Meet a Green Bay Racker: Steven Stary

1: Introducing: Steven Stary

  1. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started?

I got started making wine about 2017. I’d been looking at the two apple trees in our backyard for years thinking about it and finally decided to have a go at making apple wine. The first attempt was a failure, but I definitely learned from it.

  1. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served?

I primarily make wine, sometimes mead if the mood strikes me or a good deal on honey comes along. I’ve made beer a few times, but that’s not my main interest. I bottle everything because it’s easier with the space I have.

  1. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?

I’ve been making wine, meads, and beer for about 6 years now. Everything is still done on a relatively small scale in my kitchen. 6 gallon batches are the biggest I do, but I often have a few going at a time.

  1. Where do you brew?

In my kitchen, just because that’s where there is a big sink and some space. I’d be happy to be in the basement, but there is no sink there at the moment. Maybe someday.

  1. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season?

I’ve almost always got something going. In the Summer I’ll make something using the 150 year old rhubarb plant from our garden. In the Fall I’ll make an apple wine. If some other kind of fruit or honey comes my way I’ll find something to do with it. I’ve been working on Chilean juice buckets for the last few years too.

  1. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon?

My current goal is to produce a really good “big red” wine. I like a dry red with bold flavor, but can’t quite get there yet. I’ve been experimenting with tannins, oak, and even malolactic fermentation. I’ve been improving, so it’s only a matter of time and experimentation.

  1. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby:

Just go ahead and get started. Start with a kit, or start with a good recipe. (And actually follow it the first time you use it.) If you don’t know something, ask or even google it. There are a lot of resources to help homebrewers. It’s easier than you think. The yeast do most of the work. And be patient. Sometimes it takes time for the yeast, the additives, etc. to do their thing. Don’t get discouraged by failure. Learn from it how to do better next time.

  1. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d like to share?
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Meet a Green Bay Racker: Jim Kostreva

Meet a Green Bay Racker

1: Introducing: Jim Kostreva

2. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started?

I joined the Rackers about 5 years ago after I had retired. After retirement I wanted to be closer to friends & family and thought it would be a great time to get more active in home brewing.

3. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served?

I’ve tried making Mead, but 99.9% of the time I’m brewing beer. Sometimes I bottle and sometimes I keg. Kegs are great for taking beer to festivals, but bottles are great for giving beer to others.

4. How long have you been brewing?

I started home brewing when I was living in Northern California. I don’t remember when I actually started, but it was sometime in the 90’s. What got me interested in home brewing was an Adult Education pamphlet that I got in the mail. It listed classes covering things like foreign languages, cooking, pottery, etc. To my surprise there was also a class in brewing beer.

I took the class with some friends from work and started brewing with them. The class was taught by Bryon Burch, an early voice in home brewing. He had a home brew shop; a club called The Beerocrats & wrote a book in 86′ called “Brewing Quality Beers.” I have to say, though, while the Beerocrats were a good club, the Green Bay Rackers are a fantastic club and I love living in Wisconsin. Thinking back to those days, I remember how after work, we used to walk over to a warehouse where a small brewery was just starting up. They threw some parties & had live music. I never thought back then that Lagunitas would become the large operation it is today.

In case you’re interested in some background information on Byron check out this link: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/santa-rosa-beer-pioneer-byron-burch-dies-at-75/

5. Where do you brew and describe your system?

I brew at home. I have a small frig for temperature control, use a cooler mash tun and have a propane burner I use in the garage. I had plans for a rims system and have some parts for it, but I’m afraid that would be going in that direction might make brewing too involved and messy, for me.

6. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season?

I don’t brew as much as some others. For me a 5-gallon batch lasts for quite a while and I also like trying new commercial brews. I’m considering downsizing to 3-gallon patches & have a couple of 3-gallon kegs. I don’t brew to a schedule, but I might try, in the near future, coordinating some brews to allow for entry to some competitions. I like brewing when I can open the garage door, use my propane burner & connect my immersion chiller to the outside faucet. In a pinch, though, I can connect the immersion chiller to my kitchen faucet & the gas stove in the kitchen is usable.

7. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon?

I’d like to be able to do an oxygen free transfer from the fermenter to the keg and am interested in learning how to use a counter pressure filler. I’m also planning on borrowing one of those all-in-one systems sometime and learning how they work.

8. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby:

I’d say, for brewing beer, start simple using extract & concentrate on one style. Then fine tune it until you’ve really worked out all the issues you come across. You might find issues with the recipe and/or the process you’re using. After that, you can branch out & try other beers and techniques.

9. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d like to share?

I think it’s great that the club also supports wine making, mead making, cider and other activities.

 

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Meet a Green Bay Racker: Paul Chambers

1: Introducing: Paul Chambers

2. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started? 
I started brewing beer (not very good stuff) in the mid 1990’s in
Southern Indiana where the ingredients were hard to find and
info on how to brew was also scarce. I joined the Rackers in
2005 and got interested in the wine end of things, especially
when I saw how closely it related to the beer brewing process.

3. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it
packaged and served? 
I brew beer mostly from extract, but my
wines are either right from the fruit to must or from kits. I have
also found an interest in distilling (strictly for essential oils &
water though…). The beer is kegged and put on one of 7
different taps I have set up. One tap is reserved for Sprecher
Root Beer for my wife. (I find it a valuable trade off.) Wine is
bottled in 750 ml bottles & corked. Along with wine I also
dabble in cider and mead.

4. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing
system? 
As I mentioned earlier, my brewing interests dates back
almost 30 years. My beer brewing is stove top on natural gas
while other heating methods a include stand alone Turbo 500
and an induction element. I also presently house the club’s Anvil
240 volt system.

5. Where do you brew? 
I have a third stall area in my garage
that is about 400 square feet. It is climate controlled, has full
commercial 4-bay sink, gas stove top and refrigeration. There is
also 240 volt available and flat screen TV.

6. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have
or is it by season? 
I tend to brew more in the fall & winter but
lately have been doing more because of my new interest in all
grain processing for distillation. Availability of fresh apples &
pears makes fall ideal for ciders. Wine can be made ant time
especially when using kits.

7. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve
upon? 
I’m working on my recipe development for distilling and
am finding new things all the time. Sometimes you don’t know
what you don’t know…

8. What advice would you pass on to others considering this
hobby: 
The biggest thing I preach besides sanitation is patience.
Understand that some things need to be done right now, but a lot
of the brewing process needs time to develop the right
conditions for maturation of wort, must or wash. Take your time
and take notes to learn from your experiences.

9. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d
like to share? 
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of fellow brewers.
The Rackers is a great forum to exchange information, share
products and ask “how did you…” or “what kind of…” and
“where did you…”. There is no such thing as a dumb question,
just dumb answers! Enjoy yourself!

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Meet a Green Bay Racker: Bryan Halverson

1: Introducing: Bryan Halverson

2. When did you join the Rackers and what got you started?

If memory serves me correctly, I joined the Rackers in the summer of 2008.  I showed up to the summer picnic/party and instantly had a new group of friends.  I was looking for others who home brewed, and to expand my knowledge.  I found both.

3. What do you brew (beer, wine, cider, etc.) and how is it packaged and served?

I mainly brew beer, both ales and lagers, but mainly ales as I have yet to dedicate a space for lagering.  So lagers get done in the winter, fermented in my basement which holds a pretty good 50F.   I have dabbled in wines, ciders and meads but have found I lack the patience for wine and mead.  I used to bottle and bottle condition, but since I went all grain I keg and force carbonate.  I will bottle off the tap whenever I need or want some beer bottled.

4. How long have you been brewing and describe your brewing system?

I have been brewing for about 22 years.  The first couple years I was all extract brewing on my stove top.  I moved to all grain brewing in January 2010 using an Igloo Icecube cooler with a copper manifold as my mashtun, using the batch sparging method.  My boil pot was a converted half barrel that I added a ball valve to.  Shortly after moving to all grain I started kegging my beers and force carbonating.  Which then led to building a kegerator that I still use today.  Since Sept 2023 I have moved on to a Brew In A Bag system, the Clawhammer 120v system.  I do like this system for its modular design but am still working on getting better efficiency.    Fermentation wise, started with plastic buckets.  Moved onto glass and plastic carboys.  I now mainly use a 7g Brew Bucket from SS Brewtech.  I use a Johnson Controls temp controller with a ferm-a-wrap for temp control.

5. Where do you brew?

Mainly in my garage and kitchen.  I have plans to designate a spot in my basement for the BIAB system I’ve recently been using.

6. How often do you brew; is there a certain schedule you have or is it by season?

Not enough!!  The past few years has been about once a month.  Since I don’t have a designated space for lagering all year I do brew my lagers in the winter as my basement works as my lagering cellar.

I’ve never been one to brew specific styles based on the seasons.  I brew whatever I in the mood for when the opportunity arises.

7. What aspects of your hobby would you like to improve upon?

Eventually I’d like to invest in my fermentation game.  Conical, O2 free transfer,  pressure fermentation, ect.  I think I make pretty good beer without it so it’s not exactly something that will happen in the near future.

8. What advice would you pass on to others considering this hobby:

  • 1. Clean your equipment after every use, sanitation is key
  • 2. Full wort boils make a difference
  • 3. Temp control on your fermentation makes a HUGE difference
  • 4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Books are great…experience is greater.
  • 5. Like any hobby you can spend as much time and money on it as you desire…  Go at your own pace and make changes and improvements when you’re ready.
  • 6. The homebrewing community is very welcoming, don’t hesitate to join your local homebrew club.

9. What have I forgotten to ask, is there something else you’d like to share?

If you have dogs spent grains can be made into some wonderful dog treats…your pups will thank you!

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