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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Victory Headwaters Pale Ale

Right on the table, as first delivered: fresh from the Brandywine!
Well, Uncle Jack scooped me (but at least Bil Corcoran didn't!), thanks to a shorter drive home (I stopped at Iron Hill North Wales to toast the memory of craft beer saint and pioneer Don Younger), but the story's still deserving of wider notice: Victory Brewing's new year-round Headwaters Pale Ale, which is also their 15th anniversary celebration beer, was 'pre-delivered' to a table of local (and  hyper-local, Amy and Mary) beer/food bloggers, and we determined that it was pretty damned good indeed. Shocking,  I know: imagine, a new beer from Victory that doesn't suck!

Yeah, well: that didn't happen. The suck, that is. Co-founder Bill Covaleski (who told us he was there speaking to us because his partner Ron Barchet didn't want to) told us that Headwaters is a 5.1% ABV, Citra/Centennial-hopped (a "melange" of hops, Bill said), all-German malt (like HopDevil) pale ale, a type of beer Victory has not done until recently; Headwaters grew out of their excellent Pursuit Pale Ale series. Why no pale ale before? Plenty of them around; reminds me of something Dave Geary once said about why he doesn't brew a stout: "Guinness." Why fight it? Well, Victory is now in the position where their name is well-known enough to support a drinking style like pale ale. A type of beer which, I might add, has plenty to say. What'd I think of it? I thought it had a balance that reminded me of HopDevil: good body -- not overly thin -- great hop character (great aroma, especially for a bottled beer in 12 oz.), and a briskly dry finish that calls for more; I had two in short order.

Bill points out the approximate location of his Amish girlfriend. (JK!)
As you can see in the following video, the beer is all about the headwaters of the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek, the source of Victory's brewing water. They are 14 miles from the source. We thought, Bill said, that in producing a simpler beer, the nuances of the water might be seen. Maybe, but I think you'll see the nuances of the Citra and Centennial hops more easily. The Citra makes this quite aromatic; the Centennial gives it a certain herbal/earthy quality.

All that considered, the thing I liked best about this beer, and what I liked most about what Bill said about it...Headwaters Pale Ale is a sharable beer. It's not an anniversary beer that's rare, or huge, or "I got it, and you didn't!", it's an anniversary beer that everyone will be able to enjoy, any time they want. I love that idea. Am I freaked that it's over 4.5%, as Jack cannily suggests? Not at all: it's a choice, and I'm all about choice. That is, as I keep saying, what the craft beer segment is all about. Cheers, Victory! I'll be at the 15th anniversary event Tuesday night; looking forward to it!

And because the delightfully hyper-local Amy Strauss sent us all pix of the likes of her and me and Jack goofing around's one of those. That's Ryan Hudak (In Search of Beer blog, where he has a nice roundup of all our comments on the Headwaters), Mary Bigham (West Chester Dish founder), meself, Uncle Jack's self, and herself, Amy (the Dish culinary editor, and man, was she excited about the new menu!). Fun time.

...and Mary said, "Okay, now put me under your armpit." I'm not kidding!


sam k said...

Excellent report. Pletcher's should have this in short order!

Tom E said...

I can't even tell you how much I love the "pale ale has nothing left to say" story. I'd appreciate it if you'd continue to bring it up every six months or so, just for laughs.

Lew Bryson said...

No fear, Tom: it's too good to waste!

Bill said...

What a great day to celebrate a birthday... cheers!

sam k said...

Hey, yeah! Happy birthday!

Flagon of Ale said...

Glad to see Victory doing something like this. It's not a session beer, per se, but it's a step in the right direction in comparison to the rest of their normally high-alcohol lineup.

Lew Bryson said...

Be thee stoned? Victory regularly has beers of 4.2% or less on at their pub, usually at least three of them. Is it their fault bars don't buy them? Seriously, I credit Victory for making these beers regularly available, unlike quite a few other brewpubs.

Flagon of Ale said...

That may be, Lew! You're the expert in that regard. I've never been to their brewpub. I guess I should revise my statement to say that I was referring to their bottled beers which mostly seem to be in the high alcohol mode. Like you say, though, it's an admirable effort, especially if it's a labor of love rather than something that pays the bills.

Bryan Kolesar said...

Nice job, esp. with the video, Lew. Wish I could've joined you but I was out suffering through SF Beer Week, har ;-)