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Cheers to local home-brewers

Mark Emiley knows one way to keep his friends happy — free beer.

Emiley, a 31-year-old Boeing operations analyst, brews a variety of microbrews in his Federal Way home, from summer ales to barleywines.

And he brews a lot of beer. Since he began home-brewing as a hobby eight years ago, Emiley has averaged almost 90 gallons of beer each year. That's 720 pints.

"I try to hold myself to about a pint or two a day," Emiley said, chuckling. "So it becomes a matter of trying to find people to drink your beer. We have as many parties as we can."

All that practice brewing, and a large base of friends as critics, led to Emiley to perfecting his recipe for Ronan's Spear, an English barleywine.

Emiley was one of two Federal Way brewers to stand out in a local competition and earn a spot featuring their recipe at a local brewery/restaurant.

The Puget Sound Pro-Am Competition, sponsored by the Boeing Employees Wine and Beermakers Club, pitted 124 home-brewers from as far away as Massachusetts against one another to earn eight spots at local breweries. The contest also awarded first-, second- and third-place prizes.

Emiley's beer will be featured at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery in Lakewood. Peter Twigg, 33 and also of Federal Way, will have his beer, Come Hither Cream Ale, featured at the Diamond Knot Brewery in Mukilteo.

The English barleywine that Emiley brewed is more than just a beer to help wash down hot wings. It's almost a meal in itself.

"We used some roasted malts to give it a little bready and biscuit-y feel as well," Emiley said.

Like all beers, Ronan's Spear contains the basic four ingredients: Malt, hops, yeast and water. The proportions and variety of the ingredients is what creates the unique taste of the beer.

"It's kind of rich and malty," Emiley said. "It's got a lot of kind of raisin-y flavors."

Emiley noted that Ronan's Spear is unusually strong, at more than 11 percent alcohol content.

After studying podcasts, Web sites and magazines, Emiley is a connoisseur of the finest beer-making ingredients. But one essential for Emiley's beer, he gets right from home.

"The most important ingredient has to be the Federal Way tap water," he said.

Peter Twigg's winning recipe was based a little less on strategy and a little more on luck, he said.

Cream ale is a light ale beer similar to a lager.

"This was actually the first attempt at it, and it turned out quite well," Twigg said, adding that he will have a difficult time concluding what, exactly, led to the perfect brew.

"Whatever magic that was there in that brewing session is lost forever," he said.

There were many not-so-lucky attempts before arriving at a good-tasting brew, Twigg said. But the failed products were never wasted.

"I don't believe in throwing it away. You just gotta slug through it. You gotta keep drinking," Twigg said.

Twigg's home-brewing began about 10 years ago when he was looking for a hobby to participate in with his retiring father. Now the pair spend quality time together working on their brews.

Twigg's wife, Janice, gets in on the beer-bonding sometimes. She named the winning beer Come Hither Cream Ale.

Whether a source of family bonding like the Twiggs, or a source of partying with friends like the Emileys, relationships thrive where there are home-brewed beers.

"Just put them on tap and everybody's happy," Emiley said. "Beer's a great thing. It just brings people together for a good time."

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

For more information on home-brewing beer, visit www.howtobrew.com.

Beer facts

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the "honey month," or what we know today as the "honeymoon."

According to a diary entry from a passenger on the Mayflower, the pilgrims made their landing at Plymouth Rock, rather than continue to their destination in Virginia, due to lack of beer.

Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the mix to find the right temperature for adding yeast. Too cold, and the yeast wouldn't grow. Too hot, and the yeast would die. This thumb in the beer is where "rule of thumb" comes from.

In 1788, ale was proclaimed "the proper drink for Americans" at a parade in New York City.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's."

George Washington had his own brewhouse on the grounds of Mount Vernon.

After consuming a bucket or two of vibrant brew they called aul, or ale, the Vikings would head fearlessly into battle, often without armor or even shirts. In fact, "berserk" means "bare shirt" in Norse, and eventually took on the meaning of their wild battles.

12 ounces of a typical American pale lager actually has fewer calories than 2 percent milk or apple juice.

In 1963, Jim Whitaker became the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A can of Seattle's own Rainier Beer made the ascent with him.

Source: www.beerchurch.com

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