Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

La Cumbre Brewing Company

La Cumbre Brewing Company is a great new brewery in central Albuquerque, New Mexico. They just celebrated their first year of business, and are already brewing world class beer. If you are within 100 miles of this place, GO!

There are seven breweries all operating within a few miles of La Cumbre, in the light industrial area north of downtown. I had the opportunity to visit only one so I went by recent accolades. Good choice. The people at Beer Advocate generally love this place too...

Opened on December 11, 2010, by Jeff (head brewer) and Laura, La Cumbre already holds multiple Great American Beer Festival medals, including an IPA gold for their Elevated IPA. We were lucky enough to hit the taproom on the last day of the incredible Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. If you are ever in New Mexico, you gotta try both

I liked the atmosphere of the tap room (modern, but with great beer heritage evidenced by an impressive bottle collection) and I loved the beers and service I got. The sampler I enjoyed included (pictured left to right):

Octoberfest. Medium golden brown color. Smooth front end, strong body with good carbonation, hop flavor comes on slowly for a nice balance and drinkability. A distinct Marzen, nice flavors. Try It.

South Peak Pilsner. Light golden color, nice head. Crisp and light front end, super balance, with a light hop coming on at the end. The flavor resolves with the slightly metallic finish I associate with great Czech beer. The wife loved it. Very well done. Must have it.

Pyramid Rock Pale Ale. A British style Pale, with amber color, and a soft front end. The hop flavor builds but doesn't crest, leaving a malty finish. My wife called this "malty and interesting, but not great".  Decent, but compared to the others, Skip It.

Notty Pale Ale. La Cumbre's American style Pale, the hoppier, more enjoyable cousin. God bless America! Hop flavors nip at you with a strong front end, nice floral notes, and a rich body the carries it all through. Strong flavors, but expertly balanced. Must Have It.

Elevated IPA. Gold Medal Winner 2011 GABF IPA. Wonderful hop flavor comes on after initial rich body, and resolves into the most delicious flavor we can expect from beer. Wow. Huge floral pocket, deep malt flavors, this is exactly why we drink IPA's. Must Have It.

Pecos Porter. Silver Medal Winner 2011 GABF Porter. Dark brown color, with a rich and sweet malt flavor that is fully in control. There are deep malt notes, hints of chocolate and such flavor harmony that it approximated the world's first beer soda. Absolutely delicious, but drink in moderation. Must Have It.

Malpais Stout (Cask). Black color, no light shines through this one. The cask aged version was amazing, the low carbonation allowing the flavors to jump out. There is a rich malt, sweet flavors, and low hops that linger but don't dominate. This was potion-like, a wonderful elixer. Must Have It.

Malpais Stout (Keg). Stronger carbonation makes the bubbles come on earlier, and that hurts this version. The rich flavor doesn't get a chance to roll out, and is lost in the wash. Skip It.

Witch's Tit Pumpkin Ale. This seasonal beer has a dark amber color, and strong but fun flavors. Spicy, sweet and cinnamon notes. An good fall interlude but not a world beater, a pleasant "pumpkin to the face" as my wife said. Try It.

As you can see I loved La Cumbre. I put them on the top rung of breweries, alongside established greats like Full Sail and Deschutes, and above some other well known labels. Let us hope them continued success and the ability to distribute their beers out to us in Northern Cali. We are eagerly waiting....

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