Thursday, February 05, 2009

Philly Beer Week 2009: Victory Brewing Profile

Last year I did a profile for each of most of the local breweries in the Philadelphia region. I've updated them, but instead of once again spilling them out across the page here, I'll simply point you over to where you can find and download the profile.

Victory Brewing is located in Downingtown, PA. They make an ever widening number of styles and brands and have been showcasing them in a recently-completed renovated restaurant. Click here for a 2009 updated Profile of Victory.

An addition to the profiles this year will be an interview with a key "player" at each establishment. At Victory, Bill Covaleski is one of the founding partners. He sat down to answer a few questions.

The Brew Lounge: What is the most surprising thing to you about your school bus trip that got this big?
Bill Covaleski: Our audience's capacity to appreciate and support the full flavored creations that good craftbrewers are putting out. When we opened in 1996 it was with three beers, a Dortmunder, our Festbier, and this really crazy beer that we were proud of but expected no one to like, maybe for many years, HopDevil Ale. HopDevil was radical at that time and it has become a 'must have' beer in area bars. This is quite an accomplishment in 13 years, for the audience's tastes to have expanded so greatly, and of course, so correctly. We really are thrilled to be serving this audience. It's rewarding and fulfilling for both parties.

TBL: All told, you have what? 8, 10, 12 brewers? Is it difficult to manage a brewing staff of that size? Do egos get in the way?
BC: I count 9 brewers. The complexity of scheduling them exists in that there are three departments: brewhouse, fermentation and packaging. Fortunately those scheduling duties are in the very capable hands of Scott Dietrich, our Director of Brewery Operations. Scott also has a team of 3 Mechanics and 1 Plant Manger at his disposal. It's actually a lean staff and a great climate of teamwork has been fostered since the days it was just Ron and I doing it all. As two, the challenge was to set the next brewer up so he had LESS to do in his shift. If everyone works to accomplish that, great efforts get done. There is no other way it will work because this is still very much a demanding business.

TBL: What is the weekly Brewing Operations schedule? Do you foresee going 24x7 any time soon?
BC: Brewhouse and fermentation typically work two shifts daily and 1 in packaging. 24 hour operations will come before 7 day a week operations as we have always cleared weekends as time off, except for the weekly brewer that gets to take tank gravities that weekend. That duty rotates on a long term schedule so no one is surprised.

TBL: What's the next scheduled expansion (brewhouse, fermenters, etc.)?
BC: We just signed off for 4 x 400 bbl. fermenters from Germany today! We look to install them here in July after some renovations to a new space. I'll bet our President claims that his 'stimulus' made this to happen. Yeah, right...

TBL: At Victory, is it Bill & Ron, or Ron & Bill? Who's the more ambitious of the two of you?
BC: When we compared SAT scores in high school it was apparent that we had different strengths, and so it continues. We rely on one another to handle the tasks that that person was built for. I think you'd have to spend some time with us to determine if one is more ambitious than the other.

TBL: Is it time for a break yet?
BC: Nope. Lunch is over so the nose goes back to the grindstone. There is light at the end of the tunnel (happy hour) and it looks like golden liquid capped with pristine foam! Fortunately, we have built a very, very good supporting team and so we accomplish a lot, and drink a lot, together.

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