If you weren’t one of the lucky 32 who witnessed the first broadcast of our 2011 State Of The Brewery address, well, click here to view it, but treat yourself to this ‘inside info’ before you do so.
We wrapped our question and answer session of the State Of The Brewery address with questions posed by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Greg Koch of Stone Brewery. Greg asked, “How does it feel going from scrappy microbrewers cum biscuit factory rehabbers to relative pillars of your community and, arguably by some, respectable members of society? All at the hand of tasty beer and a company with one foot in the old world, and the other foot on the cutting edge?”
Not an easy one to answer but as much of life goes, fate primed and prepared me for the question, just days before. As it was, I arrived to work last week to witness this just outside our brewery office doors. Now, nothing warms my heart more than to see an emptied case of Victory beer waiting to be recycled. I love the fact that the glass will become glass again, the paper will become paper again, AND the fact that someone was compelled by their great taste to buy our great beer.
This moment was especially heartwarming as over the 15 years here, Ron and I have suffered the grave injustices of walking past empty cases of Honey Brown, Miller Light, Harp Lager (more expensive and more travelled than Victory Lager, for God’s sake!!) and other weak facsimiles of beer strewn along Acorn Lane as we walk into work. But now we routinely see empty Prima Pils and HopDevil Ale cases who have lived the full life. But this, V Twelve, the most luxurious and commanding of our brews, was a beam of golden light from heaven, here on earth. It spoke ‘they get it’, in comforting and familiar tones to me.
I remember when they didn’t get it. When a host of future neighbors filled the municipal hall of Downingtown to protest our proposed zoning variance to build a restaurant within our brewery. It was April of 1995 and as we cheaped out on a real attorney for the proceedings, I had to put a suit on and pay an wholly unprepared stooge to frame our side in simpleton terms. And then get attacked. The minutes of that hearing show that I faced fire and fears of drunks antagonizing local children, speeding as they launch beer bottles all over neighbors’ lawns. Understandably, what is unknown is often feared. What Ron and I knew was that brewpubs could be great magnets for community culture and family entertainment and mirth. We just hoped to prove that our brewpub could be these things.
Oddly, neither ‘side’ of that April debate had malice in their hearts. It was more like we simply didn’t get introduced in the best of conditions. So I tried my best to persuade with reason, and not compromise, and we were awarded the variance to establish our brewpub.
Flashing forward those 16 intervening years, Ron and I and the Victory crew now find ourselves respected within this community. It’s not the cheap, fleeting admiration bestowed upon an American Idol contestant, but a far more worthy connection to our community based on the reality that we strive, day in and day out, to produce things our community has come to value. Things like a warmingly rich, Belgian ale or an addictively stimulating plate of hot wings. These are things of value that make for enduring relationships and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide them.
Greg, these ‘pillars’ are made of chicken wings and beer, oddly enough.
Cheers, – Bill