Brew & A: Paul "Paulthenurse" Comerford

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Everyone has their friends online. Through the intangible ether which is the internet we come together to discuss brewing, and end up finding people that share we more than that with.
Cars, cigars, professions, all great connection points, but every once in a while you meet someone who connects in a totally different way. Someone who you enjoy not just because of how informative they are, but the manner in which they deliver their knowledge.
Paul "PaultheNurse" Comerford is one of those members to many of us here on HomeBrewTalk. I first got to know Paul for an article we wrote together covering his wood fired pizza oven. A very fun article to write Paul kept me in stitches as he explained the process which led to his oven. Here's a link for those of you who missed it.
Paul lives his life very openly with us. Through his trials and tribulations, victories and successes Paul has been 100% himself. That's unique thing to find in the real world, let alone online.
Today Paul joins for the latest Brew & A.

Austin: How did you start brewing?
Paul: I started brewing when my ex was pregnant with out first child, 30 years ago. We were out for a drive over on the west shore of Buzzards Bay and came across a little farm stand. Inside they had devoted a small corner to home brewing stuff. It turns out that that little farm stand was what became Crosby and Baker. They didn't have a ton of stuff to choose from and what little they had was pretty dicey, like pre-hopped cans of LME, but no one knew any better and we were making our own beer so it was cool. I got an early edition of Charlie Papazian's book and it was my bible for years. Fortunately as their business grew they got in better and better ingredients and the beer magically got better. And now my daughters get to join me in drinking the beer I brew.
Austin: What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
Paul: Are you serious? My first brew was over thirty years ago. I don't remember what I had for breakfast.
Austin: Am I serious?...No?... What's your favorite beer?

Paul: Favorite beer is a tough one. For me, beer has a natural cycle that goes with the seasons. I'm probably not going to enjoy a Wit in December as much as I will in July. I do tend to keep to that cycle because it works. However, if you held a gun to my head and told me that I had to choose only one beer to drink for the rest of my life, that beer would be Guinness. I make good stouts and my porter is knock your socks off good but there is something about a fresh pint of Guinness. It probably has to do with my Irish heritage. I believe that there are tastes and flavors that we are genetically programmed to like. I found out that I had a bunch of ancestors who worked for Arthur G. when we were there a few years ago. They have a computer program there where you can put in your last name and it searches for former employees with that name, I imaging the computer would start smoking if you plugged in Duffy for example, but I have an uncommon last name, the dozen or so guys with my name surely must have come from some branch of the clan.
Austin: So brewing is in your blood? Do you brew with family?
Paul: Sort of. My daughter wants to brew some sort of crazy wildflower wheat ale. I suppose I have to brew it with her and pretend that it's a wicked pissah beer. But I'm drawing the line at an Imperial Mild. We're not going to brew a stinking Imperial Mild.
Austin: What's one piece if your brew setup you can't live without?
Paul: It's a tie between Oxyclean and Starsan. The both of them are amazing They're like magic pixy dust.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Paul: Pre-hopped cans of LME. Vile, disgusting stuff. But it was all we had back in the day.
Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Paul: I homebrew because I like the creative process. It's like cooking in that there are no hard and fast rules but there are guidelines that you should follow so that you end up with what you are looking to get in the end. If you want to make lasagna you should have some pasta noodles on hand, if you want to brew a Pils you might want to look right past that six ounces of black patent malt you have left over from last weeks brew session.
I always tell guys who are just getting going in homebrewing that they need to learn the language before they start making up their own words. The guys who last month were confirmed BMC drinkers and now they've made two kit batches and get inspired. They show up at the local HBS wanting to create an Imperial Mild. Uhhhhhhhh, come in off the ledge, lad. Sit down on that stool there while I pour you a glass and lets talk about Milds. There ain't no Imperial Milds. It's an oxymoron.
Now that said, thinking outside that box yields great results. I recently made a lasagna using zuchini instead of pasta. Slicing the zuchini into thin 1/4" slices and salting it made it shed most of it's water and the slices resembled cooked lasagna noodles. I used those zuchini slices instead of the noodles and it turned out great. Now everybody in the world might already know this trick but to me it was venturing into uncharted waters.
I never thought that marrying Belgian yeasts with IPA's would work, that just was not done. But it's great. For years we searched out old, flavorless hops and saved a few extra ounces of hops in the back of the fridge forever so that there was no pronounced hop flavor and the flavor of the yeast in our Belgian ales would shine through. Who knew?

Austin: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Paul: I find myself doing more extract and partial mashes lately. I have a three keggle all grain setup down in the cellar but I've honestly only dragged it out once in the past 12 months. It's just rare for me to have a solid six hour block of time off without something else competing for my time and attention. Between family obligations, the boat and scuba diving, grad school, projects around the house, etc, I just don't have the time to do all grain brews lately. It's all the same stuff that everybody else has going in their lives, I don't know how any of us get all that stuff done.

Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences.
Paul: I would have to say my most memorable home brewing days are the group brew days. The best part of homebrewing for me is the comradery and friendships that I've developed through the hobby. For example, I started a yearly gathering at my place that we call Masstoberfest about 7 years ago. It is a gathering of brewers to come together, brew, eat, shoot the bull and share our brews. It started with just four guys but has grown over time. Now guys bring their wives and kids, spend the day and enjoy a day hanging out with fellow brewers. The lawyers are still working out the franchise details but you should be able to host your own Masstoberfest by this time next year.

From the left... Joos. Dakota, Yeager, the-bird, PTN, Cape Brewing, BenWah, Matt and Mike (Non HBTers) Bulls Beer, Spawns ex boyfriend Tim, PTO in the back and Bulls pal Brian. No idea who belongs to that pair of legs behind Brian, but he's a midget so it's probably Smurf. - Paul
That is one of the great parts of HBT, the sense of community that exists here. Everyone is here because we have a love of a common hobby so there is bound to be some sense of connection between members but then you meet other members and they're not just cool because they're fellow brewers, they're just cool people. It fun to find the person under the persona. A lot of the folks here adopt a persona for the boards and then when you meet them they are NOTHING like who you are expecting. Of course, there are some chowdah heads here who are just chowdah heads. It's not an act. I am squarely in that camp.

From the original Utopia Clone Brew Day
Austin: How many members have you met? What's the largest turn out for Masstoberfest?
Paul: I bet I've met a hundred or more members over the years. There are a ton of local guys that I run into all the time but I've met TexLaw in Houston, I'm going to Austin next month and plan on crashing Sacch's Meridian Hive Meadery, the_bird, our wives, and I met Yoop out at the Finger Lakes a few years ago. Only problem with that trip was I got elected to be the designated driver. That and Yoop's snoring.
Probably the biggest turnout for Masstoberfest was the time we did the raffle for Babalu. I bet there were 50- 60 people there that day. Most years we have anywhere from 20- 30 including wives and kids. I think we had 6 or 7 guys brewing this past time. 6 - 7 guys and one woman, Melana, who was the winner of this years Masstoberfest Cup. She's got game.
Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Paul: Describe the perfect beer. OK, I say this knowing everyone is going to laugh at me but the single best glass of beer I've ever had was at the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam a few years ago.
I know. I know. I know.
It was STARTLING how flat out delicious that beer was. I wasn't particularly hot or thirsty or anything, it certainly wasn't my first trip to a brewery, either here or abroad. But damn, that glass of beer was incredible. Nice clean nose, crisp taste, gentle lacing all the way down the glass. A walk off home run.
Ya, I know. Heineken. Go figure.

Paul at the Heineken Brewery

Austin: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Paul: I don't know if there is a perfect rig. Actually there is, it is the rig that can make the beer you want to make that day with the minimum of fuss. Sometimes the perfect rig is a spaghetti pot, sometimes it is a huge plastic Mega Tun made from a plastic wine fermentation bucket. It all depends on what you are making. As I get older I find that the simpler a process is the better I like it.

For some reason the monks at Westvelteren wouldn't open the door when I knocked. - Paul

Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
Paul: Charlie Papazian said it best. Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew. We're not trying to put a man on the moon. If you take care of a few easy things like sanitation you can pretty much be sure that the yeast will find a way to finish the job. Relax, your beer will be fine.
***
I hope you enjoyed our time with Paul as much as I did. Unlike Paul I've not met too many HBT'rs, but I very much look forward to meeting him when comes to Austin in the next couple of weeks. The internet is a funny thing. We sit down, log in, talk about beer, and if we're lucky make lifelong friends.
Please join me in raising a glass to Paul "Paulthenurse" Comerford, the latest brewer to join us for Brew & A.
Salud!

 
Um, it was YOU that was snoring and you woke yourself up. I was ladylike, polite, unassuming, and gentle. Just like right now. Dumbass.
Seriously- thank you so much for the article and opening up to all of us and thank you for all the camaraderie you've developed over the years. Thank you for being PTN even though I happen to know you're actually one of the nicest and caring people I've known. Oh, and thank you for putting up with me and my snoring (which I do not do, by the way).
 
I can say, "I knew him when..."
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f210/yankee-ingenuity-viii-oct-12th-13th-78584/index2.html#post893195
 
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