Tag Archives: Stephen Freshnock

Home Brewer Profile – Stephen Freshnock

For this home brewer profile we talk with Stephen Freshnock.

Stephen Freshnock

Where are you from?
I have been living in Chicago for 6 years. Before that Kansas City.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
My loyalty is to Goose Island Clybourn but I am a huge fan of Piece’s IPA’s.

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.

Be sure to check out Stephen’s blog at http://freshbrewlog.blogspot.com/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/SlovakBrewer/ for all kind of great updates.

For The Love Of Hops 2009

For The Love Of Hops Ticket

Being a Two Brothers Brewing fan and a lover of the Hops, I was really excited to go to the For The Love Of The Hops festival. Before going I somehow built up the festival in my head. I think it was due to the fact that Two Brothers was posting facebook and twitter updates for weeks before the thing kicked off. They posted every new guest keg that they were getting and with each post I was getting more and more excited. Also since Three Floyds Dark Lord Day was an incredible event a few months ago I thought For The Love Of The Hops might be just as good.

On Saturday afternoon I drove out to Warrenville with Maeve Price in the front seat, and Ken Hunnemeder and Charlie Drews riding in the back. The Two Brothers brewery isn’t too far from Chicago and its right off the expressway, so it makes for an easy trip. The parking at the brewery wasn’t as bad as Three Floyds but we did end up having to park about two blocks away. When we first walked in we had our IDs checked and were given wrist bands. Then we had to wait in the line to buy tickets for the beer and food. This was one of the slowest lines we had to wait in all day. The tickets seemed like a good idea, it keeps the people pouring the beer from having to deal with cash and should speed up the pouring lines. Each ticket cost $6 and got you one beer. Some of those beers came in 9 oz glasses and some came in 20 oz glasses. Overall $6 for a beer felt a bit expensive, especially when all of the beers I wanted to try came in a 9 oz glass. On any other day you visit the Two Brothers Brew Pub, most of the beers are only $4 and the other ones like the Northwind are $5. Charging two extra dollars for a beer brewed on site is ridiculous, if anything all the Two Brothers beers besides the Hop Juice should of been on special for like $3 for the event, not marked up in price.

So we got our tickets and then went to get a glass of beer, the four of us ended up getting a Hop Juice right away since that was what this festival was for. The Hop Juice was good and a damn fine DIPA. It is smooth and thick at the same time with a the booze burn bringing up the rear. Being 10 % ABV this guy packs a huge punch. The four of us ended up finding a table inside and basically planted ourself there. About 45 minutes after we showed up and one Hop Juice into the festival Stephen, Selina, and Brad Stark showed up and joined us at the table. From then on every 45 minutes a few of us would go wait in the guest tap line for the next beer to be released and then bring 9 oz glasses back. Just about every guest beer would run out 10 minutes after the keg was tapped. So we made sure to get there extra early especially for the Avery Voltron and Surly Darkness. To be honest I’m not a sour beer fan so the greatness of the Voltron was lost on me. But Ken, Stephen and Brad Stark loved it and declared it best in show. My personal two favorites were the Surly Darkness, and the almond cream soda from Two Brothers. I know, a cream soda. But is was really good and both Maeve and Selina agreed it rocked.

We ended up leaving just after the Surly Darkness was tapped since the last couple guest beers didn’t interest us as much as the Avery Voltron  and the Surly Darkness. For this being the Hop Juice release party I was kind of shocked I only had one 9 oz glass of Hop Juice. Unfortunately Ken and I didn’t get any video at the For The Love Of The Hops festival, so you will just have to enjoy the photos. Maybe we will review a bottle of the 2009 Hop Juice on an upcoming episode. Overall the festival was fun, good beer – even if it was a tad expensive, tasty food, live music and not too crowded. If Two Brothers has the event next year I might check it out but I won’t be expecting as much next time. Finally, if you’re in the area be sure to check out the brewery they have tours every saturday at 1:00 and 2:30.

The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen

#gents or The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen is a weekly, exclusive gathering of some of the world’s finest. Sampling exceptional craft beers, cigars and spirits; discussing politics, design and entrepreneurial affairs; the Fellowship aims to capture the true essence of living as a gentlemanly gentlemen. In a nutshell its a small group that gets together and share beers. It started in late February 2009 at Bridges Media Group, as a small after work get together but has quickly become much more. Each week there is a theme and everyone brings beers that fit into that theme. The beers are either ones that were picked up at the store that day or maybe that have been aging at home for years. Most weeks the group consists of Brian McCauley, Mike Kislovsky, Nick Campbell, Stephen Freshnock and myself. More recently the group is growing and more people have attended, including: Ken Hunnemeder, Timothy O’Connell and Brad Stark.

Most of the #gents are on twitter, so in order to sort of catalog and take notes on the beers that are being sample and enjoyed they put #gents into their twitter updates. This #gents code also allows for all the messages to be seen on The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen’s website. These weekly gatherings make it a wonderful opportunity to experience a great selection of craft beers in a smaller non event setting.

Tuesday, May 6th marked the latest meeting of the gents with the theme, “Best Of Your Cellar“. Really it was more of a bring the best you have, it could include rare, aged, or even just a favorite. I brought with me a Three Floyds 2009 Dark Lord, a Pliny The Elder from Russian River and a Crack’d Wheat from New Glarus. Tyler a friend of Brian’s brought a Three Floyds 2008 Dark Lord, which was fabulous. I feel honored to have gotten to sample the 2008 Dark Lord twice in one week… the first being episode 39 of the Hop Cast. Brian shared a 60th Anniversary Special Edition Abt 12 that he had been aging for over a year. Stephen usually brings one of his home brews and he didn’t disappoint this weekend. He brought one of the few remaining bottles of his Rye. Stephen also brought a Fred which is from one of my favorite breweries Hair Of The Dog. Ken and I sampled the Fred and an Adam in a previous special. Finally from Stephen was the Ballast Point Victory At Sea. Looking back, I can’t believe we had all of that and it was only about half of what we drank that night, the list seems to just go on and on. Tim brought the Rocky’s Revenge Bourbon Brown from Tyranena Brewing, which I was rather impressed by. Brad Stark being new to the craft beer world picked up a Lost Abbey Inferno, which was reviewed on episode 22 of the Hop Cast.

We started off with the two Three Floyds Dark Lords so we could enjoy them before the alcohol took hold. From there we tried to work backwards but ended up jumping around. Beside the Dark Lord, stand outs included the aged Abt 12 and Hair Of The Dog Fred. The Victory At Sea was good, but had a bit too much chocolate for my liking.

Overall it was a fantastic night with some hard to find beers. If anyone in Chicago is looking to join us, you are more then welcome. Either contact me here, leave a message on The Fellowship Of Gentlemanly Gentlemen website or get a hold of any of us on twitter.

Hop Cast – Episode 30

For episode 30 of the Hop Cast, Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder are doing something a little different. The two of them  are brewing beer and showing how it’s done. The recipe they used is for a Blood Orange Hefeweizen from Sam Calagione’s book Extreme Brewing. So join Brad and Ken as the two of them take you through boiling the water to chilling the wort, on to fermentation and finally the culmination… the tasting. Hopefully you learn something about home brewing and perhaps it will spark your interest to do it yourself. If you’re not interested in learning about the home brewing process there is also a video of just the  tasting of the Blood Orange hefeweizen posted as well as the full episode.  For the tasting Brad and Ken are joined by Stephen FreshnockBrian McCauley and Charlie Drews.

Download the Podcast (359.1 MB).

Since this episode is a long one, here is a version of only the tasting of the Blood Orange Hefeweizen with Stephen Freshnock, Brian McCauley and Charlie Drews.

Hop Cast – Episode 27

In episode 27 of the Hop Cast, Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder  are joined once again by Stephen Freshnock. The three of them sample and review two beers from Deschutes Brewery’s Bond Street Series. The two beers are both IPAs, the first is a fresh hopped pale ale called Hop Trip and the second is an experimental IPA called Hop Henge. In this episode Ken and Brad both referred to the Hop Henge as Hop Hedge which was very much incorrect.

Download the Podcast (144.1 MB).

Hop Cast – Episode 26

Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are back for episode 26 of the Hop Cast. In this episode they are at Bridges Media Group checking out their four special edition beers. With them for this episode are the two brew masters Brandon Boshers and Stephen Freshnock and label designer Brian McCauley. Brandon Boshers was responsible for the Burnt Santa and the Tie-Breaker. Stephen Freshnock brewed the Golden Road and Heavy Manners. All four beers were a treat, so grab your favorite brew and join the Hop Cast for a taste adventure.

Download the Podcast (306.0 MB).