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Meet Our Staff: Todd Fleming

Todd Fleming was born into a Midwest farming family in St. Paul/Minneapolis. As a young boy, he relocated with his family to the Pacific Northwest when his Dad was transferred to Tacoma and then to the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headquarters in Federal Way, WA. 

As a kid, Todd got into music and soccer. He was good enough on the soccer pitch to be scouted with his teammates by the Tacoma Stars indoor soccer team. After graduating high school, Todd studied music and business at a local community college and started two businesses, a music production company called Destiny Productions, and Practice Pads Unlimited, which served the emerging indie music scene in Seattle and the Puget Sound region in the late 80’s & 90’s. Todd played keys, horns, percussion, sang vocals and played electronic instruments in side bands, and toured for a bit around the Northwest. He was a kitchen manager in his early 20’s managing a couple of Mexican restaurant chain units for a few years, worked as a chef on the Seattle waterfront at “Charlie’s Shilshole Bay Marina”, worked at The Spar, opened The Victory Club and Jillian’s Billards Club among others.

Todd moved to Portland in 1996 and helped open The Alameda Brewhouse during the height of the first craft brewery boom in the United States. He also ran various music venues in Southeast Portland, and ended up working part-time for BridgePort Brewing.

Given Todd’s prior experience, he was soon managing the brewpub at BridgePort and executing festivals and off-premise events for the brewery.  He helped renovate BridgePort and its original building, built in 1889, as the Pearl District transformed around it into a shopping and dining destination.  

Todd ended up becoming the cellar master managing many departments during his 20+ years with his team under Carlos Alvarez, the CEO of The Gambrinus Company, who bought BridgePort from the founding Ponzi family in 1995. Todd hosted customers and visitors from around the world at BridgePort, and gained vast branding & marketing knowledge while watching the parent company operate and market many brands like Shiner & Moosehead and Trummer Pils. For the launch of Trummer Pils, Carlos teamed up with an eighth generation, Austrian family operated mother brewery, and began to brew the original family recipe in Berkeley, CA in 2004.

In his current role at FH Steinbart, Todd is helping the company further deepen its connections to the commercial segment of the brewing market. “Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s a whole new ballgame for everyone in the industry and the path ahead is very murky right now,” Todd says. “But the fundamentals remain the same. Everyone still needs to take it a day at a time, roll up their sleeves, and get done whatever is needed.” 

Todd points out that as a company that’s been around for more than 100 years, FH Steinbart knows a thing or two about doing what it takes to help customers make it through, from making adjustments to accommodate social distancing and contactless ordering to providing recommendations for installations of the most intricate draft systems in restaurants and bars that are slowly starting to reopen. “Commercial customers can tap directly into a lot of institutional knowledge around here,” says Todd. “Let us know what you’re working on. We’re here to help.”

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Meet Our Staff: Tom Thompson

My first choice for beer making is just about anything Belgian. Farmhouse and triples are my favorites. Of course, here in Oregon, pinot noir is my first choice of red wine. A close second is full bodied reds from our Eastern Oregon and Washington blends of merlot, cabernet and other red varieties now available to us home wine makers. Beer and wine aren’t the only fermentables I have a lot of experience making. My family and I have made sauerkraut and dill pickles for years.

The best part of working at FH Steinbart is the contact with customers and coworkers that are engaged in a hobby I have enjoyed for years. Now that I am partially retired, I get to spend time with my fellow hobbyists and make a little money. FH Steinbart has always been great to work with. When I am not working here, I spend most of my free time in my garden. I have a large urban garden that provides a lot of my food. I am also an avid hiker, backpacker and outdoor enthusiast.

When I was nineteen and living at home during the summer, there was a huge plum tree in our back yard. We harvested 13 bushels of plums that year. My dad suggested I make some wine. I took his suggestion to heart and have not looked back. This past August, I celebrated my 50th year of wine making. I started home brewing one year after making that first batch of plum wine. The choices for ingredients were pretty thin back then. Malt was hopped and packaged in small cans, and we ordered yeast from a homesteader’s catalog.


I was born in Oberlin, Ohio, where my family has been since the 1850s. The rest of my family came from Germany in the 1890s and also settled along the shores of Lake Erie. Later, my dad moved us into upstate New York and then New Jersey. The big adventure began when we moved to Southern California. I went to college at the University of Oregon and I have not left the area since. 

I started to work part-time at FH Steinbart in 1985, when we were open until just 1 pm. After closing the store, the sales staff often went to lunch together, and the Horse Brass was one of our favorite places. In 2013, I was laid off from my full time job, and started working at FH Steinbart three days a week, then four days a week one year later. I’m still here and loving it. CHEERS!

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From Antarctica to Portland, Rob Porton-Jones Gets It Done

What Do You Do at FH Steinbart?
I work in the Draft Department, so I work with our commercial customers as well as our general retail customers that are looking for parts, knowledge, or assistance with dispensing. I also help out in the warehouse with receiving and shipping and with general assistance around the store.

What Do You Like To Make?
I love to brew dark, malty beers. I’m a year-round-stout kind of guy. I like brewing and drinking browns, porters, stouts, dubbels, quads, as well as imperial & barrel aged beers. I brew and drink IPAs and other styles here and there, but malty and dark are definitely my go-to beers. I also enjoy drinking wine, and I started fermenting my first batch this wine season. I’ve also made kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and vinegar over the years, and in my last career as a chef, I made all sorts of pickles and fermented hot sauces.

What Do You Like Most About Your Job at FH Steinbart?
I love learning new things, and interacting with customers and my coworkers provides all sorts of opportunities to find out how different people brew and do different things, including some areas where my experience is limited, like making wine instead of just purchasing and drinking it. I also like the aspect of solving various puzzles as customers bring in items to troubleshoot or for help on figuring out how to get from X to Y in the simplest manner. It’s very satisfying when you’ve got a build that is unusual and you manage to piece together exactly what they are looking for. I also love having access to the brewing ingredients and equipment, even if I can’t brew as often as I would like these days.

How Do You Like To Spend Your Free Time?
These days, I don’t really have much free time, since I have an almost eight-month old son. Most of my free time is spent playing with and taking care of him, doing laundry, or trying to keep up on the house. But when I do have free time, I enjoy reading, listening to music, gardening, cycling, trail running, cooking, brewing, home improvement projects, playing games, hiking, and a few other things that have gone by the wayside over the years that wax and wane depending on the season and how much time I have. Come spring, I spend a lot of time getting the yard in shape, as we’ve got almost 80 different varieties of dahlias growing with an irrigated drip system I put in place, plus some vegetables and roses in the back yard.

What’s the Life Arc That Brought You To Portland/FH Steinbart?
My wife and I are part of that increasingly rare-subset of people that were both actually born and raised here in Portland. My side of the family goes back a few generations here. My first career was as a chef, and I spent 20 years working in various types of kitchens, including a couple of years cooking down at McMurdo Station, the largest science base in Antarctica. After getting married, I considered moving away from the night and weekend schedule of cooking to better match my wife’s daytime bookstore schedule, and getting tendinitis in my knife hand’s wrist was the final straw. I wanted to transition my homebrew hobby into a career, as brewing has a lot of similarities to cooking, and I get stir crazy at office-type jobs after a few months. 

I was well aware that professional brewing is a lot of hard work and not very glamorous, but that is just like the difference between working a professional kitchen hot line as opposed to the relaxation of cooking at home. And I wanted to make the transition while I was still young enough to handle the grunt work of starting at the bottom again. I finally landed an entry level position at a brewery after spending a year looking and dropping off resumes. 

That job eventually ended, as the brewery had to downsize their staffing due to costs, and I immediately applied with the Draft Department at Steinbarts. I was very familiar with the store from years of visiting as a customer for my hobby and from being one of the Draft Department’s commercial customers. I was fortunate enough to get the position, and I’ve been very happy here as one of the newer members of the Steinbart team.

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Meet Our Staff: Natasha Godard

What Do You Like To Make?
While I enjoy brewing beer and I’m looking forward to learning to make wine, my current fermentation obsession is vinegar. I had already decided to attempt beer vinegar long before I started at FHS, but this job definitely accelerated my experiments, since we sell vinegar mothers. It wasn’t too long before I’d started red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. Since then, I’ve been given other beverages to vinegar-ize, and those are definitely going strong too. I am most looking forward to my marionberry wine vinegar finishing up. For those who are interested and can make it into the shop, I leave samples of my red wine vinegar and my beer vinegar behind the counter.

What Do You Like Most About Your Job @ FH Steinbart?
It’s a tie between helping customers with their problem-solving, which is incredibly satisfying, or all the new knowledge that’s being crammed into my cranium just by virtue of being here. This is pretty convenient since one leads to being more effective at the other.

How Do You Like To Spend Your Free Time?
I have a number of pastimes. Some are rather seasonal. I love being outside in nice weather, for example, but the grey and rainy Portland winters drive me indoors almost completely. Luckily, things like reading can be done in both locations. I also enjoy board games, cooking, and engaging in new hobbies to see what sticks. As you can read above, vinegar stuck. I’m now eyeballing our cheese-making kits to see about that…

What’s the Life Arc That Brought You To Portland?
I grew up in New Mexico and find myself in Portland by way of D.C., Baltimore, and Chicago. I got myself a M.Sc. in Biology while I was living in D.C. and Baltimore, and landed in Chicago to continue that path. Somehow, though, I ended up a Certified Cicerone® rather than a biologist. Though, to be honest, that biology education comes in handy on a regular basis. I landed at FHS because Mark mentioned a job opening. I had brewed a little bit of beer back in Chicago, but I got out of the habit. I figured a good way to get back in the habit and learn more about brewing as I consider studying for Advanced Cicerone® was landing the job here. I had nooooo idea how correct that was, and I’m extremely glad I’m here now.