Victory Brewing Company. With an impressive list of beers and awards, this brewery is on most beer geeks’ short list of best breweries in America. Who knew that we had such a great brewery in our backyard? Actually, a lot of people have come to know about Victory, but for those just getting into the world of micro brews, Victory is somewhat off the beaten path, literally. It does not sit in the middle of a town nor is it along a busy stretch of roadway; rather, it is tucked into an industrial park on the outskirts of Downingtown (For directions, visit www.victorybeer.com.). Believe me when I tell you it is well worth the car ride and [possibly] a few wrong turns, especially because of the recent renovations. Sporting a host of new gadgets and widgets, the brew pub will elicit “wows” from even the most hardened beer snob; along with a welcoming, fresh atmosphere, the brew pub more than lives up to the high standards of the brews offered within its confines.
The Bells & Whistles
So, what exactly is new about the brew pub? Anyone who frequented Victory pre-renovation can tell you that there just wasn’t enough space. So, change number one is more space and LOTS of it. Knocking out a few walls means the brew pub can accommodate more than double the original seating capacity. One corner now sports a Brew Master’s Table, a large, round wooden table that seats about 10-12 people and will be available for reservations.
Speaking of reservation, in the back of the pub past the bar is a large room that functions as overflow seating as well as a pool hall and a beer hall, should you decide you want to rent it out. A dark wood finish compliments the room and creates a warm, inviting atmosphere reminiscent of a German bier hall.
Interesting decor to note: Opposite the bar you will find a long, mounted wooden case displaying brew master Bill’s personal collection of beer paraphernalia. Mounted above the bar and serving as an awning for The Brew Master’s table are authentic copper kettle tops from a decommissioned German brewery.
Now we get to my two favorite items (besides the actual beer) in the entire place…the tap system and the growler filler. Some of you might say, “That’s it, he’s lost it! Who gets excited over a tap system!?” Normally you would be right to call me crazy, but leave it to owners Bill and Ron to pay close attention to every minute detail. The system they have in place doesn’t just run the beer from the cooler where the kegs are stored to the tap and into your glass; any system will do that. This system also keeps the beer cool until the moment it comes out of the tap, guaranteeing you a [roughly] 37° pour. It also keeps gas out of the line, which means less head, a better pour and less waste. Cool, huh?
Well, wait until you see the growler filler. Bill and Ron brought this from Europe, and it was worth every penny. The old way of filling a growler (the big glass jug with a rubber-sealed top to take beer home) required the bartender to hook a hose to the tap that reached the bottom of the growler and filled it from the bottom, leaving a lot of head at the top to push out the oxygen, leaving only CO2 when the head settled. This often required a lot of overflow from the top of the growler and therefore a lot of wasted beer. GASP! This growler filler creates a vacuum before filling, which leaves just the right amount of head and gives a perfect fill each time. All the bartender has to do is pull it out of the machine and seal the cap. If nothing else, it’s just plain fun to watch.
Oh yeah, the food is great, too! I’m not a food critic, so I’ll take Mary there and have her write about it for you. I can tell you that my girlfriend, who is something of a spinach and artichoke dip connoisseur, thinks theirs is the best she’s ever had; I concur.
You have managed to get through all of my rambling about copper kettle tops, taps systems and growler fillers; now we can move on to the beer. After all, that’s what this column is about, right? I took a long time and used up a lot of the bartenders’ patience by trying a sample of just about every beer currently on tap at Victory. Thanks, guys! The following are my 3 favorites
#1. Hop Wallop Ale, Cask Conditioned: Hop Wallop, a limited availability Hoppy Ale comes two ways: standard version out of the tap or out of the cask. I thoroughly enjoy it both ways, but out of the cask it is much sweeter and smoother. Being unfiltered with lower amounts of CO2 and served at a warmer temperature brings out so many great flavors that you just don’t get with the regular Hop Wallop. Regular Hop Wallop is currently available in cases. The cask is only available at the Brew Pub.
#2. Wild Devil: This is a variation on Victory’s flagship (available in bottles and on tap year round) beer, Hop Devil India Pale Ale. Unfiltered and with wild yeast (hence the name) this beer is an explosion of flavor. It has a great hop bite that is balanced and allows the sweeter flavors of the beer to come forth. It is definitely worth a try for Hop Heads and non-Hop Heads alike. This is a VERY limited ale, only available at the Brew Pub and for a very limited time, so get there soon!
#3. Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel Ale: This is the beer that made me fall in love with Victory in the first place. I can remember the first time I went to the brewery and on a whim bought a glass…holy cow! I wasn’t much of a beer connoisseur back then, but this beer sucked me right in with its strong yet smooth flavor, wonderful aromas and bright golden color. It’s a testament to this beer’s quality and character that it still ranks as one of my favorites even after all the beers I have tasted over the years. This is perhaps one of the best State-side representations of a Belgian Tripel. It is one of Victory’s flagship styles.
Honorable Mentions: Abbey 6, Ten Year Alt, Mad King’s Weiss
Those are my top 3 on tap at the moment, and let me stress at the moment. One thing to remember with Victory is that besides brewing amazing beers, they brew a HUGE variety of them and they are constantly changing, so make sure you check back with them often. Meet up with some friends (have one of them be DD), get a sampler of beers and then let me know your top 3 Victory brews!