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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.