What do you do at Rhinegeist?
I’m the Director of Sales. I’m in charge of both our self-distribution footprint and our wholesaler network. So everything from training reps on the frontline responsibilities of running a sales route to working with sales forecasts and delivery schedules. I get a unique opportunity to touch every piece of this building. I have 1 on 1 meetings with marketing, with sales supply, with forecast, with our ownership. Everything in sales at some point crosses my desk.
What did you have for breakfast?
A cup of black coffee *laughs*. My ideal breakfast, though, is an egg white sandwich with Cholula and a little bit of pepper and a yogurt.
Do you have a spirit animal?
I think mine’s a kangaroo. Strong hind legs, little punchy.
What’s your favorite Rhinegeist beer?
So impossible…I think Mosaic is a really special celebration of what a single hop can do, I’m drinking a lot of that right now. We’ve got some things on Nitro that I’m really proud of, as well.
Really excited about Knowledge — that beer is really special. I just love what the brew team has been able to do, on top of our packaging team. Tip of the cap to those guys.
Do you have a go-to dance move?
The Stanky Leg. It’s not necessarily true but...ya know *laughs*.
What are some of the challenges that get thrown your way?
With sales, the competitive landscape is consistently changing. As much as we plan for growth and expansion markets and do our best to project individual brands, we can’t plan for innovation from our competitors. So it can be challenging to balance our internal and external expectations.
Also consumers’ palates change so rapidly now. People prefer fruity IPAs and then it quickly changes to fruit sours and then to unfiltered IPAs — who knows what’s next? So being nimble is important.
It’s kind of a gift and a curse. We can pivot in and out of things really quickly, and sometimes that’s a challenge to manage. You know, making 100+ beers a year and then, having a team that’s both in Cincinnati and out of this building — it’s like being on the cold and warm side of the moon.
What’s something about you most people don’t know?
Probably that I went to school as an art major. Small school outside of Chicago called The University of St. Francis. For awhile I was gonna be an artist, but got into the beer business shortly thereafter. I'm actually tinkering with a children's book concept right now.
Also, I interned for a minor league baseball team called the Joliet JackHammers and spent game days as Jammer the mascot.
And I met Obama, shook his hand, got to say hello to him.
Is Obama as cool as people say he is?
Oh yeah, he’s cool as hell. Coolest guy I’ve ever met, you kidding me? We were at a steakhouse in Chicago and he came in and he came by the table and said hello. I was at the head of the table so I stood up and shook his hand.
Is there a piece of Rhinegeist apparel you wear the most?
I’m rocking the new Saber Tooth Hoodie a lot. And I just picked up a thin, lightweight grey hoodie — those things are freaking comfortable. I got one and wore that thing almost every day this week.
You’re gonna be a father soon! How are you feeling?
We’re expecting our first at the end of March, a little girl! So I’m gonna be the father of a little girl whose last name is Steinke, so that’s an immediate challenge right off the bat. But yeah man, we’re pumped. My wife’s been a rockstar and is super brave and awesome and she’s made it very easy on me. She’s the one doing all the hard work. We’re counting down the days; I literally have a whiteboard on the fridge and everyday I cross off a day! Pretty wild.
Where does the beauty of the brewery lie for you?
The beauty here comes for me in unexpected moments. This place feels so different when you walk in in the morning then it does when you’re back here on a Saturday afternoon and you see people just enjoying the space, living the moment. At seven in the morning it feels like your workspace, but at four o’clock on a Saturday it feels like you just walked into the coolest party in your life.
The beauty here is represented for me in the expressions on peoples’ faces when they’re here enjoying the space. It’s almost like installation artwork: it’s not about the artwork itself, it’s about how people respond to the artwork.
What was your first job?
When I was 15, I worked at a feed loft in Channahon, Illinois. It was a pet store company where I got paid $2.80/hour cash to unload semi-trucks of salt and hay and straw. So 80lbs bags of salt, 40lbs bags of dog food, or 50lbs bags of hay and straw and we literally just had to pile it up into a huge barn and then sometimes I’d ride my bike home. Pretty horrible job.
But if you needed minnows, candy, dog food, salt, hay, straw, lures? I was your guy.
Are you a sports fan? Who are your teams?
I’m a Chicago boy, a White Sox fan that is surrounded by Cubs fans. All my family are Cubs fans. Then the Cubs go to a World Series in Ohio and I got to go to Game 7! So a lot of my family was scratching their head as to why the White Sox fan got to go…
It was pretty cool though, one of the biggest bucket list moments ever was drinking a Truth at Game 7 of the World Series between the Indians and the Cubs, neither of which had been in the World Series in forever, 200 years combined. Toasting that Truth was a pretty cool moment.
I also like the Bulls, the Bears —begrudgingly — and the Blackhawks. I’m a die hard ‘Hawks fan.
What are you looking forward to about the future?
There’s some creative people around here who are gonna do really cool stuff. We’re transitioning into some office space that really excites me! I’m kind of nomadic here, I’ve worked in every room that this building has to offer, so it’ll be nice to have a home amongst the team. In the near future, I can’t wait for that rooftop to open back up, watch the sunset in the evenings, it’ll be awesome up there.
From a production standpoint, Luke’s [Luke Cole, Barrel Master] sour cellar has turned into a pretty cool place in this brewery that’s gonna crank out some tasty, tasty stuff.
What’s your best dish in the kitchen?
I’m evil with the crock pot, man, I can get nasty. Give me a pork shoulder and a crock pot and I’ll make some magic happen. I wouldn’t say I have a signature dish, but I can create some concoctions.
What was the last song you got caught singing?
I’m caught singing all the time. No matter what it is, it’s not good. The other day it was Fitz and the Tantrums, then it’s ‘90s hip hop, but all the time it shouldn’t be happening.
Weezer, No Doubt and Face to Face, all in one...I’m older than you *laughs*.
Best concert you’ve been to?
Kanye West in Chicago before he lost his mind in front of his hometown crowd. Eminem, Outkast, Rage Against the Machine shutting down the show like four times at Lollapalooza because they didn’t want people moshing...pretty epic.
I can put any of the Lollapaloozas up there. But I find beauty in all kinds of live music. Like the Lumineers put on a show that’ll stop you and make you pay attention to music in a different way.
If you were a Rhinegeist beer, what would you be?
Definitely not Zen *laughs*. Probably like Pure Fury.
What’s your favorite bagel topping?
Straight cream cheese, blueberry bagel.
What’s your favorite sandwich?
I go in a lot of different directions. Guilty pleasure sandwich: salami ham combo, muenster cheese, little bit of mustard and lettuce, keep it simple. But smoked turkey on wheat is the go-to.
Oh man, lots of those. Even now, very few people call me Matt or Matthew.
My last name is Steinke. When I was a kid, it was Stinky, Stinker. In high school, where nicknames really forge, it was Steinke turned into Stank turned into Stankbomb turned into Bomber turned into Bombsquad turned into Squadron turned into Bombcat turned into just Cat, then my brother was Kitten, so I started being called Cat Daddy. My core group of friends from high school still calls me Cat Daddy Dollars *laughs*. I’m aware of how ridiculous that sounds.
If friends used three words to describe you, what would they be?
Passionate, intense and loyal.
What do you enjoy most about this place?
It’s kind of like a living, breathing thing. This building — from when I came the first time in 2015 to what it is now — is completely different.
But it’s not just the building, it’s the people. Rapid growth has given us the opportunity to have new people around here, new personalities that are showing up all the time that are adding their own flavor of Rhinegeist. The walls are literally changing, the aesthetic of the place is changing, but the skeleton of it, the bones of this place, are permanent.