La Cumbre and New Belgium join forces to benefit us all

Posted: May 24, 2013 by cjax33 in Interviews, News
Tags: , ,

La Cumbre has gone and sneaked up on us again. When word came down via social media on Monday that one of Albuquerque’s best breweries had joined forces with Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing to create a collaboration beer called May’s Maize, we are all a bit floored by the news. So we trekked over to Sister Bar on Friday evening for a La Cumbre/New Belgium tap takeover to try this new beer.

While we were there, I (Stoutmeister) brought along my trusty digital recorder to get to the bottom of this stealth project that La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway kept hidden from us all. The good news? It is also available on tap at La Cumbre itself, for those who were not able to make it to Sister. The bad news? There is not an endless supply of this beer. For more info, read on.

The May's Maize was great at Sister Bar on Friday; the lighting inside and/or Stoutmeister's phone camera were not so great.

The May’s Maize was great at Sister Bar on Friday evening; the lighting inside Sister and/or Stoutmeister’s phone camera were not so great.

Stoutmeister: When did this all come together?

Jeff Erway: Brian started talking to me in November. Brian Hart, he’s the local beer ranger, really cool guy. He was in my bar and asked me if I might be interested. I was like, “I would hate to do a collaboration with New Belgium.” Of course I would! First emails started about a month later.

It seemed like it got put on the back burner until March (and) then all of a sudden they were like, “Let’s do it!” Then Lindsay Guerdrum got involved. She’s one of their QC/QA people up there. She actually has the best job in the world. She’s a sensory analyst. She gets paid to drink beers. It’s not a crappy job. She comes down and we had kind of talked about what we wanted to do.

I sourced the corn. We wanted to do some local ingredients so we sourced some local organic yellow corn, red corn and blue corn from Heritage Mill, over there just off of Comanche. — And by the way, it’s a really cool place. Every corn you could ever possibly want, they’ve got it. — And then we got some local sage and I sourced the phenom yeast. On April 27 she showed up at our brewery, we’d never met before, we shook hands, learned the brewery, talked about exactly what we’re going to do, and hopped to it. We brewed a batch of this beer. It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty excited how it turned out. Hopefully now we will have another chance maybe next year for May we can do a release of it in bottles from New Belgium, because I want to brew on their 250-barrel brewhouse.

Stoutmeister: Give me your impression of how this beer turned out.

Jeff: I think the fermentation on this got up to 80 degrees, which is very high. I think I could have gone higher. The fruit character, well, it’s all about the yeast in this. The corn simply serves as a sugar which you could use in any beer this style. It’s got German pilsner malt but the fruit forwardness comes completely from the yeast. I get pineapple and mango, I definitely get a lot of ginger from the yeast and some interesting pepper characteristics. The hops, which were actually pretty heavy, are almost nonexistent. I guess they kind of got buried by the yeast. It finishes very dry and refreshing.

Stoutmeister: It’s cool. I’ve not had a beer like this before.

Jeff: It’s new, it’s definitely new. To be honest, we’ve brewed a few Belgian-style ales. They don’t sell the best in this state, they just don’t. For some reason, they’re not what people want. I think it’s just the (lack of) experience with them. This beer is selling like hotcakes. The last two days we’ve literally sold half the batch. It’s going to be gone really soon. Hopefully enough people get the chance to try it. Hopefully people will expose themselves a little bit.

The one thing about Belgian ales is you can’t fake it. Those beers are unique and they are anything but normal in what people think of as beer. It’s one of the reasons every truly great brewer I know has made that pilgrimage to Belgium and tried their beers. I know that one of the things that New Belgium does that I think is so (freaking) cool is that on your fifth year with the company, you get to go with (co-founder) Kim Jordan and a group of other people that have been there for five years to Belgium on a week-long trip to different Belgium breweries. I’m like, “Your jobs rock! You guys work for a great company!”

I’d love to be able to do something like that. I can’t right now. Maybe someday. Someday I will go to Belgium every year for a week and I will take employees from La Cumbre. No, Laura doesn’t get to come. (That’s Jeff’s wife, who has been patiently listening to us yammer back and forth; thank you, Laura, you were most gracious.)

Brandon (who has also been sitting around listening the whole time): How large of a batch did you make?

Jeff: We tried to brew 15 barrels. We didn’t end up getting 15 barrels from it. It’s about 12 and a half. We’ve sold half of 12 and a half. We put it on tap (Thursday). Some of it went on draft at other places. As soon as people heard about it they wanted it. We’ve been trying to keep hold of the last of it because we want to be able to sell it at our tap room.

I’m stoked she wanted to do something like this. I was kind of worried, I tried the Alpine beer that they did, which was really good. It was probably the best double IPA that I’ve tasted that was mass-produced. It was really good. And I was worried that because we’ve become known for big IPAs that that’s what they wanted to do with us. I was kind of relieved when they didn’t. Then I was like, “Oh, you want to do a Belgium ale? I’m not really that great at brewing Belgium ales. I’m OK.” But anyway, it worked out. I think it’s probably the best Belgian ale we’ve brewed on that system.

* * * *

Take it from a non-Belgium ale drinker, Jeff is not kidding when he calls it one of the best beers La Cumbre has brewed. This is a wholly unique beer, with a multi-flavor profile derived from the yeast and the corn and sage. It is something everyone must try and with such limited quantities left at La Cumbre, hurry up and head over to the tap room on Girard just north of Candelaria. This is a great beer to enjoy this long weekend.

Thanks again to Jeff (and Laura) for stopping to talk to us. We always appreciate having our Beer IQ raised a few more points.

And to all of you reading, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and please remember to be safe and responsible beer lovers! The Crew will be at Nexus to watch the Champions League final on Saturday afternoon (GO BAYERN!) and after that we will be celebrating Franz Solo’s birthday on Sunday. Assuming there’s anything left of him after his brutal experience with the airlines coming back from Barcelona …


— Stoutmeister


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