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Pennsylvania Breweries launch party at Victory

I’ve been following Lew Bryson’s blog Seen Through a Glass for a year or two now. A week or two a post popped-up about a launch party for the 4th Edition of Pennsylvania Breweries. My wife gave me the 3rd Edition when we were in college as a Christmas present and I have been waiting for an updated edition. It was a ticketed event that costs $35. For the money I received a signed copy of the new book, two beers, some delicious food, and a chance to hear some of my idols talk about the beer industry. I think it was  a hell of a deal.

Before the talk with the brewers ever began, Lew actually came over and talked with my friend Mike and myself. I’ve never met him before but I think we could be drinking buddies. Lew seems like a genuine guy with a big hearty laugh. I just enjoyed talking beer with him and being around him. He did the same thing with everyone who came out, about 40-50 people in total. Very cool.

The brewers that were represented came from the southeastern to central PA region. Victory Brewing Company was obviously there, as was Troegs Brewing Company, Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Sly Fox Brewing Company, and a Philadelphia brewpub, Nodding Head Brewery.  Lew served as the MC for the event and asked some interesting questions. Below you can see the brewers in order from left to right:

(Lew Bryson, Ron Barchet of Victory, the Trogners, Stoudt’s representative (I forget his name), Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox, and Curt Decker of Nodding Head)

To start off the Q&A Lew asked about Pennsylvania’s impact on the brewing community, most notably in the lager market. Pennsylvania is really a home for full bodied lagers. Out west ales then to dominate the scene, but Pennsylvania brewers have mastered the craft of the lager and have made it something to be proud of. They made some damn good ales as well, but lagers are PA’s calling card.

Another topic of discussion was Yuengling and how it has helped and also hurt craft brewers in PA. Some of the things I took away were that it helped because Pennsylvanians acquire a taste for something other than light lagers. They have also harmed craft brewers because they have limited the markets that they can expand into. When a brewer is trying to sell to a new retailer and they say they already have a craft beer, Yuengling, on tap, it immediately limits the scope of what they can do.

Lew brought up an interesting note about lower ABV beers and if they have a place in the market. They discussed the fact the the highest rated beers are not sessionable and that the prices are much higher than what the materials actually cost. Curt Deck of Nodding Head, the only brewpub represented, said that in a brewpub setting they want you to drink 2-3 beers at a sitting and that with super high ABV beers that is just not possible. I think they all recognized the need for some lower ABV beers in the marketplace.

Ron of Victory even shared some experiences with beer bars who do not have lower ABV beers and how they try to work with them to get an offering of lower alcohol beers in their bar. The thinking is that you might offer a wide selection of styles, but not of alcohol percentages.  Honestly it is something that I never thought of but think is important.

We then moved into local verses national brands and how the market is wanting things from local producers. During the discussion it was also brought up that Pennsylvania brewers have influences from both west coast and European beers. The malts and hops available to east coast brewers is much different than west coast brewers.

One of the final things we talked about was how Yuengling and Sam Adams, the two largest America owned beer makers, have their major breweries in PA. Sam Adams has a brewery outside of Allentown and Yuengling has two breweries in Pottsville. It was an a great discussion on the new and old guard and how PA is the only state to really have a healthy mix of both.

I want to thank the brewers who came out along with Lew for writing this wonderful book and hold such a great even.

Beer Review #67 Festbier

It’s the time of year when the fall beers are rolling out. I have about a dozen pumpkin, Oktoberfest, and fall style beer lined up so far, and that’s just from one trip to the beer store. Today’s beer is Festbier from Victory Brewing Company. Festbier is actually not a seasonal brew anymore, Victory brews this year round but it can only be found in bottles September through November.

Victory describes the beer as “a rick amber lager in the tradition of Oktoberfest.” They also brew this beer with a decoction mash, which basically means they take some of the wort out of the mash tun, boil it, and then throw it back into the mash tun. By doing the brewing method, you get a very strong malt component added to the beer.

Festbier pours a brilliant amber color and is perfectly clear. The pours with a thin white head that quickly fades to nothingness. The nose is very malty, which is to be expected as I mentioned earlier. There are some bread components in there as well. I didn’t notice any hops or ABV on this beer which isn’t super surprising.

On the first tasting you really get a sense of the malt component. The beer has a very nice body. Festbier is a slightly sweet beer, which, with all of that malt, should not come as a big surprise. There is a nice slight hop bite towards the end, but it is very approachable. I love beers that have a nice bread aftertaste, and Festbier delivers.

Overall I really enjoyed this beer. It comes in at 5.8% ABV so you don’t have to plan an afternoon around drinking this beer. It has a nice malty body and not a lot of hops. It should be a dream for a new comer to the craft beer world but is a solid choice for the seasoned expert. I enjoyed every drop and I am going to be getting another six pack soon. I can’t wait to have my patio door open and enjoy a crisp fall night while sipping this and watching my Phillies play in October. (more…)

Victory Brewing Company Sampler Beer Review

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A few weeks ago a few friends and I went to Victory Brewing Company for a tour as part of one of our brewery tour weekends. We actaully stopped a Victory twice during the day; once to grab brunch and again to grab a drink before heading home for the day.

Victory has recently redone their enitre eating area and it looks amazing. There is copper everywhere, the bar is amazing, and the beer selection is out of this world. On our visit there were over twenty beers on tap and six beers in casks. Yeah, that’s a lot of beer. I got a sampler to split with one of my friends and we chose six wonderful beers. We had three beers from the cask and three from the tap. 09-05-14-02

Tap

  • Old Horizonal
  • Wild Devil
  • Storm King

Cask

  • Hop Wallop
  • Hop Devil
  • Baltic Thunder

09-05-14-03I’ve had most of these beers before but there is something about drinking at 11 o’clock in the morning in a brewery with the smell of yeast around you that makes everything better. Later in the day I also had a pint of Moon Glow, which was wonderful.

A few quick notes about the beers. Old Horizonalwill kick you in the mouth and the alochol is super high, even in the taste. Storm King is much better when it gets a little warmer and the roasty flavors start coming out more. Baltic Thunder is a solid beer that is a perfect fit for early spring. You can see my notes on Hop Wallop here, but it is fantastic on cask. Hop Devil on cask puts the beer into a new category. Finally Wild Devil is basically the same as Hop Devil with a few minor differences. Victory gets very crowded on weekends, esipcailly around dinner time. If you visit, I would suggest going early, when the smell of yeast is still in the air and yuppy cologne is not.

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If you don’t get the last image, you need to watch Entourage on HBO.

Victory Brewing Company Hop Wallop Beer Review

I’m going to go ahead and bring it back to PA for this beer review, with Victory Brewing Comapny’s Hop Wallop. Before I go into it, lets see what Victory has to say about their brew:

We celebrate the pioneering spirit of old Horace ‘Hop’ Wallop and those who dare mighty adventurous things in this vivid, robust ale. As our annual homage to the hop harvest, expect loads of aromatic splendor and bitter beauty.

Malts: Imported German malts
Hops: American whole flowers
Alcohol by volume: 8.5%”

Man-o-man is this thing good. They don’t call it a Wallop for no reason. This is a seasonal brew by Victory, starting in November and lasting for a limited time. Luckily, at 8.5% this beer can sit around for a bit and still be good (though the hops will fade a bit).

I was excited to get my hands on this. To start off with the beer has a nice hop/piney smell. There is a bit of citrus and alachol (not suprisingly) in there as well, but they are much more subtle. It pours a briliant oragne and as with most IPA’s, is very, very clear. There is a thick head that pours with the beer, and it stays through the entire drink.

When you take your first sip, you immeditaly notice the hops. The hop flavor carries through the entire drink and stays on your touge. There is a bit of malty goodness in the middle, but it is overshadowed by the ever-present hop. The hops do a nice job of hidding the alachol taste as well, as there is almost none present.

I could easily recommend this beer to any hop head. It might be too overpowering for someone not used to hops. The extreme hoppy flavors mixed with the slight malt gives a decent ballance. I know I keep going to local beers, but it is what I have the most access and experience with. The next review will be from much further away. Go try a Hop Wallop if you have the chance! (more…)