Like most craft breweries, Victory Brewing Company’s start-up was a true team effort, involving a collection of friends and family who probably had more balls than brains at the time.
It was like building a tree house as a kid, in that each interested party had something to contribute. Rather than wood, paint, or tools, this time it was brewing skills, construction experience and engineering expertise. The tree house analogy is also a fitting one, as Ron (Barchet) and I met when we were 10-years-old and soon collaborated on a tree house with three other pals (and the tools and materials our Dads had to offer).
‘Building’ began on New Year’s Eve of ‘93 – ‘94. We wanted to break free of our stable brewery jobs and strike out on our own. Real building began in September of 1995 when my Dad, a former Maintenance Manager, with practical experience in construction, took over the keys to an abandoned Pepperidge Farm bakery in a former paper mill. Given that it was a former FDA monitored site, there was plenty of ready fixtures and equipment for us to re-purpose. The fiberglass ceiling tiles were to be re-hung in our fermentation room after thorough cleaning and sanitation. It should be noted, that this plant had last produced dried soups. Though all fixtures below the ceiling tiles were of stainless steel, what we found above, out of an inspector’s sight, was less impressive.
Ron soon joined the project and we all commuted to my folks’ house each night. One of those nights was particularly memorable as we drove home and spied the brewing equipment of Sly Fox Brewing Company that had already arrived and was sitting in their parking lot, right there on Route 11. Dammit! They were ahead of us! There is nothing like pressure to push performance, right?
Since there was no budget for such niceties as real homes at that point, our wives were states away, contributing to the cause as much as they could. In fact, my wife, as a software developer, was tasked with compiling our fermentation temperature control system. Tim, a work pal of hers, was one of our first non-family shareholders and contributed cast-off computers to enable the system. As Scott, our Director of Brewing Operations and 10-year veteran of Clipper City Brewing Co. so often sarcastically quipped of the old system, “What could possibly go wrong?” Through the hard work and updating of that system by Sunny and Tim over the years, we are now brewing 60,000 bbls. of world-class beer a year.
Basically 90 days after entering the abandoned building, we were set to fire up our first brew. There simply was no budget for error or a lengthy build-out. Surely there was work that needed doing, but, as they informed us, a huge snow storm was bearing down on Southeast Pennsylvania. Given that our 50 bbl. fermenters required over one brew to the temperature probe, Ron and I had no choice but to dedicate ourselves to two 25 bbl. brews of Festbier that fateful day, all the while hoping the storm would grant us mercy in getting home.
To a certain extent, it did, and we awoke to nearly three feet of snow, insuring that we’d not get to check on the brew that day. We were all forced to wait a day to find out if our home-grown control system kicked in and worked.
Sure enough, it did! Just one more small Victory in the path to success as a small and independent craft brewery.
Victory Brewpub on Wheels
Can’t get enough of Victory Brewing Company, well now they can come to you! The Victory Brewpub on Wheels (known as the “Adult Ice Cream Truck”) is capable of serving barbeque for 1,000 and holds 16 kegs! That’s 2,500 servings of your favorite victory beers.