What do you do at Rhinegeist?
I work in the packaging dpt. Specifically on the CFT line. Right now I’ve been working on doing Inventory Management and Forecasting—making sure we have what we need on hand and in-house.
How’d you end up in that role? Walk us through your Rhinegeist journey.
I started in Kentucky at Riverghost. I was a driver while we launched Louisville and Lexington. When the opportunity came up, I came here (to the Brewery) and started working in the warehouse. I spent about a year learning the ins and outs as we developed that department. An opportunity came up in packaging, and I jumped on it. It was my opportunity to learn the process lines, the CIP systems, etc. The heartbeat behind all of it was just really enticing to me. I’ve been there for about a year and a half.
Talk about the Riverghost days.
So there was maybe six of us: Me, Sam (Hookway), Ryan (Osner), Nate (Yelton), Tyler (Grimm) and Megan (Weller). Just a small group but we got along really well, so it was like working with friends. It was incredible. You’d go in, load your van, drive down to make your deliveries, come back and recap your day with everyone—it was just a tiny little warehouse but we made it our own. We’d play golf with basketballs, practice trick shots, and even made up a few games - I loved it (laughs). It was this new, spawning little seedling of a thing. To be a part of that while it was happening, and to watch it start to grow—that was just phenomenally rewarding.
How did you get connected with the Rhinegeist world?
I had never been, but I had been a home brewer for a bit at that time. I was really into craft beer—just loved it. I was having fun just diving into all the little corners, especially as it was blowing up here in Cincinnati. My wife brought me to Rhinegeist for my birthday, and just—the people! The atmosphere...I knew there was something special going on in this building, and coming from a very structured, corporate background, I immediately said to myself “This is where I feel like I need to be. I want culture, I want… I need this.” And luckily, we were in a good place so my wife was like “go for it!” I signed up for every tour, I signed up for every event...any time I saw that Bob, Bryant, or Jim were hosting or attending I would show up with my camera, and ask a million questions. I’d email them afterwards with the pictures and just spam the hell out of them until I got an email that was like “Hey, what’s your story?” I remember sitting down with Dennis (Kramer-Wine, Director of Culture) for my interview, and the first thing he said to me was “You’re intense.” When I know that I want something, I’m goin’ after it, and nothing’s gonna stop me. I remember my first day at Riverghost, I’ve got a brand new Sprinter van full of my new favorite beer, and I’m driving off, and I’m just like “This is insane! I’m in!” I still feel that excitement over three years later.
What were you doing prior to Riverghost?
Oh man. Mostly sitting at a desk in customer service and sales. I had done some pharmaceutical assistance...I had done work in IT...I had worked at two different banks. You know, it’s Office Space. You laugh, but you die a little on the inside. For some people, that works, but sometimes you don’t wanna pay a dollar to wear blue jeans to work. The fact that you can wear what you like to express yourself and be you—I find value in that. Sometimes companies hire people because they need an ass in a seat, but sometimes I feel like they hire people because of what that person brings to the company. And I feel like expression is important—being able to be you in your role brings a lot of value.
Where’d you grow up?
Cincinnati, Ohio. Born and raised. Monfort Heights, White Oak, Colerain. Colerain HS. Represent! It was a good time. Great people, great communities.
What did you have for breakfast?
Granny Smith Apple with peanut butter and a hug from my buddy Jaalen. Like a Boss.
What are some of the challenges that get thrown your way in your current role?
For Packaging, we’re at the mercy of how beer ends up fermenting. If a beer needs a little more time in the tank or isn’t at the perfect carbonation level, and we thought we were packaging it today...we’re not packaging it. It has to be absolutely perfect before it goes out. It’s a living thing. You can get the science down, brew it perfectly, hit all your numbers, but sometimes it pushes back and you just kinda have to wait it out or give it some extra love to get it where you need it to be. On the inventory side…making sure we have all the materials in-hand, on-hand, ready to go. Lots of vendors and tons of materials we have to track with an ever-growing schedule. There’s so many moving parts...every single six pack has been touched by us.
Do you have a spirit animal?
I’ve thought about this. It’s fictional. I come back to Garfield. Constantly. Dude loves to eat, he loves to nap, and he hates Mondays. That screams to me.
Do you have any nicknames?
Oh man, yeah. Growing up my Uncle Dave always called me Crackers. Not sure why, but it’s a pretty epic nickname. Bootleg Craig was another, and a buddy of mine dubbed me Gravity Man.
Gravity Man, because everything in my life just kinda gravitated toward me. That comes from a place where, when you want something, you try to will it as much as you can. Bootleg Craig originated from being the kid that could burn CDs when no one else could do that. When I started homebrewing, it kinda just fit. I’d much rather be Bootleg Craig the Beer Guy than the CD Guy.
What’s your favorite Rhinegeist beer?
Trips. I absolutely loved Trips. Incredible flavor, wonderful balance, beautiful color. I loved everything about that beer. Loved the packaging. Loved the flavor. Great beer. I also love Fiction. It’s super unique, super tasty. You’re really able to experience a lot of what goes into a beer with that one because you’re getting the unique yeast, you’re getting the unique hops—you’re able to dissect that beer, and it’s a really good example of being able to say “this is what this kind of hop does; this is what this kind of yeast does,” etc. Some beers you’re able to get that a little bit, but not quite as completely as you do with Fiction. That one was a truly special beer to me.
Speaking of anniversary beers...you had a hand in coming up with the name of the Second Anniversary beer. Talk about that.
Yeah! So I was at Riverghost and sat in on a meeting at the end of the day with all the higher minds of the company—and I was new. I was super new at the time. We were sitting there and I remember Bryant (Goulding, Co-founder) was going over the docket of things that were going on, and he got to the second anniversary beer. He was like “we’re still trying to find a name for it,” and I just thought “Deuce.” It was such a cool, easy, simple name. He was like “yeah, I like it,” and I saw him smile and write it down and I was like “yeah, I did it!” When it came out I was like “sweet he went with it!”
Have there been any major influences on your life?
My Grandma. She was extremely kind and thoughtful. She never spoke ill of anybody. Me, being the angsty skater punk rock/metal kid I was—I rebelled against pretty much everything, including being nice just to be nice...but when I grew up I came to realize how much she taught me about being a good person. My Grandma passed about eight years ago, but I still think of her and the lessons she taught me every day. I’ve been with my wife for about thirteen years now and she follows that same positive vibe. She’s just a super positive, super caring person. Good attracts good. The Power of Positivity is a real thing.
You’re an avid homebrewer. Talk about the evolution of that hobby for you.
Cole (Hackbarth, Director of Operations) once said “you basically built a nano-brewery in your house and you can’t do anything with it. You’re crazy.” I started with a Mr. Beer kit I got for Christmas. I mean, I liked beer, I drank it, but I was like “I don’t know what I’m gonna do with this thing.” One day I was trying to make some room in my pantry where I had this big Mr. Beer box so I just decided I was gonna do it so I could make space. I remember going through all the steps, and I was like “this is kinda dumb.” Three weeks later I cracked one, and it was absolutely terrible, but you know what? It was beer! I could tell that somewhere in there was beer. I remember recalling the experience with my wife and telling her I wanted to know what the real process was. I mean, I had done this Snoopy Snowcone version of brewing, but it sparked this flame inside me about making beer. I started researching it, watching Youtube videos, and searching forums. I was like “alright, this seems like something I might actually get into.” A couple months later I came home from work and my wife had gone to Listermann (Brewing Supply) and just bought all of the things a real homebrewer would need, and that was the beginning of it for me. I started on my stove, had boil-overs, made the house smell like crap...tried to convince my friends “you can drink this…” I made some terrible beers and some really really good beers. I did the best I could with the equipment I had. At that time I had a motorcycle, and an unnamed person wasn’t super fond of the motorcycle, so she told me if I got rid of the bike, we could dedicate some space in our basement so I could build my dream brewery. Nate (Yelton) got my bike, and I got a Home Depot credit card!
I went down to the basement, and I didn’t know what in the hell I was doing. I’d never built a room. I mean, how do you build a wall if you’ve never done that? I didn’t even have a drill—I didn’t have any of that crap. It was a lot of YouTube, again. Short of some of the electric, some of the plumbing, and some of the drywall, I did everything myself. Right now I’ve got half barrel kegs that were here (at Rhinegeist) that were decommissioned, I cut them open, and had the welders weld up ports for me on their off time. I’ve built an all-electric, 3-vessel HERMS system that chugs along beautifully. I just got two half-barrel conical fermenters—it’s really coming together, but it’s not easy. It’s been about a year and a half of building and trying things out. Brewing is something you can do by yourself, and have a lot of fun, or it’s something you can do with one—or five—friends and have a lot of fun. And the end product is beer! How much cooler can it get than when you’re done you have beer. There’s so many amazing and wonderful facets to homebrewing. You can do it a thousand different ways. It’s therapeutic.
I love it.
Talk about the packaging team. What do you love about them?
The thing I love most is just what rascally shithead misfits we all are. It’s so many different personalities, but we all share one goal. And the music. You’ll hear the gnarliest death metal, and then the next song is Weird Al, and then the next song is Paula Abdul and we’re all singing along to each of them at the top of our lungs. That’s really a testament to who we are. We’re just a bunch of weird dudes that like to work hard and get shit done. And in the end, a lot of responsibility falls on us. If we don’t get it done, there’s no beer to drink. It has to go in kegs, it has to go in cans, it has to go in bottles. It has to be exactly perfect. The labels on bombers have to be perfect. The cans can’t be dented or scratched. We’re tasting and testing the beer throughout every run. We’re inspecting pallets upon pallets upon pallets every shift. These are some of the most passionate and hard working guys in the company in my opinion. It’s non-stop for us. As in most of the departments in this company, you rely on your teammates heavily. Everyone has to be on it. But as hard as it is, it’s equally rewarding. When you’re done, you can stand in front of a wall of packaged beer and see what you did. Feels good. Also, when you go out into the world and hear people talking about a saying on the bottom of a can, you’re like “Hey! That was me!” and that’s pretty sweet.
We’re halfway through the interview. Give a shout out to someone reading this at home!
Hi Mom! Hi Layla! Hi Chrissy! Hi Shorty!
What do you enjoy most about this place?
Hands down the people. Some of the realest, coolest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Is there a piece of Rhinegeist apparel you wear the most?
Oh man. We don’t sell it anymore, but the cranberry t-shirt is my jam. I own so many of them. I have the hoodie to match.
You play bass in a band. Talk about it.
I’ve been in a band since I was 15. It’s a Horror Punk band called Shriek. We’ve played with some pretty cool bands like The Misfits, Blitzkid, and The Horrorpops. I’ve always loved playing music. It’s a great outlet.
You launched a Bottle Share program at Rhinegeist! Talk about it.
That comes from my Riverghost days. When I first came over here there were all these new people I hadn’t had much face time with since I was in Kentucky, and I thought “what would be a good way to meet and talk to as many people as possible?” So I thought “How about a bottle share?” It’s really rewarding because I enjoy seeing everyone together laughing over a few beers and spending quality time together. We’re really one big family.
Nope. Marching band - all day.
Where does the beauty of the brewery lie for you?
I’m biased, but it's the CFT (canning line) for me. That machine is a beast, a monster. And to see that monster come to life every morning is intense. You really can’t fully appreciate it until you clean it. Only then do you start to realize how many intricate pieces of machinery, electronics, and sensors are involved in putting beer into a can. And it all has to work perfectly, all the time. That’s insane. I remember when they were building it, and seeing the pieces of it, wondering what it was going to be. I have video of the first time they turned it on. It was bananas.
What’s the best part of your personality?
Either my sense of humor, or sense of humility, I hope.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Reubinator from Izzy’s. Hands down. There’s nothing in the world that drives my soul more than a Reubinator from Izzy’s. Those pickles. That potato pancake. Aw geez.
What do you do when you’re not 'Geisting?
I love being a dad and a husband. I’m happily married to my wife of 13 years. I’m a father to an amazing 14-year-old daughter. Two awesome doggies, Bruno and Lucy. I try to get friend-time in as much as possible. Love to cook. Love to game. Sometimes I make crafty things. That pretty much covers it.
What have you seen lately that you really dug?
Our sours. We just released the new sour program, called Outer Reaches. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done. It’s so cool to see the change up from what we normally do. The level of detail that went into this particular line is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’m super jazzed.
What’s something about you most people don’t know?
Very little. I love to talk and I’m an open book. If I had to say something, it’d probably be that I used to write poetry, a lot. Some of it even got published.
What’s your best dish in the kitchen?
A modified version of my mom’s chicken casserole. It’s pretty stellar. It’s monochromatic but tastes amazing.
On average how many times do you sing in the shower per week?
Favorite album of all time?
I’ve been rediscovering a lot of albums lately. Dub Side of the Moon, by the Easy Star All-Stars has really been driving me lately. Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands of all time. These guys did a Dub/Reggae version of the Entire Dark Side of the Moon album. It’s incredible. I got to see them live on the Queen Mary for my birthday this year. Life changing.
What’s your favorite bagel topping?
If friends used three words to describe you, what would they be?
Probably “Dude’s F*&%ing Crazy.” Am I crazy? I don’t know. Probably not. Maybe.
What's your favorite TV show?
I love Brooklyn 99. I’m also rediscovering wrestling. I’m totally back into now. Rick and Morty too.
What are you looking forward to about the future?
Professionally, there’s a couple of people here that I look up to. I’ve always admired Bob (Bonder, Founder)'s ability to sail this ship in a positive and fascinating direction that I might not always get initially, but eventually find myself really astonished by. I trust that guy 100%. I’m also really inspired by Dennis (Kramer-Wine). He’s weird, like me, and I love that he’s got the role he has because if anyone has their finger on the pulse of what culture in a company like ours is, it’s him. I’d love to find my way to a role like that one day.
Personally, I’m always striving to be the best me I can be, whether it be as a father, a son, a husband, or a friend.