“Take the cards you’re dealt and play your hand” –Tom Gies
Our Assistant Brewer, Tom Gies, is literally one of a kind! He’ll work countless hours with a smile on his face, and still offer a helping hand whenever and wherever needed. In light of some recent and not so recent events, we at Pals Brewing Company decided to team up with the community for a Tom Gies Fundraiser event. Some people may know part of Tom’s story, but we took the opportunity to sit down for a brief chat with Tom to learn a little more about the triumphs and tribulations Tom has faced.
What year were you diagnosed with cancer and what type was it?
In 1999 Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Stage 4 (This kind of cancer has a life expectancy of 4 years) I battled it for 12 years. They did a stem cell transplant and that lasted about a year and eventually didn’t work, then they gave me another prognosis that I had 6months to live, so I went and found a Doctor in Little Rock that gave me a second transplant which helped, and I go back down there every September for a yearly check.
How many kids do you have and how old were they when you were going through this?
Four kids – 13, 12, barely one, and Chase wasn’t yet born
Why do you have a titanium rod in your leg?
I’ve actually got titanium rods in both legs. One happened when I was at work I was going to get my blood pressure taken and it just folded out, it must have been a hairline fracture or something. Multiple Linoma makes your bones really brittle and there must have been a weak spot and the weight must have been just right for it to collapse. The second one was from the dog leash. I was carrying a battery, Chase and I were getting ready to go fishing, and the leash was somehow laying across both vehicles in my driveway and I caught it on the upswing and it snapped my leg in half. Both breaks were femurs, and in my back, my L2 and L4 were pretty much disintegrated and I had to walk with a cane for about 7 years.
What was your career prior to brewing?
I was a technical advisor for GE at the Diesel Shop
How long and why did you leave?
I was there for just a little over 20 years, and I shattered my shoulder and my arm on vacation (Tom says with a laugh) and due to the previous health issues combined with this fracture they retired me.
How long have you been brewing?
My first homebrew was actually done in England. My brother started brewing back in ’89, so he called me up since we’re both beer drinkers, and said I’ve got to try it. So it was no holds barred after that. I had about 6 years where I didn’t brew when I was healing from the last leg break
How did you end up working at Pals?
We went to a graduation party, and I didn’t want to go. We’d gone to 3 other parties, so I was kind of over the day, but I was talked into it so I went and I was actually having a great time over there. Paul happened to be neighbors with the party host, Linda, and he could hear all the ruckus from us partying so he stopped over and said, “What? You guys are partying without me?” and joined us. So we started chatting a bit and he mentioned he was tossing around the idea of getting a helper and he says, “So what are you doin?” and I said, “nothing” then Paul says “well hypothetically if you’re not doing anything when could you start?” and I go, “Tomorrow” then Paul says he doesn’t typically brew on Mondays it’s kind of a brewers holiday, so I say “Tuesday”, Paul kind of shakes his head and laughs a bit and says he’s doing a batch on Wednesday and I said “What time?” Paul didn’t really think I was going to show up he just thought it was one of those conversations that wasn’t going to lead to anything, but here I am and I haven’t left yet! It was awesome, just one of those ‘meant to be’ kind of things!
What’s your favorite Pals brew?
That’s a tough one right there and I get that question a lot! Herbie Red Rye was my all time favorite, and then now it just kinda switches back and forth it seems like the one we run out of is always my favorite. Like now we’re out of Pils, but I do like to lean on the Apricot because it’s really refreshing, and IPA. At the time I bounce back and forth between the Apricot and IPA.
What happened last weekend?
We were camping out at the lake. It was Amy’s birthday and I offered to make enchilada casserole, which I’ve loved to make since way back in the Boy Scouts, so we were getting ready for that and just kind of goofing around and…Tom smiles and shakes his head…damn dog rope (as he busts out with laughter) I tripped over that and went down. I can’t feel my feet, I’ve got peripheral neuropathy from all the chemo I’ve had, so the dog leash was attached to the stairs on my camper, and I was carrying something so I wasn’t looking down at where I was stepping, so I fell forward, and I didn’t want to damage my shoulder I’d already shattered before so I did kind of a gorilla style tuck and roll, that’s when I hit my hip and landed on my back.
So you’ve broken your shoulder and what else?
Yeah my shoulder, arm, both femurs, 4 ribs, all my toes (more of Tom’s laughter)
What’s a beer you’ve always wanted to make?
I’ve always wanted to do a Hefeweizen, but this Belgian Tripel we’re making is really exciting. I love Belgian beers!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Apparently I’m supposed to still be here doing something otherwise I wouldn’t be here. You just gotta take the cards you’re dealt and play your hand!