NOTE: One of my 2014 beer projects is to drink 99 different kinds of beer — not different styles, but, when I’m tasting a style I’ve already had this year, it has to be by a different brewer. I’ll try, as much as possible, to buy beer that’s brewed within an hour’s drive of my house. If not, I’ll try to buy it in the state where it was brewed. Of course, if I’m to reach my quota, I’ll have to buy some beers from out of state. The first beer of the 99 was brewed only 5 miles from where I bought it and it had been bottled only three days earlier.


“The new La Cumbre IPA is in,” aid Joslyn, when I visited Jubilation (my favorite Albuquerque place to buy beer). “But we’ve only got a few left.” I’d been looking forward to the beer ever since I’d heard about its winning a bronze medal in the American-style IPA category at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. And if there was a limited supply, I knew I had to act fast. So I bought two of the 22 ounce bottles.

When Jeff Erway, owner and first brewer of La Cumbre, first opened his Albuquerque brewing company in December 2010, he said that one of his goals was “to make an IPA that would knock your socks off.” He did. Elevated IPA, the brewery’s flag-shop beer, a 7.2 percent ABV, 100 IBU hop bomb, won a Great American Beer Festival gold medal before La Cumbre was a year old.

The new IPA I picked up several days ago is called Project Dank and is the first of what Erway says will be an ongoing series of really hoppy beers. The “dank” comes from the dank aroma of hops, a plant, he notes, that is related to marijuana. “We’d pretty much stabilized the recipe for Elevated,” he explains. “But I wanted to try something that challenged my creativity. I love playing with hops, experimenting. So I decided to start this project, where people would know that they’d experience something different with each batch we bottled.”

When I talked with Jeff this morning, he told me that all of the first batch had been completely sold out (I helped!), that all of the second batch had been distributed to retailers, and that a third batch would be coming soon.

The first batch poured a dark golden. There was a piney aroma and taste. The first sip was hop forward although there was a subtle, underlying maltiness that prevented what the label referred to “HOP INSANITY” from overwhelming. As the beer warmed slightly in the glass, the hop flavors seemed to mellow, providing a roundedness to the drink.

Jeff’s love of playing around with hops was evident in the list of hops included in the brew. There were three well-known West Coast varieties, Columbus and Chinook, and Simcoe, along with such lesser known varieties as Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, and (from South Africa) Southern Passion. He promises other new and interesting combinations in upcoming releases.

Perhaps the best description of Project Dank #1 came from one of my fellow tasters, a person whom I’d successfully weaned from a dependence on Bud Light, Corona, and Tecate. His words were almost poetic: “It’s a hop bomb with velvet gloves.”