For this home brewer profile we talk with Stephen Freshnock.
Where are you from?
I have been living in Chicago for 6 years. Before that Kansas City.
Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I try to brew Seasonally, for instance I am doing a lot of Stouts, Porters and Browns for the colder weather at the moment. Sometimes I get inspired by a particular beer or concept
How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
3 years. As I got more into beer culture I kept reading about how many startup breweries began in the kitchen. Once I realized there was science involved, I was all about it.
Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
Brandon Bosher’s (Bridges Brewery) showed me that you could make a pro caliber beer in the home. His Burnt Santa is a ridiculous recipe and he is doing a “More Burnt Santa” this year.
Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I have never entered competitions but I am thinking about it this year.. maybe. This will be the second year I help with “Bridges Brewery“. Last year I did a Scotch Ale and a Golden Strong Ale, the Scotch Ale is coming back this year along with a Rye Stout.
Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
I think John Cutler at Piece really knows how to get hop flavor in his beers. Boulevard in Kansas City, MO for consistency. I challenge anyone who says they make a bad beer, plus they have the Smokestacks to compliment a solid session beer lineup. Three Floyd’s for really tweaking out beer styles without sacrificing drinkability and having a killer presentation with everything they do. Metropolitan Brewery for passion around their business. I am really inspired by the Twitter #homebrew community, too many of you to name but you all inspire me to keep it up.
How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew weekly if weather allows. Monday and/or Friday as I work weekends. I am always looking for people to come by and help out. I will feed you homebrew.
What are you brewing with?
I currently have a Sanford and Son gravity system that is lovingly called “The Ghetto Voltron”. 12 gallon cooler style mash tun, 5 gal cooler style HLT, an old chair, milk crate, propane burner, 10 gallon Kettle and 5 gallon kettle. It’s not pretty to look at, the only button is on the “aim n’ flame” but i have been told it makes decent beer.
I really believe that process not equipment makes great beer. You can have an automated brew sculpture but without the correct processes and knowledge you will be broke and still making shitty beer.
I know a lot of home brewers end up building their own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I am great at ideas but horrible at execution. I once tried to build a “Lager chamber” that would recirculate air over ice cylinders. It worked for about a week, and then I ponied up the cash for a proper freezer and temp controller.
Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
German Wheat. Under attenuated, sickly sweet but drinkable.
What was the last thing you brewed?
Today I brewed a Rye Stout. I am under the assumption most beer styles improve with Rye in the grain bill.
Anything in the works you would like to share?
I am brewing a Coffee Porter with coffee from “Star Lounge“. Going to cold brew and add it to secondary. This would be my first time brewing with coffee. Hoping to do several lagers in the new year. I made two last year that I felt could have been better.
Do you do all grain or extract?
I am a big all grain champion. I did two extract batches and jumped to all grain. Would you rather have biscuits made from lard by Grandma or Pillsbury from the can?
What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I love US-05 and US-04 dry yeast. They are easy to pitch, fast and effective. I only use liquid yeast when looking for that specific character, like Belgian’s. Regardless of what yeast you use, pitching the right amount and proper aeration will really make the difference.
What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I prefer plugs or whole hops whenever possible. They do a great job of filtering out break materials in your kettle and you can judge the character much better than pellets IMO.
Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I take part in the Bridges Media Holiday beers. This is the second year I will be brewing for them. I have a project on hiatus with “Blake @fermentus“. We are both working on an Imperial “SLOVAK” Pils in celebration of our shared heritage.
Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
Not at the moment but I have been threatening to attend a “North Side Home Brewers” meeting. At the moment I strictly brew for my #gents.
Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
I hope to make this a career. I love the idea of smaller brew pubs and production breweries that brew for the community. I am inspired by all the small breweries in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic that are just now coming back to life. They are brewing styles that were forgotten during occupation and revitalizing beer culture in a land where for the longest time only one beer style existed.
Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Brew often, people like free beer. Read and ask questions. You are going to make bad beer and phenomenal beer. Every brew will teach you something new. Stay on top of your processes. DONT CUT CORNERS! Most importantly SHARE your brew with uneducated beer drinkers.