This Freeport brewery has been serving up craft beer since 2014. Learn how the brewery got off the ground and find out what makes the beer so unique.
The parking lot at Generations Brewing Company is all quiet 20 minutes before opening on a Friday afternoon. The doors are locked and there’s only one lonely car parked in front of the building.
Not even 10 minutes after opening, ice cold beer is flowing and there are enough people to fill the majority of the barstools and tables.
People in Freeport and the surrounding area have been enjoying quality craft beer at Generations Brewing Company, 1400 S. Adams Ave., since the doors opened back in 2014. It’ll celebrate its fifth anniversary in October.
“We make everything from A to Z,” says Steven Winter, owner and brewmaster. “We make everything from light to dark, sweet to hoppy, strong to light. We pretty much cover it all as far as the world of beer styles go.”
Winter and his dad, Mark, a general contractor, literally created the brewery from the ground up. It’s located inside a building the father-son duo built from scratch.
Winter, a Freeport native, has been brewing beer professionally for 10 years.
“It continued to escalate from a hobby to a passion to an obsession to a career,” he says.
The brewery always has 10 beers available on tap. Five can be purchased all year long, and the others are a mixture of quarterly, seasonal and speciality selections. But at any given point, the brewery can have roughly 15 beers in its portfolio.
“I particularly like brewing more traditional, German lagers,” Winter says. “Not only are they some of my favorite styles of beer, but right now in the American craft brewing industry, a lot of people are doing IPAs and sour beers. We have a few of those, but our focus is more on the traditional German lagers.”
Some of the rotated beers are made just for fun, including the Meringue-U-Tang, which was brewed with fresh lemon wedges and marshmallows.
“We took a lemon meringue pie and turned it into a German beer,” Winter laughs. “We boiled some lemon wedges and fresh marshmallows together to get some sugar and vanilla flavors into the beer, which was a lot of fun. It’s really nice to have the ability to use weird ingredients like that.”
Winter says the specialty beer could make a return in the near future.
Each beer at the brewery has a unique story behind it. The Pretzel City Amber, for example, bears Freeport’s nickname.
“We wanted to share that history with our flagship beer, and we made the Pretzel City Amber with locally made pretzels,” Winter says. “We put them in the mash tun, and the residual starches are broken down into the beer during the process, which creates body and some saltiness in the finish. Each of the beers tell a story, and that’s why their names are designed the way they are.”
One thing that separates this beer from others in the area is the water that’s used. Winter believes the water in Freeport makes the beer taste that much better.
“We love our water. We use our city’s municipal water, which is very hard, and it’s very mineral and metal-rich,” he says. “It makes the beer taste good because the minerals and metals help the yeast build their cellular wall structure. It makes for happy, healthy fermentations.”
Winter believes the brewery is lucky to have that type of water at its disposal.
“A lot of people build their breweries in areas that are highly populated, but maybe aren’t the best water source to make their beer,” he explains. “They’ll run their water through reverse osmosis filters and strip it down to practically nothing.”
It takes Winter and his team about eight hours to brew 600 gallons of beer. Depending on the type of beer that’s brewed, it can take anywhere from two weeks to four months to complete.
“Once the beer is brewed, it’s pumped into fermentation vessels, and then we’ll add yeast and it’ll do its job and convert the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide,” he says. “The yeast has various metabolisms, so it takes various times to ferment and create the beer that we want.”
In addition to beer, the brewery also has a full bar with vodka, whiskey and wine. Soft drinks can also be purchased.
“We have spirits that you won’t find at other bars, restaurants or grocery stores,” he says.
There’s no kitchen on-site, but there’s an open food policy, so you’re more than welcome to bring your own food to the brewery.
“People will get their own food delivered to us,” Winter says. “We also have a grill outside that people are welcome to use. People can bring their own burgers and brats and have a picnic while they’re here.”
This is the first year the brewery has partnered with area food trucks. They’ll make stops at the brewery so people can grab a bite to enjoy with their beer.
On Monday nights, the brewery hosts a burger club, so the brewery plays host to a big cookout.
“I have a buddy of mine who’s an amazing chef, and he comes in and uses our grill to make sandwiches for everyone,” Winter says. To him, not having a restaurant just makes the brewery stand out even more.
“A lot of places are a mixture of restaurants and breweries, but we don’t have the restaurant to worry about,” he says. “We don’t have to worry about running that side of the business, which is really nice. It gives us more time to focus on the beer and production, and I think that really shines through in the quality of our beer.”
Generations Brewing Company is open Mon. 4-9 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 3-10 p.m., Fri. to 3-11 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. The brewery is open on Sundays and Mondays from May through October.