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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Empyreal Brewery in St. Elmo on Thursday, April 1, 2021.

The Tap House in St. Elmo has been a popular place for folks to get a glass of beer, Kombucha, wine, coffee, root beer, butter beer or a sake cocktail for four years this week, and now you can get a specially crafted beer created by brewer Amanda Boone with the help of, well, maybe you.

Once Plus Coffee closed its doors across the hall last March, Tap House owner Chris Calhoun enlisted his girlfriend to use the space to create specialty beers and teach a class for people who want to dive deeper into brewing their own.

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Empyreal Brewery

As part of the class in the new Empyreal Brewery, each of the up to six people who participate will get a growler to take home and the rest will be added to the Tap House's more than 30 taps, meaning "You can bring your friends and tell them you helped make it," Calhoun said.

Boone, a hospitalist who was a molecular biology major in college before serving in the Air Force, has been brewing for about three years and said brewing beer lets her "exercise the creative part of my brain.

"I've been seriously cooking since I was 8. I've done sour dough breads and things that involve cultures and yeasts for a long time. For me it's a hobby, but it's fun."

She said brewing beer is similar to being a candy maker, in that hitting the right temperatures, brew times and quantities is as important as the ingredients you use.

"It's also like baking a wedding cake where you look at and say, 'That's beautiful, I hope it tastes good,'" she said.

She also likes teaching others. For her, Empyreal, which means heavenly or the epitome of beauty based on the Empyrean Heaven in Greek Mythology, is a place for her to try new recipes and teach.

"I'm the chemist," she said. "The science part is all mine and Chris does the building and engineering." She likes getting suggestions or challenges from others and recently created a strawberry piña colada IPA and is working on a recipe for an orange creamcicle IPA and another with rose flavoring.

"I like light and clean beer, but I like barrel-aged beers as well. I haven't gotten too into sours a lot, but they are popular as are ciders, so I will."

She said she has created dozens of recipes utilizing about 12 base grains and 20 or so adjunct grains, in addition to dozens of different hops and yeasts that she has to work with. Which means knowing which work well with which is both the skill and the challenge.

"It's really what changes it from home brewing to being more robust. The recipes are very complicated with many steps added to them."

She said both she and Calhoun are very meticulous and both are fervent about checking every step of the process.

Calhoun, a former Marine, said the plan is to hold a regular class once a month, but to also offer special brewing events for events such as weddings, or gatherings.

"We did a wedding where a bride created her own beer and served it at the party," he said.

He added that the intent is to remain a "true nanobrewery" with limited capacity for brewing not much more than 20 or 30 gallons of beer at a time.

The Tap House is about 2,100-square feet and the brewery, which can be rented for small gatherings, is about 900-square feet.

"These are small batch classes, and so while we might do a 5 to 20 gallon batch, you can scale it back at home. You can also come back and be a part of each step along the way. It's very hands-on."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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