become an auto service management tech, which is an auto mechanic, because I loved building cars. I started playing basketball for the Cincinnati State team in the junior college league.
Talk more about your love for cars.
Well the first car I owned was a 1962 Plymouth Valiant that had a push button transmission — it was on the dash! And that was the one that I saved money to buy. As a 16 year old, it was a dream to have a car.
I loved working with my hands. My Dad was a Seabee in the Korean War so he was in construction, so I learned to build all kinds of stuff. Working on cars was a fit, I loved doing that.
When I got to college, I had a 1969 Chevelle Supersport, 396 all bored out. Here’s me, Mr. Safety Guy, but I used to go street racing on Friday nights!
What was your first job?
My first job was with one of my uncles. He was a produce peddler and had a truck and drove around neighborhoods. I was able to go with him and deliver the groceries. People would come out to his truck, it was always housewives with little kids. So we would carry the bags in and then, when he made a super buy on a bunch of strawberries or something, my Dad and myself, we would take our pickup truck and go out in the neighborhood and yell and scream and say we had strawberries for sale. That was my first job. I was 13 or 14 years old.
If you were a Rhinegeist beer, what would you be?
Bubbles. Because women love Bubbles *laughs*
Is there a piece of apparel you wear the most?
The Dri-Fit shirts! They’re so comfortable.
Do you have a famous lookalike?
Bruce Willis. People call me that all the time.
What kind of music do you enjoy?
Chicago, Beach Boys and any oldies. I’m from that era.
What was your first concert?
It was The Beatles! 1964 at Cincinnati Gardens. Some friends of ours were going and they took me along, I was only eight or nine years old. I didn’t really know anything about The Beatles, but I’d heard their music.
The Beatles were a phenomenon. I can remember people screaming at the concert, especially the girls. As I got older and realized what I’d been to, it’s ingrained in my mind, history in the making.
Where does the beauty of the brewery lie for you?
It’s this taproom. To watch people’s reaction who’ve never been here, when they walk through that door and go, “Oh my God.” And then all the other little facets that are here: the buffalo on the wall, the pictures, the cornhole, the tables that make you feel like you’re in a picnic area.
It’s hard for people to take it in all at once because they step in and they stop! It’s like, “Keep going!”
What’s the best part of your personality?
I’m easygoing. True to my convictions.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Double-decker ham and roast beef from Red Squirrel Deli, over by the post office.
What do you do when you’re not 'Geisting?
I love to watch baseball. I go to Reds spring training every year. I love to stay active. I ride my bicycle, my wife and I have a tandem. We’ve really gotten into a game called pickleball, really tennis but smaller. It keeps you very active.
Do you remember your first Reds game?
It was at Crosley Field, a kid glove game. The baseball team I played on in Price Hill went to the game and sat in the bleachers in right field. Metal bleachers, I remember that very vividly. And Pete Rose was playing right field. This was ‘64 or ‘65.
What’s something about you most people don’t know?
I’m adopted. I didn’t know until two years ago! Age fifty-nine.
My birth mom and my adopted mom were sisters. I was born in California and my birth mom got tuberculosis and back in the 1950s, most people didn’t survive that. I have three older siblings and my adopted mom went out there and brought us all back to Cincinnati and raised us all for about a year and a half. When the rest of my siblings went home, I stayed here and was adopted. My birth mom gave me up and nobody told me until my adopted mom got very, very sick and my dad was in distress and just blurted it out. My wife and I were like, “What? What are you talking about?!”
In the big picture, when you fill out forms at the doctor, and put down family history, it was not correct. When I found out about being adopted I found out that everybody else knew but me! I was the first child of my adopted parents, and my dad was in the fire department, so all the firemen knew, but no one said anything. My aunts, uncles, cousins, no one said anything. They probably all just thought I never talked about it. Why bring it up?
Where did the nickname “Hux” come from?
In the fire department there is a tool which is called a Hux Bar forcible entry tool. Sometimes when people pronounced my last name they would say "Huck-stra." Hux became my father's nickname during his career and it was handed down to me and now my son has inherited the name. Three generations of City of Cincinnati Fire Fighters.
What’s your favorite bagel topping?
Regular cream cheese.
Do you cook?
I love to cook. Being a fireman you cook everyday in the firehouse. I probably cooked for my crew of ten for seven years. Every third day, I cooked. I was tutored by an Italian fireman who taught me to cook Italian food, all kinds of specialties. My adopted mom was a very good cook, so I learned to cook from her also as I grew up.
What’s your best dish in the kitchen?
Braciole! It’s a round steak, tenderized, then you put pepperoni. onions, mushrooms, parmesan cheese and all sorts of Italian spices. You roll it and tie it. You can use canned sauce, but you really should make your own tomato sauce and let it cook for eight to ten hours. It becomes so tender that as you cut it, it just falls apart. And the mixture of the pepperoni and the onions and all that in there…
We’re about done with the interview. Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
To my wife Mary for putting up with me for 38 years! Because I’m a dreamer. When I had my businesses, I was always trying to get to the next level and she supported me. She also knocked me down a few notches when I needed to be knocked down. You need people like that. I was very fortunate to have someone who was always in my corner, but also willing to pull the reigns back on me.
What are you looking forward to about the future?
That we can make this an even better place to work, the safest place to work. We’re all human and things are still going to happen, but we need to train people and help people understand that safety is going to allow you to have a life away from Rhinegeist Brewery and allow you to enjoy that life.