Countdown to ARToberfest: Thirsty Thursday

Another week, another Thirsty Thursday! As part of our preparations for ARToberfest, NCLAC is recruiting homebrewers to participate in our Brewmaster Contest for a chance to win a $500 grand prize.  Do YOU brew your own beer and want to participate? Contact us at (318) 255-1450. For this week, we spoke to brewer Steve Parks about his experiences creating craft beer at his own Shade Tree Brew House. He will be one of the many local brewers at ARToberfest, and we look forward to seeing him there and trying one of this unique brews!

Q. What inspired you to start brewing?

A. I’ve always been interested in craft beer, dating back to the early 80’s when I was stationed in the Marines in Southern California. The Craft beer seen was just emerging in the US, with brands like Anchor Brewing, and Sierra Nevada emerging. Advance many years later, and a good friend and fellow craft beer who was in Virginia at the time called me on the phone and told me he had taken up the hobby. About nine months after that, I met him at his home in Colorado Springs, CO, and we brewed my first extract batch of Amber Ale on his stove top. After a few weeks of fermentation I had my first taste of my own homebrewed, craft beer. I haven’t looked back sense, and homebrewing is now my passion and a way of life.

Q. When did you start brewing?  And where do you brew?

A. I started homebrewing July 4th, 2008 The first year or so it was extract kids on the stove-top, then I built my first all grain system.

I brew primarily in my garage, the Shade Tree Brew House in Alexandria. I co-founded the Shade Tree Home Brewers of Central Louisiana, along with a guy named Gary Guillory, and we meet the first Monday of every month. On occasion we move equipment around and brew at different brews houses.

Q. What was your inspiration for the name of your brew?

A. I still consider myself a student of the craft of homebrewing. While I have brewed many batches of beer, not many have I assigned their own personal name. I did invent a Finnegan’s Pale ale and IPA after my favorite Pub in Alexandria. The staff there have been real supporters of my beer, by hosting club meeting and beer tasting to help me promote homebrewing and getting my name out there to the public. I thought that was worth formulation a few beer for and using as a namesake.

Q. How large are your batches? Do you keg, bottle, or both?

A. I brew anywhere from 5 gallon to 32 gallon batches, with batches being 10 gallon on the average. I have two brew systems, one for smaller batches and one for “Big Brews” to be utilized mostly by club members. It’s nice to have a system where large enough for multiple people to brew on one day, at one time; then split the batch up to take home and ferment independently. The big system is a fairly new thing, and I hope it will help further the ambitions of the club and enable us to educate and give back to the community, and events such as yours.

Above: A Recent Photo of Steve's Brew System

Q. Have you participated in any homebrewing competitions?

A. I’m fairly new to competitions, with entering my first competitions this year. My first comp I entered I sent four beer and all four medaled, with one being second best of show. My second comp this year, My double IPA recipe won Best of Show. It’s definitely a great feeling to have your brewing skills validated by certified judges and fellow homebrewers. The is one thing about this craft that is so fun; the quality of your product isn’t limited by the size of your brewery. Any skill home brewer now day have the resources to make beer on par with any other brewery. I’ll go further to say most of the best beer I have ever tasted were home brewed. I have another Competition coming up in mid-August and I hope to do well.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge as a homebrewer?

A. I set really high standards for myself, so I’m perhaps my hardest critic. I love craft beer of all types, and I put a lot of energy in learning and educating others on home brewing and craft beer in general. One of my biggest challenges is finding enough hours in the day, days in the week to brew all the different styles. I’m working my way through them bit by bit, and I have a goal to master every beer style.

Q. Have you participated in Artoberfest before? 

A. This is my first Artoberfest event! My good friend Jeff Pieper from the Malt Munching Mash Mosters (another club I’m a member of) from Shreveport told me about the event. I used to go to Octoberfest every year in Torrence California and it was always a blast, so when I saw the chance to be a port of this event, and to serve my beer to folks who will appreciate it, I had to be a part of it. One of my goals when we established Shade Tree Beer brewers to not only educate brewers, but use brewing and homebrew as a way to give back, grow and contribute to the community around us. We do the Art-walk in Alexandria every year, and give our beer away, just as means to tell people who we are and what we are about. I am really excited to be able to participate in Artoberfest!