Author Archives: GEM

Music to Quaff by: National Hangover Day Collaberative Edition

Happy New Year to those of our readers who use the same calender as me!  I hope that the first headache of the new year was WORTH IT!  Granted, some of you might be professionals like me and stumbled to your sleepspace at 3AM and woke at 8AM wishing that you packed your running shoes.  Really!!  I sometimes make myself sick.

We roasted a pig at a friend’s place, went through two kegs of Yuengling, discovered that Fresca and box wine is really not as bad as it sounds, and set off hundreds of dollars of fireworks.  We’re having a lovely afternoon on 1/1 of watching the Steelers win (yeah, we’re by Pittsburgh).  So now we’re sitting, watching rom-coms, drinking Victory Smokin’ Oats, and eating delivered sushi.  And I have no idea what to post, so I’m asking the crew for their music video suggestions.  Here’s what the great minds have put together.   And it’s legitimate because they have local flavah.

Pittsburgh State of Mind – Michael E. Moats and Addi Twigg

A Good Life – Joe Grushecky

(and because it was played last night a BUNCH OF TIMES)

Captain Jack Sparrow – Lonely Island


Resolutions – Let’s toast!

So this is possibly one of the more personal posts you’ll see on this blog, but it will circle back to beer, I promise!  I’ve had a seriously intense year, between personal crises, moving, changing jobs, and wrecking the Gexx-mobile in the middle of all of that.  I am so glad that I met amazing people on this journey, like Bear.

This year, I want to get my life to a point where I don’t feel as frenetic, powerless, and stressed like I spent this last year.  In my new (albeit temporary) home, I’ve gained quite a few friends, thanks to home-brewing.  It makes for an engaging introductory conversation topic, and other home-brewers love finding their own folk.  Also, as I’m trying to rebuild my career and it is stressing me the heck out, I don’t really like to talk about it, so “I brew my own beer” is an appropriate distraction and conversation topic change.  Also, home-brewing and exploring local breweries has evolved into a wonderful side project where I can build a new social media community and unwind from my other attempt at professional growth.
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Music to Quaff to: Christmas time is here (and gone) Edition

Hope everyone had an amazing weekend!  Bear and I felt like putting up some Christmassy music for you this week.

Christabel and the Johns – The Best Kind of Friend

(I LOVE the first line of this one – “Christmas time is here, can I get you another beer? Because you’re the best kind of friend, can you believe it’s been a year?”)

John Lennon – Happy Christmas (War is over)

Have a great new year!

(we have some posts lined up for you, don’t worry!)


BJCP Study Guide Part 1

Ok, let’s get started on our BJCP studying! I’m using the Interim Study Guide, and we’ll start from the beginning:

 List three primary purposes of the BJCP as listed on and in the BJCP Study Guide.

1. to promote beer literacy
2. the appreciation of real beer
3. and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills

Grid with the 7 principal BJCP Judge Levels, excluding honorary ranks, and the requirements to earn each of them.

BJCP Level/ Minimum Exam Score / Total Experience Points / Minimum Judging Points / GM Service Requirements

Apprentice / less than 60% / none required / none / must remain active
Recognized / 60% / none necessary / none / none
Certified / 70% / 5 / 2.5 / none
National / 80% / 20 / 10 / none
Master / 90% / 40 / 20 / none
Grand Master I / 90% / 100 / 50 / A total of 240 GMSR credits gained through testing and BJCP Committee Positions
Grand Master additional levels / 100 point increments / A total of 240 GMSR credits gained through testing and BJCP Committee Positions
True/False Questions:
answered within study guide

Music To Quaff To: Mountain Edition

I’ve recently moved up to the area (and luckily met with Bear) from East Tennessee.  One thing that I miss is the amazing local music scene.  There is *some* here, don’t get me wrong, but driving 45 minutes to a venue, going to a coffee house in the early evening, or Sunday afternoon jazz just isn’t the same as being able to head out any night of the week, traveling five minutes to a downtown and picking one of five, ten, or fifteen shows ranging from prog-rock to americana to punk to blues to metal.

I’ve excitedly followed some local bands as they made their way beyond the area and into regional and national tours.  I’ve been exposed to some amazing artists on their own tours. Some have even made it to the elusive, striven for, capital B and T Big Time.

One such band is the Black Lillies.  The frontman of the band, Cruze Contreras was once the CC part of Robinella and the CC String Band.  After they broke up, Cruze went on to start the Black Lillies, who ended up doing quite a few wide-spread tours.  About a year ago, I went to a friend’s bachelorette party the night of a BL concert, and we ended up at the same bar.  Cruze was a sweetie and bought my friend a drink.  To make it even more personal (granted, sometimes it seemed that everyone in East TN played an instrument), Trisha Jean, the female vocalist in the band, is my best friend’s mom’s best friend’s daughter.

Right now, the Black Lillies are an independent band and have a music video on CMT! Now before you deride it as ‘country’ I will put my reputation on the line to let you know that they aren’t your conservative C&W band.  The Black Lillies come from the East TN culture of subversive, anti-The-Man americana that Appalachia tends to produce.  The following video, Two Hearts Down, is up for one of CMT’s best videos of the year. So, if you like it and want to show the big companies that little folks can make it (I’m sure you can think of a beer-related parallel), vote for them here:

Black Lillies – Two Hearts Down

And a few other favorites from the region:

Phil Pollard and the Band of Humans – Land of the Living

Christobel and the Johns – More than Friends

A good example of how the music scene just *happens*:

Jon Worley / Fox Hunt / Cutthroat Shamrock jam

Elk Creek Brewing – Prince’s Porter Tapping

Brewer Tim

A short while ago, Bear and I took a reprieve from our typical weekend activity of training orphaned penguins to rescue shark attack victims.  We procured a designated driver who didn’t mind dodging the horse and buggies or remaining sober enough to dodge them in the dark on the return trip, which also involved that he stay sober.  And put up with us.  And maybe hold the camera if we ask him nicely.  Truly we found a noble individual.  Buy the man a beer!

Our trip deep into the quasi-powered farmlands of Pennsylvania was spurred by an announcement that Elk Creek Aleworks was tapping their Prince’s Porter (a bourbon barrel aged version of their Poe Paddy Porter) and having a PROHIBITION THEMED COSTUME PARTY!! And anyone who knows Bear and me knows that we rock beer and costume parties like they’re the shist. (I should warn you that we are punnaturally funny over here).

Bear is the Hop Devil and Gexx is The Most Interesting Man in the World. We were destined to be beer co-bloggers.

Take Halloween for example:

That’s what I’m talking about.

Look at those shebas!

So Sunday December 4, 2011 us get all dolled up with keen hats and pearls and a little help from the Costume Closet in Sunbury PA and headed out for some fortified giggle water.

While there we learned of a local moonshiner: Prince Farrington who apparently not only had a rather large and complex operation, but had won the hearts and minds of the locals with his rather philanthropic donations to schools and churches.

Christine and Dave are accompanied by some nimble tapdancers!

We hoofed it up with some period appropriate music was provided by Christine  and Dave of Marah, an Americana band from the area who we featured in a previous episode of “Music To Quaff To.”

The Beer of Honor was AMAZING!  I’ve always enjoyed the Poe Paddy Porter as a solid, full porter, and allowing it to age in a Bourbon barrel was an amazing idea.  Rich, sweet, vanilla flavor was imparted with a good boozy (definite whiskey)  background, and it melded well with the PPP.  We’ll get into the beers a bit more win our video, and I would love to thank the brewer, Tim for taking the time to give a great interview back in the brewing room.  So here are some pictures of the participants! If I have any attributions wrong, please let me know.

All the costumes!

Lola and Genghis

Julianne and John

Descendants of Prince Farrington: Dave (Grandson), Melissa (G-Granddaughter), Peter, David (G-G-Grandson), Olivia (G-G-Granddaughter)

Eve and Olivia - the dancers

Bear - I need a name for these people

Bear and Guy holding Guy's books about Prince

Nell of Chicken Tractor rocking her fedora

Nell and Dana

Music to Quaff to: 90s edition

Ok, let’s just stop being late and make Music to Quaff to a Monday thing.  Whether you’re like Bear with a job that’s more-or-less a regular 40 hour thing or like me with a serving job that gives me odd days off, you certainly need a soundtrack for chilling on the beginning or end of your work week.

So this weekend we had a 90s party.  While typing this up on Sunday evening, I’m still recovering from that, 11 hours of table waiting (in one day), and a 5 mile run to support the local Special Olympics so let’s have a 90s themed dance party … or a 90s themed night of sitting in your room writing bad poetry with a stout that is as dark as your misunderstood soul, your choice!







Music To Quaff to: Belated Edition

Week two and we’re already late with your music.

Goodness, well, Bear and I haven’t had much time to discuss this, so let’s put up a video from Marah, who were amazing enough to grace us at the Prohibition party at Elk Creek Aleworks and Brewery this past weekend.  Once we get our video edited from the event and the brewer interview, you might see a bit more of the striped guitar and dexterous piano playing.

BJCP Test Prep: Resource Collection Edition

I was talking with Bear the other evening at our local pub, when another patron overheard our beer discussion and decided to test our beer knowledge with an earthshaking question: “What is the difference between an ale and a lager?”  We hoped that this query was a joke, but alas, the imbiber was fully serious.  We (not quite) politely answered the question and hoped that it got us into this individual’s Royal Order of Beer Knowers.  Discussion ensued in an attempt to keep the evening jovial, although I will admit I was likely slightly peevish and antagonistic.  I tend to get that way when, instead of simply appreciating that we share a knowledge base and including me as a new cohort member, one tries to continually one-up me when one really shouldn’t (no, hops aren’t roasted; yes, beer can contain banana esters and they are sometimes desirable).  I’ll blame it on too many years in academia and having my ego tied to my knowledge.  Also, I’d like to extend a huge “thank you” to our awesome bartender for deftly changing a topic when it seemed that tensions were getting a touch high and allowing the evening to be quite pleasant.

The point to this story is that in our discussion, Bear and I realized that we know quite a bit about the technicalities of beer.  While we had always intended to do tastings and include the ensuing notes as a part of this blog, we would like this blog to lead to some personal development, not just serve as a place for us to dump our musing, notes, and brewing adventures.  So we are going to work together to study for the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Test.  I had started before I moved earlier this year, so somewhere I have a set of flashcards prepared.

What this means for you, dear readers, is that our tastings will have some attempt to follow the standardized format.  Granted, as Bear and I rarely believe in ‘samples’ (unless we split a whole bottle), the quality of said formatting might be compromised as a session goes on.  This also means that you can hold us accountable, if you so choose to. Or you can follow along and gain some insight from us.

If you want to study along with us, we would love for you to comment on the site, join our twitter, or our upcoming G+ and Facebook pages!

Today I’m looking online for some resources.  Feel free to comment with some of your own. is the logical (and comprehensive) start.  They publish a beer scoring sheet, a list of qualities of specific styles of beers in various printable forms, study guides, flashcards for off-flavors, and have links to getting publications for your mobile devices.


Music to Quaff to: #1

So, We’ll see what happens, but I’d like to start a weekly thing where on Friday or Saturday either Bear or myself (Gexx) post some music we want to share. It could be new, it could be old, but it’ll be good.

This week’s “Music to Quaff to”  is brought to you by serendipity. Bear and I both like to run (note, I said “like to”, not “are runners” or “are good at running”) and on my mp3 playlist yesterday, this gem popped up.  And then Bear posted it in anticipation of Black Friday.  So here is the first Music to Quaff to….

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