Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Memoriam Mit Merkur

Confession time.

When I go to funeral services, my usual M.O. is to arrive early, pay my respects to the deceased with a prayer, express my condolences to the family with a hug, then get the hell out of the funeral parlor.

Today, however, I paid my respects to the deceased with a beer instead of a prayer, I expressed my condolences by singing "Ein Prosit,"and I stayed in the "funeral parlor" for three hours.

 Because this time was different in a few ways. First, it was a service for a man I had come to admire, respect and even love. Second, he loved beer--especially lagers. Third, his name was Kurt. Kurt Hoffmann.

Baby Dave Hoffmann with Dad Kurt
It was the first time I had ever attended a memorial service in a brewery, but it was never more fitting. The brewery in question was Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, and it was begun in the back of Kurt's machine shop on Valley Rd. so his son Dave could make the German beers Kurt so loved. In the process, Dave's brewery became the very first microbrewery in the state of NJ, which today is seeing a veritable explosion of breweries because of what Kurt and Dave began.

What place then, would be more fitting for a sendoff for Kurt Hoffmann? He was in there almost every time I went from my very first visit in 1997, and we shared stories, jokes and beer galore. He was Bavarian through and through, right down to the chamois atop his hat and his lederhosen. Kurt Hoffmann was Germany personified.

Paul Mulshine
And judging by the throngs, including many beer cognoscenti and celebrities like Star Ledger Columnist Paul Mulshine and Ale Street News Editor Tony Forder, that came to pay their respects in his brewery, Kurt Hoffmann touched many, many lives for the better. His son Dave gave a heartfelt eulogy in his dad's honor, claiming, as he gestured around the brewery, that without him, "none of this would have existed." Some wag cut in and said, "Without him, YOU wouldn't have existed!" which elicited a hearty laugh from Dave and the crowd , most of which were holding one of Dave's beers aloft. And that's exactly what Kurt would have wanted: people drinking his son's beer, laughing and having a great time.

Dave's mom Linda, Kurt's wife of fifty-two years, and sister also shared special, touching comments about what Kurt meant to them, and they weren't the only ones in the house to become verklempt in the process. When they had finished, Mrs. Hoffmann exhorted everybody to eat and drink, as Kurt would have wished, and the entire assembly erupted into the classic German beer-hymn known as "Ein Prosit," complete with ziggy-zoggies and oy-oy-oys.

It was a very upbeat occasion (as opposed to most memorial services), with plenty of food and some really good beers, like the Anniversary Barleywine and the "Small Beer" Dave made off that, using second runnings. The Barleywine was a delicious, sneaky-smooth 11% while the small beer was an equally tasty, sessionable 4.9%. He used 1000 pounds of grain for each creation, along with a special German hop called Merkur, which imparts an orangey taste. Both beers made from the same batch were outstanding, but I limited myself (mostly) to the small beer due to the occasion. And the fact that I had to drive home. The Helles, Kurt's favorite, was also outstanding...

Mr. and Mrs. Roessle
But the event got me thinking. When it's my time to shuffle off this mortal coil, I'd like to have my memorial service in a brewery. Everybody's chatting and happy, there's little crying and no wailing and a whole lot of essen und trinken. There was even some lively background German music for tanzen.

And that's how I'd like to check out. With people laughing, chatting, eating, drinking and even dancing. That's the way to be remembered and celebrated.
Father & Son by Gregg Hinlicky

Because people may not remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

And Kurt Hoffman made people feel like trinken, essen und tanzen.
And though he will be greatly missed, he will not be forgotten.

Ein prosit, Kurt Hoffmann!

The PubScout

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