Selling their first beer on December 21, 1996, Volcano Brewery is a case study in what's involved in starting your own brewery from scratch. Owner-brewer Allen Holder has put together his system in a quiet light industrial part of New Mexico's fastest sprawling city, Rio Rancho. A 400,000 BTU gas heater gets the kettle boiling in a hurry and a new multi-element electrical heater will do the same for the hot liquor tank. The 7 bbl Cross Distributing Company brewhouse feeds five horizontal open fermenters. Six 7 bbl Grundys act as conditioning tanks. Currently none of the vessels are jacketed for chilling, instead a rooftop airconditioner refrigerates the whole building! No filtering is employed, instead the kettle allows for an effective whirlpool and Irish Moss does its job at the end of the boil.
Currently the 10 brews per month are expected to yield a first year production of about 1500 bbls. The first recipe is the Volcano Pale Ale. A deep amber color, the light hop aroma is accompanied by good carbonation, a full body, pleasant hop-over-malt flavors, and a short finish. The complex esters can be attributed to the Australian Ringwood yeast used. Currently, pre-milled Briess malts are matched with German Fuggles and Hallertau hops for the flagship ale product. Fortunately the city water requires only boiling and a charcoal filtering step.
Brewmaster Holder is joined by his wife/assistant-brewer Melinda in their family enterprise. Although he "didn't quit his day job", Allen is leveraging his brewing experience and attendance at the American Craftbrewing Academy at UCLA to brew, market, and self-distribute his fledgling product. Draught accounts are being signed up on both sides of the Rio Grande and the sight of the bellowing volcano could become a common one throughout the state.
206 Frontage Rd.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico 87124
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - December, 1996