And La Cumbre’s getting larger

Posted: May 13, 2014 by cjax33 in Interviews, News
Tags: , , , ,

Pardon the bad paraphrasing of a quote from “Airplane!” in the headline, but I could not resist. After having spent nearly two weeks doing nothing but writing about sports (Saturday’s six-hour high school track and field meet was the brutal finale), I have finally gotten back to the local beer scene. After Sunday stops at Il Vicino (mom’s present was a growler of her favorite beer, Irish Red) and Tractor (E-Rock’s musician friends were playing), I went with Franz Solo and Mrs. Solo to Turtle Mountain to try Tim Woodward’s new creations (look for that review Thursday). Then, to cap things off (for now), I hit up La Cumbre on Monday evening.

Brewer/owner Jeff Erway shared lots of new info on La Cumbre's future.

Brewer/owner Jeff Erway shared lots of new info on La Cumbre’s future.

It was a two-birds-with-one-stone kind of moment, since I got to try some new brews, plus Jeff was giving a tour of the facility as part of American Craft Beer Week (which runs through Sunday). Now, I’ve been on plenty of brewery tours, but when Jeff included the fact that he would be talking about La Cumbre’s future expansion plans during the tour, I decided it was best to tag along rather than ask him to take time out of his very busy schedule and have to repeat himself just to me.

So here is Jeff’s detailed and informative explanation of the what-when-why-where-how of La Cumbre’s future plans.

“In 2013 we brewed 5,100 barrels of beer. This year we’re going to be producing approximately 9,300 barrels of beer. We’re growing 70 percent a year. Anybody who’s ever been in business knows how hectic that is. It’s very hectic. We’re trying to grow as fast as we can responsibly do.

“Up until now, I have been debt-free. We’ve done our best to stay debt-free until we finally got to the point where you know what, we need a new brewhouse, we need to raise the roof on one of our buildings. We need to buy some really serious equipment to go to the next level. We could try to keep on going the way we’re at, but we’re brewing about 16 batches a week on our 15-barrel brewhouse. That’s when it really starts not making sense to me.

This is La Cumbre's current 15-barrel brewhouse. It's at max capacity, so a new one will be installed by early next year.

This is La Cumbre’s current 15-barrel brewhouse. It’s at max capacity, so a new one will be installed by early next year.

“I’m flying out (Tuesday) to the Bay Area to look at a new brewing system that was just installed at Heretic Brewing Company. … Two weeks ago I was in Portland. Next week I’m going to Oklahoma City. Next month I’m going to Florida, all to see new brewing systems so that I know I make the right choice. We’ll be replacing this 15-barrel brewhouse with a state-of-the-art 30-barrel brewhouse, which will allow us to produce basically what this building will max out at, which is about 50,000 barrels a year.

“And that’s really my intentions over the next few years is to get up to producing approximately 50,000 barrels a year. 50,000 barrels, just to give you some reference, that would put us right now about number 80 inside the country as far as size. Right now we’re 200, which is not bad out of 2,800 when you’re only three-and-a-half years old.

The northern building that is now a part of La Cumbre will need to have its ceiling raised to accommodate the new brewhouse and two 120-barrel fermenters.

The northern building that is now a part of La Cumbre will need to have its ceiling raised to accommodate the new brewhouse and two 120-barrel fermenters.

“Size is important to me, but growing responsibly, growing so that our product isn’t negatively affected, is even more important to me. I didn’t get into this to make millions of dollars. If that happens along the way, whoopee. Really, I got into this because I love what I do. All the guys that work in this back, there’s seven of us now, we all really love what we do. And we wouldn’t love it if at the end of the day we looked at the board and we said, ‘Do you want to get a cocktail somewhere?’ At the end of the day this is really about pride, it’s about pride in our product. I can sit here and talk your ear off all day about how we use the best ingredients in the world and we know more than any other brewery. No. Really, we’ve got a bunch of really, really snotty guys back here that really, really love beer. And if we went up there (to the taproom) and there was beer that we weren’t proud of on tap, we’d all hang our heads in shame.

“The brewhouse we’re hoping to have in here by very early next year. We have to completely demolish the roof next door and raise it up to 25 feet. That’s going to take some work. We have to build a mill room. We have to install a silo. We have to install a four-roller mill. We have to install the brewhouse itself, which is going to take bringing a crane in before the roof is completely on and craning it into the building. But yeah, we’re hoping to have that plus two 120-barrel fermenters online by next year.”

A big thanks to Jeff for sharing all of this during the tour. We in the Brew Crew will be keeping up with all of La Cumbre’s moves, since we know how much all of you love their beers. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be there to take pictures of them moving that brewhouse in through an open roof?

These are grand days in the beer scene in New Mexico, aren’t they?

Beer notes

  • Good news from Pi Brewing Co. on the west side. They have received their Approved Federal Brewer’s License, which should get the ball rolling quickly. Next up will be meeting with the City, followed by the State. They posted on Facebook that they hope to be open and brewing in about two weeks. We will endeavor to be there on opening day.
  • Progress continues at Boxing Bear Brewing Co. on the west side as well. They’re pouring concrete for the floor of the brewery, which means equipment should be moving in soon.
  • Tractor is having a special party Tuesday, May 20 at 6 p.m. for the arrival of their new beer cans, honoring the artist David Santiago at Wells Park. For more details, check their blog. I am just thankful it wasn’t this Tuesday; I’ve got to sweat through Game 7 of the Penguins-Rangers series. C’mon, Pens!
  • Speaking of fun stuff, our own E-Rock will be performing in his two-man musical group, The Khans, with the Desert Darlings belly dancers at Kaktus Brewing on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Good music, beautiful and talented women, plus beer? That’s worth the drive to Bernalillo.

Before high school sports madness resumes Thursday, I will make sure to stop by Nexus and Chama River to try their new brewers’ creations and have some notes on those, in addition to what we had at Turtle on Monday. We will also be meeting with the awesome Marne Gaston on Wednesday morning to start work on our super-sized preview of ABQ Beer Week.

Like I said, good times are upon us.


— Stoutmeister


  1. Thomas Molitor says:

    These are grand days in the New Mexican beer scene, indeed. The craft brew scene here is an art form and Jeff Erway is its Picasso. Thanks to the enthusiastic, resourceful DSBC reporters, we art buyers are informed!

  2. I clearly picked the wrong day to give up drinking.

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