Victory Brewing Company
When I think about how long ago 1996 was, my gut reaction is to say about ten years or so, and it’s no sooner those words are out of my mouth that I realize that no, it’s more like TWENTY years ago, with a few more years added on for good measure. 1996 isn’t an arbitrary year I’ve chosen to make myself feel old, it’s the year that Victory Brewing Company was founded by Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet in Downingtown, PA. In those twenty-ish years, Victory has grown into a powerhouse of craft beer and an outspoken supporter of the environment and the beer industry as a whole.
In their first year, Victory brewed 1,725 barrels of beer. In the 22 years since then, Victory has expanded production capacity, increased their distribution, and when Victory celebrated 20 years in the business, they were producing more than 140,000 barrels of beer annually. How’s that for impressive?
Today, Victory Brewing Co. brews 10 year-round beers, 15 seasonal and specialty beers thanks to 70 yeast strains utilized by the brewers. You’ll find Victory in 35 states plus DC and in a total of 9 countries including Australia, Japan, Italy, and of course the United States amongst others. While that’s quite the lineup of beers, when Ron and Bill first opened for business they brewed HopDevil, Festbier, and Brandywine Valley Lager.
Along with a love of beer, the people at Victory Brewing Co. love doing good for the world around them, too. In 2015 alone, Victory Brewing diverted 7 million pounds of waste from landfills thanks to reuse, recycling, and reduction of waste. That includes more than 3,000 tons of spent grain that went to local farm animals that year, too.
Finally, if you wonder why Victory beers have that extra something special that sets them apart from others, it may very well be the freshness of the hops. Unlike many other breweries, Victory Brewing Co. only uses whole flower hops in every beer they brew. Most breweries use pelletized hops to save money and time, but the folks at Victory believe that by using the whole flower hops their beers get a purer flavor and aroma, and in turn give you the best beer they can brew.
Speaking of beers, Victory has some pretty special beers available this year, and since that’s why you’re probably reading this, let’s get to it.
First up is one of the most popular beers Victory brews; a beer so special that it has its own cult-like following wherever Victory beers are found. Golden Monkey is a mythical concoction that starts as a Belgian-style tripel and adds some special hops to make this beer one that shouldn’t be…monkeyed…around with, thanks to its 9.5% ABV. Available in bottles, cans, and on draft, Golden Monkey is one beer that you will want more than one of.
Next up is the newest sibling to Golden Monkey, and that’s the tart and funky Sour Monkey. Sour Monkey is a 9.5% ABV version of the popular Golden Monkey is soured using a strain of Brettanomyces, giving it added flavors of lemon, tartness, and overall Brett funkiness. Sour beer is something of an acquired taste, though. When first trying a sour beer, it can be somewhat overpowering and not at all what you’re expecting but given a few tastes you’ll find depth of flavor and aroma that makes these beers a truly unique experience. Much like its sibling, Sour Monkey has grown in popularity and might just steal the spotlight from Golden Monkey.
Humulus Lupulus, also known as hops, are a magical plant that grow on a bine (not a vine, as some assume). This wonderful flowering plant borrowed part of its name from the Latin word for small wolf thanks to its ability to grow over many plants in the wild, gaining the nickname willow-wolf. It’s thanks to this play on words that we get Victory Brewing’s DirtWolf Double IPA. This 8.7% ABV beer uses Citra, Chinook, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops to give you a beer that has citrus, pine, resin, and tropical fruit with a full body and finish.
Thanks to its popularity and success, DirtWolf is now available in 16-oz cans as well as bottles and draft, making it not only impressive and highly drinkable, but also highly transportable and tailgate-able. Barring any run-ins with Little Red Riding Hood, this wolf is staying on the up-and-up, and is ready and waiting for you.
Back to the beer history lesson for a minute, because one beer that’s been around as long as the brewery is still one of the best beers coming out of Pennsylvania today. Hop Devil from Victory Brewing Co. was one of the first beers brewed by Victory, and thanks to the bold and spicy character that’s balanced out with a solid malt bill, it’s one that is still going strong today. Not only is Hop Devil one of Victory’s first beers, it’s also one of Pennsylvania’s first IPAs to be produced. Pretty cool, eh?
Hop Devil is an American IPA that comes in at 6.7% ABV and focuses on an aromatic kick on the nose that follows through with a full-bodied lasting finish that’s hard to beat. Expect to taste pine and citrus notes that play alongside extra-juicy hop character for a beer that’s balanced yet bold and perfect for strong, meaty dinners or some solid porch sitting.
While Oktoberfest might be closing out, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the countless examples of festbiers still available. Take for example Victory Brewing’s Festbier, which is their take on the Oktoberfest-style lager that is typically found in massive tankards and consumed under blue and white tents. Thankfully you don’t have to travel to Bavaria to try this shining example that comes in at 5.6% ABV and features German malts and hops for a smooth, full-bodied beer that’s an instant classic while never boring us. Festbier season is more than Oktoberfest, so get the most of this beer while you can.
As the leaves start to change and the weather takes a turn for the cold, our tastes seem to drift towards big, dark beers with massive flavor. Victory’s answer to this yearly shift is the impressive Storm King Imperial Stout.
Coming in at an impressive 9.1% ABV, Storm King uses whole flower American hops paired with three different imported 2-row malt varieties to give this beer huge hop presence with malty flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, and roasted malt. In short, this is one intense beer that’s still impressively smooth to drink, regardless of the temperature outside.
Finally, as the calendar keeps flipping, we keep edging closer and closer to the holiday season, and while that often means traffic, shopping, and snow, it also means winter beer season, which I would call a fair and even trade. Winter Cheers is a 6.7% ABV wheat beer that uses Tettnang and Citra hops to make a hoppy wheat beer that’s ready to warm you up and give some winter cheer to spread, as long as you remember to keep a few of these back for yourself.