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La Cumbre Brewing: All in the family

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Troy Paff

At La Cumbre Brewing, there’s a diaper changing station in the bathroom. And for every bearded beer geek on a barstool, there’s a little kid coloring in the taproom. Laura Erway, who co-owns the Albuquerque, N.M., brewery with her husband, Jeff, strolls about the pub, greeting customers by name with her 18-month-old son on her hip.

For a place so low-key, La Cumbre’s got serious beer cred: Only nine months after opening, the brewery earned 2011 Great American Beer Festival gold for its Elevated IPA, taking top honors in the fest’s most competitive category; it then snatched gold for its rice-brewed BEER pale lager and silver for Malpais Stout, a burly cask-conditioned beer that proves malt-bill composition is an art. In May, Elevated and Malpais also scored World Beer Cup medals. Though the place is literally a mom-and-pop operation, there’s impeccable attention to quality.

Jeff and Laura met over beer, moved to New Mexico and soon discovered their shared passion for brewing. The couple toured North America sampling hundreds of craft brews and spent their honeymoon basking in the beer of the U.K. and Belgium. Jeff began homebrewing, earned a degree from the American Brewers Guild, and landed the head brewer spot at Chama River. In 2010, the Erways opened their own brewery and named it La Cumbre, Spanish for “The Summit” or “The Peak.”

Jeff says his future plans include canning Elevated IPA, with other brews to follow, and experimenting with sour ales. “Laura and I loved tasting all those fine sours on our trip to Belgium, and it will be great to bring them to New Mexico.” –Bill Nevins and Pia Gallegos

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