STORY WRITTEN BY MONICA THOMPSON FRAGALE
For Digital First Media
Community is one of the key ingredients in Victory Brewing Co.’s continuing success.
“We have spent the last 19 years — almost 20 — in Chester County,” said Amy DePaoli, Victory’s director of marketing. “Our roots are here. We are still very much a community partner.”
Its motto is “locally brewed, locally loved.”
And even though the Downingtown-based brewing company is now selling its products in 36 states and nine countries, community and that local support remains an important focus.
“Victory has been one of the first to step up and get involved,” said Stephen McKinney, owner of KSI Crafts, a craft beer store in Kennett Square. “They have shown a big commitment to the community.”
Victory beers can be found at Phillies’ and Eagles’ games, in craft beer and beer outlets, and on tap at restaurants.
Kennett Square is the latest community that Victory has embraced; a newly constructed brewpub opened April 20 as part of the Magnolia Place development and has been drawing consistent crowds ever since. It joined the flagship brewpub in Downingtown as a place where people could sample not only Victory’s brews on tap, but also beer-inspired foods.
Parkesburg is the next location; a brewpub is currently under construction as part of Victory’s brewery in that town and will open sometime this year, according to Matt Krueger, Victory’s vice president of retail operations. Another brewpub and brewery is also planned for Leesburg, Va., but that project is still several years out.
Another ingredient in Victory’s success is its dedication to quality, something that fans of the company appreciate.
“Their flagship varieties sell everywhere in the country for good reason — they are great brews,” said Exton resident Jason Pilkington, who with his girlfriend Deanna Gray frequent Victory as much for the ambiance and food as for the beer. “We love the atmosphere — quaint and industrial — and the varieties of beer cover a wide range of tastes. Their old food menu and cheese trays are dynamite, for a brewpub. But their new food menu and their ice cream is definitely worth trying.”
“The success has to do with the quality of the product, with the quality of the ingredients in both the food and the beer,” she said.
Victory’s decision to open a second brewery in Parkesburg was made with quality in mind.
“Parkesburg is on the same water source as Downingtown,” DePaoli said, referring to the Brandywine Creek. Parkesburg is on the west branch, and Downingtown is on the east branch. “Using a different water source affects the flavor of the beer.”
“A lot of people crave and covet Victory’s brews because they’re so well made,” said McKinney.
Victory uses whole flower hops, instead of pelletized hops, to make the beer, something that DePaoli said adds stronger flavors.
“(The whole flower hops) are in their more natural form,” she said, adding that they are less processed as well.
Environmental stewardship is another ingredient in the company’s success. It can be seen in everything from the repurposing of an old building in Parkesburg to the company’s partnership with farmers to the use of locally grown foods.
The Parkesburg brewery and soon-to-be brewpub are in the repurposed Green Giant distribution facility. It is also a green facility. The brew pub and brewery planned for Leesburg, Va., will be housed in an old newspaper building, according to DePaoli.
The Downingtown brewery was once an old Pepperidge Farm factory, according to the company’s website — www.victorybeer.com.
“We continue to build on sustainability,” she said. “Everything starts with the environment. We want to do our duty and respect the environment.”
The company composts everything it is able to, and it provides local farmers with spent grain.
Its Headwaters Pale Ale is also a reflection of the environmental focus. “Released in celebration of our 15-year anniversary, we had many discussions about how to name the new beer and what would make it special,” according to a press release on the Victory website. “Even more important to our success is the pure water we receive from the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek that begins its journey to us just under 14 miles from where we brew with it. Hence, Headwaters was born.”
“Part of every Headwaters beer goes to the Headwaters grant,” DePaoli said. “It’s an opportunity for our fans to become involved and keep the Brandywine clean.”
In the almost 20 years that Victory has been in business, its core focus — brewing beer — has remained the driving force. When the company added its second brewery in Parkesburg in 2013, it gained the ability to test and brew more specialty beers at its Downingtown facility.
Soon the Kennett Square location will be brewing beer, DePaoli said, and the Leesburg facility will as well once it opens in 2017. The idea is that each location can brew beers specific to that area, among other things.
According to DePaoli, the company made almost 80 test brews in 2014. Those specialty brews, once approved by Victory founders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski — “If they don’t like it, it won’t be served,” DePaoli added — are then featured at the Downingtown brewpub and now in Kennett.
“We always plan out what’s going into a bottle versus a draft,” DePaoli said.
Two of the newest specialty beers are the Kirsch Gose and the Sour Monkey. Kirsch Gose was introduced in the spring and is described as a sour beer with a saltiness as a finish. It contains cherry juice — what DePaoli said was a first for Victory — and its reviews have been “fantastic.”
Sour Monkey is a brew that has a lot of characteristics of the flagship brew Golden Monkey in it, according to DePaoli.
“Sour beers are on the rise at the moment,” she said.
For those interested in the brews that Victory offers, its website lists perennial favorites and specialty flavors.
Victory is the brainchild of Barchet and Covaleski, two longtime friends who opened the company on Feb. 15, 1996 with the brewery and restaurant in Downingtown.
Besides traveling to Victory’s brewpubs or buying its brews at stores, fans of the company can also find Victory’s beers at events like the Kennett Brewfest, Philly Beer Week, and the Great Chefs Event in Philadelphia (a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand).
DePaoli said Victory had 44 different events at the recent Philly Beer Week.
“We’ve got a great sales team that organizes events like these,” she said. “One event was all about Golden Monkey. It was 10 days of lots of fun and spreading the Victory word.”
Social media also helps spread the word about Victory.
“We’ve got a very engaging social media fanbase on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” DePaoli said. “It’s how a lot of demand happens. It makes word of mouth very easy.”
Last year Victory brewed 125,713 barrels, according to its website. It features 11 year-round beers and a number of seasonal and specialty beers.
Its brewpubs feature a variety of beers on tap and also some of Victory’s beer-related food items. Menus change by location, and the ambiance of each brewpub is different as well, according to Krueger.
“All the brewpubs are very different, but the common denominator is that they have the same great dedicated staff and the same great beers,” Krueger said.
Downingtown resident Nancy Colbert is a fan of Victory, especially given its proximity to where she lives. “We love that the Downingtown Victory is 4.1 miles from our house,” she said. “We literally measured it one day. We love that it is a family place to go — people with kids, couples, families, single people …”
The recently opened Kennett brewpub has already earned “a good bit of repeat customers,” Krueger said. “It’s been pretty well received.”
One of the food items Victory features is ice cream made from beer worts. There are five different varieties, and the two newest are “Strawberry Love” and “Belgian Brulee.” All are non-alcoholic but carry the flavor of the beer they are named for, DePaoli said.
“Strawberry Love” is made with the wort of the Summer Love beer and has a hint of vanilla and angel food, she said. “Belgian Brulee” is made with the wort of the V12 beer. DePaoli described it as a crème brulee-based ice cream with salted almonds. “It’s mindblowing,” she said.
The menus at the various brewpubs have recommendations for which beers to pair with which dishes — an idea designed to better bring out the flavors in the beer.
“People are really beginning to appreciate the art behind craft beer,” DePaoli said. “There is such variety, and there are different beers for every occasion. As the interest in beer grows, it continues to open up new markets.”