Saturday, September 18, 2010

Märzen chronicles, Book II

Dave Hoffmann probably brews more Oktoberfest beer than any other brewer in New Jersey.

With turns at two different breweries – his own Climax brewery in Roselle Park and as the hired brewmaster for Artisan's brewpub in Toms River – Dave has churned out barrel after barrel of the fall seasonal, tailoring the brews for different markets.

Across North Jersey, the beer made under his Hoffmann lager label is a rich, hearty brew like the seasonal German imports his dad, Kurt, enjoyed years ago; the version Dave just put on the taps at Artisan's is quite malty, too, but dialed back just a notch. (That's Dave pictured at last year's fest dinner at Artisan's. This year's is set for Oct. 8th)

In either case, Dave hews zealously to his German heritage, making true-to-style märzens – "not much bitterness, not much hop flavor but very toasty, very caramelly" – that you can't get these days from the deutscher breweries known for creating the style in the first place.

"A lot of the Oktoberfests coming out of Germany, they don't even resemble Oktoberfest," Dave says. "I don't know what the hell they are, some kind of generic fest beer. It's not really true Oktoberfest beer.

"They're not orange any more; they're straw-colored because most of the breweries got away from brewing traditional Oktoberfest beers. Me, as a German and as a brewer, I feel I have to brew it according to the style definitions."

And brew he has: 36 barrels made around mid-summer at Climax were sold in a week. Another 12 barrels will be ready the first week of October, kegged off and bottled in 64-ounce growlers. (By comparison, Dave brewed 28 barrels of Oktoberfest last year, and production at Climax Brewing is up 40 to 50 percent so far this year.)

"I could have sold another three tanks of Oktoberfest if I had them. For some reason this year, people are into Oktoberfest beers, and they're flying out the doors."

German beer is in Dave's DNA. The son of an immigrant father and mother born in the US to German parents, Dave (who's fluent in German himself – "If I spoke German to you, you'd never know I was American," he says) remembers his dad's stock of Spaten, Dinkelacker and Mönchshof. When Dave started homebrewing 20-something years ago, he mimicked those brews to help satisfy his dad's thirst for a taste of back home.

"Whatever seasonals those breweries made, that's what was in the fridge," he says. "That's what I got weaned on. That's what I drank. I know what the Oktoberfest tasted like 25 or 30 years ago because I drank 'em, because my dad had 'em all the time."

Just for the f*cking hell of it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall classic

Some scenes from High Point Brewing's 2010 Ramstein Oktoberfest debut on Saturday. Video was shot using an iPhone.