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