Last week I made the much-longer-than-I-recalled trip to Downingtown for Victory Brewing Company big Fifteen Years of Character Anniversary Party where their new year-round brew, Headwaters Pale Ale, would be flowing. The lively brewpub was the place to be yesterday for any local craft beer lover. I made my way through the crowd to the bar and proudly ordered a couple pints of Headwaters from the hand pump and toasted to one of the most consistently awesome breweries in the area.
I was thrilled to see that Victory was releasing an anniversary beer that would not require camping out at the brewery just to get a bottle or one that called for slow and steady drinking. Instead they’ve added a fully flavored and sessionable pale ale to their already solid year round line up to celebrate their fifteen years of brewing. This is a beer that will appeal to the masses, loved by hop heads and beer geeks but accessible to those who are little less adventurous. The two pints I had were both from the hand pump so I’m not sure how it is on tap or from the bottle but I really enjoyed this new brew. I can see myself really loving this once the weather warms up a bit. It is a golden pale with a creamy helping of head and a fresh and hoppy aroma to go with it. There was some underlying malty character that finishes up with a very light but noticeable hop bitterness, I loved the slight Citra presence at the end. Headwaters surprised me with some strong earthy flavors as well. It’s clocking it around 5% ABV which is wonderful to see because you’ll want more than just one of these. It’s a uniquely satisfying pale ale, I especially enjoyed the balance that came out with the German malts. I for one can’t wait to have some of these in my fridge, definitely a case-worthy brew.
There were tours given throughout the party so I was making my way up to the bar to order a pint of Milltown Mild to take with me on the tour when I nearly dropped my glass, I hadn’t noticed the bagpiper behind me who began playing without any sort of notice. He lead a small procession to an oak barrel of Headwaters that was ceremoniously tapped by Bill and Ron to great delight of every one there. Unfortunately I missed getting a pour from the barrel but the kilted bagpiper would suffice.
Our tour group had a very curious and enthusiastic senior citizen who really took advantage of the question portion but other than that entertaining addition it was a bit of disappointment, since they were actually brewing last night we couldn’t get inside the hop cooler…possibly my favorite aspect of any brewery tour. After the tour there was a screening of the short film ‘Fifteen Years of Character‘ which featured interviews with folks from Victory’s early days as well as Sam Calagione and Greg Koch. Longtime buddies and Victory co-founders, Bill Barchet and Ron Covaleski said a few words, everyone raised their glass, and then at this point I was starving and was dying for something from their throwback menu. I ended up with the Lombardy Pizza and a big soft pretzel which went quite harmoniously with some cask Hop Wallop.
One of the highlights of the whole event was of course the gigantic cake designed and painstakingly put together by Victory Chef Lynn Tilyou. I got to talk to her a bit and her pride was just shining through. She wanted to create a cake that represented the entire brewing process…and also had beer running through it.
Unfortunately she couldn’t get real beer to run through since it would have foamed up too much but she succeeded in every other aspect. All of the structures were made out of rice krispie treats covered in fondant which rested on a massive cake split into three sections, chocolate, vanilla, and beer spice. Even the flames under the brew kettle were made out of melted candy sugar. After going through the whole process with me she did let me know that she actually did pour some HopDevil into the pitcher while her boss wasn’t looking…the lady knows what she’s doing. I had a slice of the delicious beer spice cake later and while I didn’t even know that was an actual kind of cake, I left wanting to take some home with me.
There was also a short meet and greet with Bill and Ron who were signing some posters for the crowd. I figured I had to thank the two of them and let them know that the Victory Variety Case was really one of my first craft beer experiences. I usually credit HopDevil with being the first beer to open my eyes to the wonderful world of craft beer so I was grateful to get to meet the two guys behind it and so many beers that I love.
I’m so glad I decided to make the trip out to Victory yesterday, they know how to throw a party for beer lovers. They have so much to do with why I started seeking out interesting and higher quality beers and was glad to be there to celebrate with them. Headwaters should be out everywhere by the end of the week so make sure you give it a shot…I highly doubt you will be disappointed. Unlike most anniversary brews this one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so we all have plenty of time to enjoy it…a Victory in and of itself.