Macro Beers = Bulk Trash?

From the mind and desk of Victory founder and president, Bill Covaleski…

Saturday morning, I spent some time pondering the incredible news I heard last week. Fourteen of the top 40 U.S. craft breweries have reported sales increases of 30% or more for early 2011. We here at Victory have started this year by brewing and selling at a pace of more than 40% over last year.

While I could have mused about these statistics for hours, I forced myself to tackle a more pressing matter: spring-cleaning.

My rural township has a bulk trash collection day each spring, so I loaded my Subaru with a busted metal chair and some torn-down wall paneling that was taking up precious junk space and headed to the dumpsters. As I pulled up to unload, I was greeted by a middle-aged man who was lacking some essential teeth and was dressed head-to-foot in cammo. I hate admit it, but I immediately pegged him as a Keystone Light or Busch drinker. While offering me help with my items, he noticed the Victory Is Brewing sticker on my car and surprised me with an emphatic “Oh, that Victory beer is great stuff!” He then told me, “I hear one of the brewmasters there is from Germany.”

With that, I filled him in on Ron’s family heritage and the brewing education we both received in Germany. He spoke eloquently of his fondness for our now retired Brandywine Valley Lager and demonstrated further knowledge of our process by noting, “I hear that they located here because of great water.”

Needless to say, I was blown away as my initial judgments and expectations of the man were so far from accurate. He exuded knowledge about our brews and pride in our local brewery that left me feeling confused and stupid about my early assessment.

It struck me that he represents the individuals who are contributing to the wild craft beer growth I had been pondering earlier in the day. We didn’t discuss it, but even if he does have a fondness for Keystone or Busch, the fact of the matter is that he also buys better beer. There was appreciation and pride in his voice as he spoke about Victory — two things that you don’t often hear from macro beer drinkers, for the obvious reasons.

Retelling this incredibly uplifting (to me, at least) story, I heard someone remark that this was the year that craft beer has “become mainstream.” Though I don’t think the numbers support that statement yet, I do feel that craft beer has made significant strides in American culture, and now it is appreciated for the true virtues of flavor and freshness that it delivers. Long-held beer prejudices are being reversed by the appreciation of true quality and character.

Likewise, I realize that I my own prejudices are being reversed as I broaden my view of just who is in this growing audience of craft beer lovers.

Cheers,
Bill

3 Responses to Macro Beers = Bulk Trash?

  1. Charles Bockway April 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM #

    How broad is your definition of "mainstream"? If it means momentum, then maybe craft beer has arrived. There's no doubt that US macro-brew drinkers are a vast reservoir of potential craft beer drinkers. Most are not there yet, but a growing number are definitely bi-market, mainly drinking macros but also enjoying an occasional craft. With beers such as Victory Prima Pils, it's not hard to imagine many more macro drinkers becoming bi-market or even craft fans, if only they get a chance to try it. By the way, I live in West Virginia where we don't yet have the opportunity to buy Victory beers. I can only hope that changes.

  2. Dave White May 1, 2011 at 11:41 AM #

    I love the story, and the lessons it contains. While assumptions are critical for getting a toe-hold in new environments, it is important to remember what is fact and what is assumption, and to be willing to revise or discard assumptions as new information becomes available.

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of Storm King, Yakima Glory, and St. Boisterous! Keep up the good work.

    P.S. Hiring Kelly was a very smart move. ;)

  3. Tim Marshall October 22, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

    Bill, perspective should also be considered here.

    Since the trash collection you attended is part of your township’s annual plan, the camouflaged gentleman is probably also from your township. And while I could be way off, but I’m assuming that you live near your Victory Brewing Company, so that means that you both live relatively close to Victory.

    I know guys who adore Rolling Rock, know all sorts of stuff about it, and enjoy it, merely because they are from the region of Rolling Rock. To each their own, but we all know how good Rolling Rock is…

    I’m not saying that your beer is no good (quite the opposite, all varieties I’ve tried have been delicious), but pride in one’s region is a powerful thing. He probably loves his water and most local businesses that choose to operate his region.

    I got my first taste of Victory last weekend (in your sampler pack) and went back to it today. Good stuff! This is the first I’ve seen of your beer and I agree with Charles that it would be nice to see your brews in more locations on the east coast.

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European Tradition.

  

American Ingenuity.

The Victory Brewing Story

The story of Victory Brewing Company starts on a school bus in 1973 when fifth-graders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski stepped aboard, on their way to a new school. The two became fast friends and remained so, even as they grew up and went to college on opposite coasts. Just months out of college, Bill’s appreciation of good beer and access to his father’s home brewing equipment inspired him to explore the hobby. That same year (1985), Bill gave Ron a home brewing kit as a Christmas gift. With that, both Bill and Ron developed their love of the craft…
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