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Brew & A: Trevor "Laughing_Gnome_Invisible" Clark

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There are many mysteries yet unsolved in the world. How were the pyramids built? What happened to the Mary Celeste? Who the hell is Laughing_Gnome_Invisible?
Although starkly different mysteries in desperate need of solving they all have one thing in common. After you read this interview you're still not going to have a clue.

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible, known in the real world as Trevor Clark, is a long time member at the forefront of drunken humor here at HomeBrewTalk. Having well over 200 threads most in General Chat and Drunken Ramblings and Mindless Mumblings, my personal favorite being " Anyone else addicted to mouthwash? ", I got to know my new hero, and fellow mouth wash addict in our latest Brew & A.
Austin: How did you start brewing?
Trevor: The quick answer is a Christmas present of Mr. Beer from the missus.
However, I would have looked into the idea myself sooner had it not been for my father. Sometime in the 60's I remember as a kid that he brewed some kind of excrement in a plastic trash can, and later put some sludge from this trash can into bottles. Later still, he poured the stuff into a glass, made a face that you normally see carved in stone on the roof line of a Gothic cathedral, and the remaining bottles were never seen again.
It was only after brewing my Mr. Beer Xmas pressie, and tasting something that was really quite decent, that I decided to look into it further. I was much more fortunate than my father in that I had the internet. I quickly found HBT, brewed my second brew, and the rest is history.....Except of course for my brews to come, which are probably in the future. Anyway, the relevant bits to this article are history apart from question 9 (Dream rig).
Austin: Do you know what he was trying to brew? Was it an early kit? Family recipe?
Trevor: I have a vague recollection of some kind of kit that my dad was trying to brew from. In those days, it would probably have consisted of a can of extract bought from the pharmacy (Boots the chemist), and any bits of equipment he could cobble together himself. I remember dodgy red rubber hoses, a non-food safe plastic dustbin, and some demi-johns from his wine making exploits.
His wine making was a lot more successful, and any family outing always involved a short/long stop at the roadside any time we passed a blackberry bush or an outcrop of dandelions near the road........I have just realized! If further proof was ever needed that I was turning into my old man.....
Austin: Do you forage for your ingredients? Do you have a place you go, or like your Dad is it just wherever you're at, lets grab it and go?

Trevor: Nope. No foraging here.
Austin: Oh. OK... What's your favorite beer?
Trevor: My tastes in most things are entirely influenced by experiences from my youth. For the same reasons that I love British '70s classic rock,steak and kidney pie and Monty Python, I love English beer. More specifically, ordinary bitter. In equal first place is English IPA, but that is usually so close to bitter that it's only splitting hairs.
No way would I say that these beers are superior or worse in any way to any other style. It's just that it's what I grew up with. Having said that, I'm glad I never grew up with acne. It would be a bitch if at 57, I was rubbing goat poo on my face to give me spots because I miss them!
Austin: Uh. OK...What other facets of your life does being an anglophile translate into? Mop haircuts and an urge to run off to India?
Trevor: I'm not an anglophile, I'm an actual anglo-saxon from Angleland. The great port of Southampton, to be precise. As such, I have a long family history of relatives sinking with ships. A Great granddad crew member survived the Titanic, an uncle drowned on the first British ship sunk in WWII.....So I tend to stay away from ocean craft if they are doing something for the first time.
I came to America in 2000 because I heard that there was a lady here with some lady bits that I might want to marry.....And as it turned out, I was right!

Austin: So you're so much of an anglophile you were born in England? That's some dedication. Did you brew in England? Are their any differences culturally on brewing and beer making?
Trevor: I never brewed in the UK because it never really occurred to me at the time. The styles of beer I drank were in abundance and in great variety at every pub, and poured from nice welcoming hand pumps from the cask by a plump middle aged lady with a nice smile and a heaving cleavage. I never lived anywhere in the UK without around a dozen pubs within walking distance. I brew in the US not because the beer I love does not exist here, but it can be hard to find and prove expensive. Also, while American small brewers are largely excellent at what they do, they do not seem to have the incentive to make the smaller brews like an ordinary bitter. Sadly for UK residents though, the number of pubs is in rapid decline.
Austin: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Trevor: I wanna say pumps, but on reflection, I can brew just as easily in any kind of footwear.
Pumps are fantastic, but I would have to say my electric keggle. That's the one item that makes me really horny for brewing. Mine doesn't have any bells and whistles, just the element, plugs/receptacles, GFCI and a switch to turn it on and off instantly during hop additions.
I'm waiting for the stupid Ohio laws to change so that I can marry it.
Austin: Do you have a photo?
Trevor: Do I have a photo? Yes thanks!
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Trevor: The Zappomatic propane pubic hair burner. I'm still sore.

Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Trevor: I'm cheap.
Primarily, I brew so that I can enjoy English beer without having to ____ sailors in a parking lot just so that I can afford a few imported bottles that are nothing like the cask ales that I used to take as granted. Yes, I know that there are some great craft brews out there, but as I said, I'm cheap, so it would be back to the parking lot for me!
Either way, for me, it has to be cask ale. For that, just read "live" ale. Bottles are just tiny casks, after all!
I'm ugly, but beer makes me sexy. Especially if I drink too much of it.
Austin: How would you even do that in Ohio? Wait, never mind. What's your homebrewing style?
Trevor: Art deco with a smooth jazz swing playing in the background......... And All grain.
Austin: What made you decide to go all grain? Have you always done all grain, or did Birth of the Cool change the way you saw brewing, and hence your world?
Trevor: Why did I go AG? Hmmmm......I honestly don't fully remember. Cost would have been a definite reason, but also, I think it would have been the momentum that one has when one starts brewing. Did that, try this. Done that, try this.....I think we can just call it obsession, but not the one by Kalvin Kline.
However, I think there was always a desire to strip back the aspect of convenience to get to the bare essentials of the beer. A can of extract, for me, at least, is somehow missing the personality and tree hugginess of a sack of malt.
Austin: So you feel the issue with extract brewing is in the end product not holding up to it's all grain counter part?
Trevor: I wouldn't knock extract brewing. Many people do it very well and with great success. I just found that it was not really right for me. I wouldn't presume that AG is better than extract. I just love the feel of malt in my hands, the joy of the grain crusher and all that good stuff.
Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences.
Trevor: I have several memorable experiences, it's hard to nail down exactly which of those times I plunged my hand into the hot mash to re-attach the manifold is the most memorable.......Then I learned the plastic bag full of cold water trick.........After that, I fixed the f*cking manifold!!
Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Trevor: I actually drank the perfect pint in the '80s. I'm sorry guys, I never saved any for you.
Short answer, and the type of answer you are looking for, for me, it will be a medium copper colour, small streams of barely visible bubbles that dance to the top (not a forward march like a troop of very determined Nazis) which form a lacing on the top of the pint.
There will be at the very least a nose of fuggles.
The real answer, as experienced in that one pint in the 80's:
My father is there with me. We are standing in the doorway of a pub simply people-watching as they mill around during an early summer evening. The beer smells like some time in the past when things were somewhat slower and a little less noisy. When you raise the glass to inspect the contents, it is the only thing you see, there are no extraneous elements that cloud the moment. The beer tastes like good beer, but somehow more than that. It does not simply taste 'right'.....It stretches your perception of right like a bow string until you feel that to stretch it any further may make it snap...........And somehow, you know that the person in your company is also very content.
I suppose any pint that you can still draw great pleasure from after 30 years of drinking it should be regarded at least as almost perfect.
Austin: I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't agree with that. Congrats on having the perfect beer!
From the sounds of it beer is a religious experience for you, and most people I've talked to. Do you have rituals or practices associated with your brewing and drinking?
Trevor: Beer drinking ceremonies? Now I think you are just being weird. No. I just drink beer. it's simple! Pour it, look at it, admire it, utter the secret incantation, smell it, put on the magic apron, count the bubbles, then drink it!! I'd hardly call that a ****ing ceremony!
Austin: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Trevor: I don't really have one. I would just like to have the organizational skills to keep it all in one place!

Austin: Tell me more about roasting your own grain. How did you get started? What equipment do you use?
Trevor: Roasting my own grain: This is the only aspect of brewing that my wife likes. It makes the whole house smell like an angel's fart. Anyone wanting to try it should just reference Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing, or material from that posted on HBT. My take on it comes from there. However, I HAVE had a lot of fun experimenting with a homemade roasting drum on an electric spit using a gas burner in my BBQ......It was not really worth all the trouble, but isn't that half the fun of brewing at home? Going down the paths of silliness, climbing the hills of obsession, and pissing in the urinals of conventional wisdom?
Austin: What smoked beers have you done? Do you share them with your friends and loved ones? Do they like them? I love smoked beers, but it seems, at least when it comes to American taste, that they are under appreciated.
Trevor: My foray into smoked beers was very brief due to the lack of testicular fortitude of the electric spit that turned my over-sized cookie tin roasting drum. Suffice to say, I made a batch of oakish IPA that was, shall I say, "Interesting". However, it is something that I may well have another try at in the future if and when I can find more time. My success was very limited, but the aspect of fun was off the scale.
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
Trevor: Don't panic.
***
What an interview. I truly enjoyed getting to know Trevor and hope you all did as well. With his side splitting humor punctuated with words of wisdom, Trevor is one of the members making HomeBrewTalk that much more fun to be on. Please join me in raising a glass to this week's Brew & A, Trevor "Laughing_Gnome_Invisible" Clark.
Salud!

 
Dammit, Gnome, you owe me a new keyboard!
I think I need to delve into a few more of those OT threads. Then again, that would be just one more vortex for me to get sucked into.
Go there with trepidation.
 
As always Trevor I was Freaking laughing my ass off! You slay me dude! Great interview.
Cheers
Jay
 
I wanna say pumps, but on reflection, I can brew just as easily in any kind of footwear.
Best line ever!
 
I was too. A cockney accent in fact. A really bad one like Dick Van Dyke did in Mary Poppins. I'd throw the word 'Guvna' in every now and again too. :D
 
Gnome, you are irreverent and rude. And that is why I love you so very much!
Thank you for making me smile. Please send a photo of you in said pumps. Thanks!
 
Thanks guys!! Mucho kudos to Austin for trawling through my ramblings and making some sort of sense from it! He's a wonderful guy, and not at all like a sexually ambiguous Brazilian carnival queen.....I'm not entirely sure why I expected that he would be, but anyway, he's not.
Much more kudos to me though, for being totally awesome and modest.
 
@Laughing_Gnome_Invisible
Is it the fruit hat? It's the fruit hat. My wife keeps telling me "The fruit hat is confusing people. So is the tucking, but mainly the fruit hat.". I love that women. It's a shame she's a ghost inhabiting the body of a robot that has severe "killing tendencies" from the time spent in the battle fields of the future. Cause she's a time traveler too. Love is love. If a man wants to marry and have children with a possessed time traveling robot I don't see who's business it is but mine and I'll ask you to leave her out of this discussion.
 
Wish I would have read this before using the Zappomatic myself. It would have saved me a trip to the ER.
Great interview!
 
@Billy-Klubb I disagree.
I've felt every interview equal. This isn't about who's funniest, who's had it the worst, it's about revealing our truest selves to the community that supports us. It's the closest thing to nudity most of us will have here on HBT.
 
Apart from the Brit humor, I really, really liked your description of your perfect pint back in the '80s. You painted a picture and it felt as though I was there.
Having said that, I think I'll go have a home brew...
 
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