Brews with brass

April 8, 1996

By Kurt Epps

Many homebrewers and suppliers will tell you that if you can boil water, you can brew beer. But most of the same brewers, including many of the experts and old hands, will also tell you that while you can make a pretty good beer pretty early in your brew career, making a great beer is another matter.

That is why what Dave Hoffman of Climax Brewing Co. has done is rather amazing. Dave happens to be the owner of The Beermeister supply store in Cranford, NJ, and he and his father/partner Kurt and partner Karl Mende' have just hit the taps with their first attempt at a marketable product. They have a winner.

This brew, an ESB in the finest English tradition, is a delight to three of the five senses (taste, sight and smell), and if you stick your finger under the tap and hear it fill your pint glass as it comes out, you can put nature's entire intended sensory array to work. And you won't be disappointed. Amber in color, a bit cloudier than perfectly clear, and possessed of a rich, full taste, this brew is remarkably satisfying and finely crafted. From the first swallow, the brew fan knows that care and quality are this beer's hallmarks. While Dave was understandably secretive about the four malts he used in its creation, he did mention something about Northern Brewer and Phoenix hops being brought to bear in the final preparation. And you can tell they are there, which is what hopped brews are supposed to do--let you savor the hops. This Climax ESB is, in fact, a tribute to the time honored craft of brewing, yet crafted by one who had little, if any, formal training in the intricacies of the art. Dave Hoffman "just started fooling around" with brewing, found out he liked what he made and had fun making it better.

This particular tasting was done at Antone's Pub in Cranford where Dave's ESB has been on tap for about a month. Brewlovers won't be disappointed to hear that there are about twenty bars throughout the metro area carrying the product on tap right now, including now-famous Gimpi's in Highlands, NJ. As fate would have it, within minutes of the first sampling of the ESB, Dave Hoffman himself ambled in to Antone's, with a sample of Climax Porter to be tasted publicly anywhere in the US. Dark, rich, malty with some exceptional chocolate notes, this is a porter's Porter. Dave allowed that this recipe used ten--count 'em, ten!--malts, but that was as far as he would go. You, however, should go as far as you have to to sample this superb, classic testimony to five thousand years of the brewer's art. Both Climax Brews, the ESB and the Porter are not only good, they are quite obviously harbingers of things to come from Climax Brewing Co. The unveiling of Climax IPA, due May 1, might be a major brew event. In the figurative sense, of course, both these brews have a certain quality--call it guts, moxie, call it brass. Perhaps another more masculine reference may pass glowingly from the reader's lips after your own tasting is done, which may have prompted the Climax brewers to select the corporate name they did.

From the standpoint of quality alone, every pub that touts itself as a micropub should have these numbers in its repertoire. If there's a beer goddess, she'll see that such a pub is not too far from you.

®Kurt E. Epps 1996 All Rights Reserved

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Kurt Epps