A perfect brew to brighten your dark winter evenings. Winter Cheers brings joy to the heart and taste buds with a flavor full of spicy clove, sweet banana and a touch of citrusy tartness. It’s medium-light mouthfeel is refreshing in a season of full-bodied beers, and a touch of hop character rounds out the flavor profile nicely. 6.7% ABV
Beer was housed in wood for centuries, fermenting, aging, traveling and even being served straight from barrels. Barrels were simply the best method of containment not only for beer but also wine, liquor, vinegars and even dry goods. Although the true time and place of origin for barrels is hard to determine as all early artifacts rotted long ago, the general consensus is that they were first constructed by Celts or Gauls in northern Europe around 300 B.C., and spread over the world after they were conquered by the Roman Empire. Although wine is now traditionally the drink that comes to mind when thinking of barrels, it is likely that the first barrels were actually made to house beer as the Gauls and Celts did not make their own wine until much later. With wood being lighter, stronger and easier to handle than the clay pots being used before, the use of barrels expanded into wine and other goods by 100 A.D.
Wooden barrels remained the standard housing for wine, beer and later liquor up into the 20th century. Somewhere in there, it was realized that the wood and aging process imbued the beverage with particular flavor qualities. Additionally, what had previously been stored in the barrel also had an effect on taste. Generally, this was prevented by adding a layer of pitch to the inside of the barrel before storing beer, but winemakers were making full use of this by the 19th centrury.
Wood has its downsides, though; it’s hard to clean, porous, and hard to seal completely. Because of this, beer had to be consumed quickly, hopped heavy-handedly or cask-conditioned in order to prevent infection. With the advent of metal brewing equipment and storage, barrels were all but abandoned by brewers.
However, the qualities provided by barrels were not forgotten, and now breweries are taking advantage of the flavors of wood, as well as the wines and liquors stored before. Barrels in beer-making are gaining popularity for some of the same reasons they were abandoned. Fortunately, breweries nowadays have the luxury of being selective in which brews they decide to age, and the barrels they age in, allowing for combinations to be orchestrated and perfected.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout may be the first modern craft beer that utilized the bourbon barrel-aging process that has taken the craft scene by storm. The bourbon gives this a unique sweetness and the oak a smokiness over chocolate caramel and vanilla notes.
A twist on a classic, O’Hara’s Barrel-Aged Leann Follain is allowed to sit for 90 days in Irish whiskey barrels, enhancing the chocolatey flavor of the stout with the addition of dry scotch.
Tennent’s Aged with Whisky Oak combines wood, caramel and vanilla flavors through the use of a single malt and toasted oak.
Uinta’s Jacked B Nimble is a part of their Crooked Line, a spicy imperial pumpkin ale that’s has a signature oak note and a touch of rye.
Victory White Monkey takes the beloved Golden Monkey and allows it to mature for three months in oaken barrels that once stored white wine, adding nuanced to an already delicious brew.
After eight months aging, Evolution Bourbon Migration puts the bourbon flavor at the front with notes of vanilla and char, balanced by chocolate, toffee and coffee underneath.
New Belgium La Folie is a sour brown ale that spends one to three years in a huge oak barrels called foeders, coming out with a sharply fruity flavor full of berries and apple.
There is often discussion here about how to pair your favorite beers with food, but typically that conversation steers towards entrees and other savory dishes. However, many beers can make an excellent accompaniment to sweeter desserts. As an introduction to this pairing style, we offer this list to consider. As with savory pairings, these duos can either mimic one another with similar flavor notes, or complement each other with different accents. For each beer, we offer an example for each.
Goose Island Sofie – Champagne-like in mouthfeel, with pepper and citrus flavors and a vanilla finish.
Imitation: Fresh Fruit Ambrosia Salad
Complement: Chocolate-Orange Scone.
Lancaster Shoo-Fly Pie Porter – Sweet heavy molasses, vanilla and brown sugar.
Imitation: Pecan Pie
Complement: Crème Brûlée
Old Dominion Candi - Pear, apple, sugar and pepper, with a bit of tartness and finishing hop character.
Imitation: Pear Upside-Down Cake
Complement: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Fuller’s London Porter - Dark chocolate, coffee and smoky tobacco; a very strong flavor profile.
Imitation: Chocolate Torte
Complement: Raspberry Cheesecake
Leffe Blonde - Spicy banana, orange and vanilla make up this beer.
Imitation: Orange Banana Nut Bread
Complement: Dark Chocolate
Victory Storm King - Dark chocolate and espresso are cut with hop bitterness.
Imitation: Chocolate Espresso Pound Cake
Complement: Vanilla Fudge
New Belgium Snapshot - Lemony-tartness throughout, with a bready backbone.
Imitation: Lemon Shortbread
Complement: French Silk Pie
Rogue Chocolate Stout – Chocolate and hops combine for a darkly rich and bitter beer with a touch of nuttiness.
Imitation: Pecan Brownies
Ithaca Country Pumpkin - All the pumpkin pie spices (clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice) and a touch of pumpkin itself.
Imitation: Pumpkin Roll
Complement: Vanilla Bean Pudding
Halloween is tomorrow, and we’re here to help with a few last minute party and costume ideas to make sure the night goes spookily–err, smoothly.
Beers to Try:
Costume and Pumpkin-Carving Contest Prizes: If you’re having a larger party, it’s always nice to have a few activities planned; either a costume contest or a jack-o-lantern carving contest (or both) are fun ideas to keep people engaged. And if you’re going to have a contest, you’re also going to need prizes. It’s best to separate these contests into kids and adults categories, to check for skill as well as so you can cater the prizes to the age range. For the kids, a bag of dried apples, spooky stickers, maple candies, a coloring book and a ribbon would make a nice prize basket. For the adults, make your own variety six-pack with the seasonal favorites we listed above.
Ghostly Beer Giveaway: Create cheesecloth ghosts of appropriate height and opacity, and once dry, set the ghosts over several bottles or cans of different types of beer. Make sure the cloth hides the label well enough that the beer cannot be deciphered. When guests arrive, have them choose a ghost-beer combo. They can drink the beer at the party and take the ghost home as a souvenir. For smaller parties, this works particularly well with larger bottles, like Victory’s V-Twelve. For larger parties, a 12 oz bottle variety pack can be used, like Magic Hat’s Night of the Living Dead.
Cider Cocktails – Instead of serving just straight cider, try your hand at making cider cocktails. This recipe has the benefit of being blood-red, but there are a number of delicious hard cider cocktail recipes out there, and you can use your favorite cider (we suggest McKenzie’s, Bold Rock or Johnny Appleseed) in the mix.
Dead Guy – The namesake of one of Rogue’s top ales actually makes a pretty simple costume. Most costume stores will carry a skeleton suit of some sort. They will also probably have some sort of helmet/hat that is similar to the one on the label–gold or bronze is the color you’re looking for, particularly one that is tall. You can easily add length to a helmet by getting one that sits on top of, not around, your head. If you have trouble finding a suitable helmet, use the dome template on this page, and try making the bottom wider to lengthen the helmet. While you’re at the costume store, pick up some black and white face paint, and follow this guide to make your face into a skull. Carry a plastic beer mug around and voila. Bonus points for anyone with a barrel to sit on while they hand out candy.
Hop Flower – If you’ve got a little time, and a knack for a bit of sewing, a hop flower is a pretty straight-forward. First, you need a green beanie, shirt/dress and pants/leggings/tights. Second, you need a couple yards of light green material, and lastly a single sheet of green felt. The petals are roughly diamond in shape, with rounded sides, a pointy bottom tip and a flat top. Here is a basic outline. Measurements should be roughly 5 inches wide at the widest point, and 7 inches long. A little variance is okay, and petals near the top of the costume should be slightly smaller. How many you need will vary. To keep track, you can start pinning the petals onto your shirt or dress in rows as you cut then out. The petals in each row will touch, but not overlap too much. Rows should be roughly 3 inches apart, overlapping some with the lower row underneath the upper. Be sure to stagger the petals, like so. Cover the entire shirt or dress, and allow some petals to hang past the hem. It might be easiest to start from the bottom, and sew each row as you work your way up. For the hat, make a few small petals, sew then in a ring around about the middle of the beanie, and then sew on a green felt stem.
Beer Knight – A fun, cheap and relatively easy costume is waiting right next to your recycling; use your favorite old beer case boxes to create armor for yourself, including helmet, shield and breastplate. With a little ingenuity and a lot of clear packing tape, you can make a costume that will have people pointing you out at every party.
Holiday season is upon us, meaning you’ll probably be attending all sorts of family gatherings, office parties and other events. As we transition from autumn to winter in the next month or so, we can find a variety of delicious brews that straddle the line of the seasons. Transitional beers are those that can be enjoyed from now through the end of the year, spanning a spectrum of flavors that go from harvest to freeze. So if you’re thinking about what beers you’ll be enjoying at Thanksgiving or the coming winter holiday parties, keep this list in mind.
Long Trail Harvest – This little brown ale has a little something special added to give it that wonderful holiday flavor; real Vermont maple syrup, imbuing it with a sweetness that remains well-balanced. It’s also sessionable, coming in at 4.4% ABV
Anchor Maple Leaf – Another maple beer that manages to walk the line of just-sweet-enough. This red ale’s hoppiness is tempered by the syrup’s flavor, creating a complex flavor profile. 6% ABV
Ithaca Country Pumpkin - Pumpkin season doesn’t end in October; you can have pumpkin pie (and pumpkin ale for that matter) right into December. 6.3%
Bold Rock Virginia Hard Cider - In the wake of pumpkin ales, we often forget that ciders are also in season. This is a great gluten-free option, and just a good, refreshing drink between heavier brews. 6%
Lancaster Shoo-Fly Pie Porter – Named for a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch molasses pie, this porter has subtle smoky sweetness and a hint of vanilla, perfect for pairing with holiday cookies or pie. 6.2%
Goose Island Festivity Ale - This ever-changing line of beers from Goose Island always packs holiday flavors in. This year, it’s full of caramel and dark fruitiness, enjoyable November through December. 7.7% ABV
As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Victory is gearing up for the cause. To help them in their efforts, you need only go to one of the locations listed below and drink one of their delicious brews, the pink Kirsch Gose. A portion of the proceeds from every pint sold go to the Victory Over Breast Cancer fund. Additionally, Victory will be selling pins, all the proceeds of which will enter the fund, which in turn will be donated to Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Fox Chase’s Irma H. Russo Breast Cancer Research Lab.
Victory’s Kirsch Gose is typically a spring seasonal, but they brew a small, special batch just for this month. It’s got a big, tart, cherry flavor and crisp carbonation that’s hard to beat, so it’s a joy to drink, especially knowing that you are doing good for the world.
So go to one of the bars listed below, look for the pink V handle, and enjoy a pint with the knowledge that you’re making a little bit of a difference.
From the good folks at Victory:
Victory Brewing Company’s commitment to the environment runs deep. It was the nearly pristine water that led owners, Bill and Ron, to establish the first brewery in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. This water source, the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek, is a large part of the great flavor of Victory beer that their fans have come to love. When the time came to open a second brewery, it was a simple decision to keep it on the same water source, which is why the state-of-the-art Parkesburg, Pennsylvania brewery is located just 17 miles away and receives its water from the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek. In order to continue delivering consistently delicious, flavorful beer, it is critical that we keep the water clean, not just in our local Chester County, but across the country.
Five years ago, Bill and Ron established the Headwaters Grant, named for the beer which pays homage to the importance of clean water. For every bottle of Headwaters purchased, a portion has been donated to the Grant. Victory has been able to donate nearly $35,000 to local water advocacy groups and make a great difference:
“The Headwaters grant has enabled the Guardians of the Brandywine to pursue their mission to protect and preserve the Upper East Branch of the Brandywine Creek. With Victory’s Headwaters funds, we have established a stream monitoring program at four sites along the Upper East Branch, have restored riparian buffers with tree plantings and have established a Headwaters scholarship for college students studying our watershed.” - Guardians of the Brandywine
Association As of September 1, 2015, Victory will donate a portion of all Headwaters sales nationally. Our local wholesale partners, Gretz Beer Company and Penn Beer Company are showing their support of this important cause by generously donating a portion of every case equivalent of Headwaters Ale sold. With your help, we can make an even larger impact.
This Sunday, September 20, marks the first Victory Run for the Headwaters 5K. It will begin at 11:00am at Victory in Downingtown. The race (run or walk) will raise money for the Headwaters Grant, which funds water advocacy groups that work towards keeping the Brandywine River clean. Please join us as a runner, walker, or volunteer and help make a change! With your participation, you will receive a free beer (or root beer) and item from Victory’s Brew Pub on Wheels.
To participate as a runner or walker, please register here.
Drink Headwaters, Save the Planet!
With the 4th of July being this Saturday, you’ve likely made plans, either for your own party or to attend another’s. Whether you’re holding your own event or going to a friend’s/family’s, you can’t forget what goes best with BBQ and patriotism; a cold, refreshing beverage. Let’s go through a list of the best options to put in your cooler.
Anchor Liberty Ale – This effervescent IPA is crisp, piney and balanced perfectly with a firm backbone of sweet malts. It was first brewed as a celebration of the Bicentennial of Paul Revere’s famous ride to Lexington and Concord.
Rogue American Amber – Caramel and roasted malt character is accentuated by assertive hops in this American Amber Ale. Quite drinkable, a great craft brew for the uninitiated and craft fiends alike. As another plus, it’s available in cans for ease of cleanup and safe outdoor parties.
Victory Summer Love – This American Blonde Ale just screams summer with its bright, floral hops and bit of honey malts. It pairs well with pretty much any sort of grilled dish you can think of, but stands well enough on its own. So good there won’t be any leftovers. Now available in cans for the first time.
Budweiser – It’s a classic choice for the Fourth, and particularly in their beautiful Statue of Liberty emblazoned cans. Fill up a cooler (or two) with this and you’ll be sure to make a great party.
If you want to put a twist on the usual, there are some unique ways to incorporate beer into the festivities. Chances are when you were a kid, your drink of choice for the 4th was lemonade. Why not harken back to the good old days with a more adult version. Check out this list of shandies, including a few recipes to make on your own.
Another unique way to incorporate beer would be to add it to your cooking. Here’s a recipe for beer can chicken, with the suggestion of either Victory’s Prima Pils or Troeg’s Sunshine Pilsner. Or if you’re looking for an all-purpose marinade or mop, try this recipe and use either Troegenator or Widmer Bros’ Drop Top Amber Ale.
Chocolate, much like beer, is a treat to be savored. It has a reputation of being paired with strong emotions like love and sympathy, and for good reason. It releases feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, creating a feeling of well-being that can be shared between lovers or help bring you out of a slump. Good beer can have a similar effect, relaxing and bringing cheer to the drinker. So it makes good sense to combine the two. If you aren’t sure on where to start, or what chocolate might pair well with your favorite brew, look no further than this guide on how to pair the two.
Stouts and Porters are the simplest way to start your foray into chocolate and beer pairing, because many of them include the roasty flavors that are in chocolate. Your first instinct might be to go with a dark chocolate for these dark beers, but milk chocolates actually complement the bitterness better by adding sweetness to the palate and allowing the strong flavors of the drink to play on the subtler notes of the chocolate. The milk in the chocolate will also play on the creaminess of milk stouts. Try DAGOBA’s milk chocolate with Old Dominion’s Morning Glory Espresso Stout to round out the flavors of both.
Brown ales can be paired with nutty chocolates, either those that actually contain nuts like almonds or hazelnuts, or those that simply carry nut-like characteristics. This will bring out the earthy tones in the beer that can sometimes be lost under its sweetness. Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven Bar will pair perfectly with Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
Sometimes you need something to sweeten your bitter, dark chocolate, and in that case, it’s best to pair it with a Belgian-style Dubbel or Tripel. Chocolove’s Strong Dark Chocolate has enough bite for Troegs’ Jovial.
Wheat beer can be great in combination with a citrus-accented chocolate. Darker chocolates will bring out more contrast in the two flavors for a great complement. Lindt’s Lemon EXCELLENCE Bar would go well with Hoegaarden’s Original.
It may not seem intuitive to pair something hoppy like a Pale Ale or IPA with chocolate, but there is a whole range of flavors that can work with the complexity in these beers. Chocolates containing citrus rinds like orange or lemon can bring out these flavors in the hops, and the same goes for floral notes. Alternatively, dark chocolates with chiles can be a wonderful combination with an IPA. DAGOBA Organic Xocolatl Dark chocolate is a good spicy chocolate to go with Goose Island’s IPA.
The highly alcoholic and quite varied Barley Wine can be the perfect partner with a strong chocolate that can compete with its flavor. This includes both sweet and bitter chocolates, depending on the profile you are looking for. Try Chocolove’s Ginger Crystalized in Dark Chocolate with Victory’s Old Horizontal as a good nightcap.
As we begin May and the scenery changes to one more colorful, we can reflect on mid-spring with beverages that high-light the growth of new flowers. When reading about different flavor profiles, oftentimes one will come across the word floral in the description, and it is what it sounds like; a flavor that tastes like flowers smell. A soft and fresh nectary sweetness that is often found in hops, but can also be aided by malts or even come from actual flowers. These flavors don’t tend to be as powerful–or as prevalent–as fruit or pine notes, but they can be found in some of the most delicious beers out there.
Ithaca Flower Power – As it was named for, this IPA is packed with a big floral flavor with fruity notes to back it up.
Victory DirtWolf – This hoppy nectar has a bit of honey sweetness to add to its flowery taste while still retaining a nice bitterness.
Rogue MoM Hefeweizen – This lightly spicy wheat beer is brewed with rose petals to give it a perfumed bitterness.
Old Dominion Cherry Blossom Lager – This springtime favorite has some floral flavors under its big cherry taste.