Behind the Scenes: Watch Headwaters Flow

October 17
While we’ve been silent on this blog series over the past few weeks, our brewers and account reps have been busily refilling the pipeline with Headwaters Pale Ale. In fact, as of today, Headwaters is flowing at full force. Pallets of the delicious brew have been shipped to retailers near you. It’s time to get your drink on!

Look for it in bottles, cases and on draft at your local watering hole.

We will continue to keep the tide high in order to drench our thirsty fans with a fountain of Pale Ale. And we promise to do our best to avoid any Headwaters drought in the future.

Cheers to the end of this blog series and the conclusion of watery puns. I was running dry and my vocabulary was being soaked with synonyms.

September 28
Our brewers are still busily brewing Headwaters in order to replenish the market with the delicious pale ale come mid-October. As you anxiously wait for Headwaters to flow from your local tap, we want to fill you in on some great Headwaters Grant news.

When we named Headwaters Pale Ale last February, we did so to pay homage to the pure water we receive from the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek that begins its journey to us just under 14 miles from where we brew with it. Because of the important role water plays in the production of quality beer, we initiated The Headwaters Grant as a way to give back to the groups working hard to protect the natural resource.

Back in May, we awarded our very first Headwaters Grant to The Guardians of the Brandywine to fund their “My Creek” initiative. This outreach program aims to educate individuals and to encourage them to take ownership of clean water issues.

Now, with help from Victory Brewing Company (and from you for buying our beer), The Guardians are inspiring citizens to start making a difference in their own backyards through their “My Creek – The Beauty of the Brandywine” photography contest. You could win $300 for your work!

You can support The Guardians of the Brandywine in two ways:

  1. Take photographs and enter their contest.
  2. Buy and enjoy Headwaters Pale Ale.  (We are donating 1 cent for every bottle sold in the region).

The Guardians point out on their site:

You live near it. You benefit from it. Even when you do not notice it, it is there nourishing and caring for you. It asks for nothing, and in return, it gives our region vitality. The waters of the Brandywine Creek are our lifeblood. We drink its waters, it feeds our economy, and it offers itself up as protection from damaging storms.

We encourage you to take ownership of the Brandywine Creek and your local bodies of water. You have the right and the ability to protect your local watershed in the future.

September 27
Last week you watched as we received the citra hops that Scott selected while he was in Yakima. Now our hop supply is looking incredibly robust. Our hop cooler is stacked high with bushels of the aromatic cones and our brew house is busy brewing with the new arrivals.

Those Yakima-grown hops won’t be our only shipment. In fact, another of our hop suppliers sent us samples of citra and simcoe last week. The samples come from different lots. Our brewers get together and review the samples to decide which selections to purchase.

Watch as the Victory team chooses from the samples:

September 24
We started brewing with our newly-received citra hops. Headwaters is now flowing through the brewery.

We’re about to be overflowing with Headwaters Pale Ale. Grab an oar.


September 23

After a long ride, our hops are here!

Here are the hops in the truck:


And here they are being unloaded. In case you were wondering how we get them off the truck, the answer is . . . manpower.




September 20
Looks like mechanical failure set our hop delivery back a few days. We were expecting our citra to arrive today, but now Friday looks to be the day. In the meantime, the hops were being stored in one of the world’s largest cold storage facilities.

We’re anxiously awaiting their arrival…

September 16, 2011
Our hand-selected citra hops are in transit. We’re slated for a big hop drop on Tuesday. Then, our brewery will be flooded with the flowers.

September 14, 2011
During his visit to Yakima, Scott visited four family-owned hop farms. The Carpenters, Perraults, Roys, and Segals all welcomed him as he toured their operations and selected our hop lots for the upcoming year. In addition to rubbing a handful of hop varieties, Scott got to see these farms in action during their busiest time of the year.

Now it’s your turn.

Here’s a closer look at hop harvesting. The following photos and videos take you from the hop fields, through the facility, an off to storage. Get a sense of what Scott saw below.

Reminder: Scott is Victory’s Director of Brewery Operations. Camera handling skills are not part of his job description.

Note: These photos and videos are a collaboration from the four farms that Scott visited. All of the farms operated differently, but the gist is the same.

The hops grow on vines in the field:

Once they are fully grown, the vines are harvested and loaded into the trucks:

The trucks bring the vines to the facility and they are unloaded and hooked to a conveyor:

The vines travel on the conveyor from the truck to the feeder:

The vines are fed into automated machines where the hops will begin being cleaned and separated from the vines:

The hops travel through a series of machines that clean and separate the hops from the vine:

Then the separated hops are loaded into the drying beds. Here the fresh cones will be dried for preservation. This video specfically shows our chosen citra hops being loaded for drying (yay!):

The entire bed is filled with fresh hops. Underneath all of the hops is a mesh-like floor that opens to a heat source which dries the flowers:

Check out the massive dryer that burns below the fresh hops. This flame produces the heat that dries the hops to preserve their oils:

Once the hop flowers are dry, they are baled for shipping:

Then, off they go to cold storage:

And here’s what’s left behind:

September 13, 2011
Scott is now back in Downingtown, PA busying himself with brewing operations. As he sifts through the piles of work he left behind while in Yakima, he’s uploading even more photos and some videos from his trip west. Tomorrow, we will share some nifty video clips of the hops, the harvest equipment, and the incredible processes that he wrote home about (see below).

Scott also reported that the hop lots he selected while in Yakima are being shipped out on Friday. We’ve got space reserved for them in our hop freezer.

September 10, 2011

Yesterday was Scott’s final day in Yakima before heading back to Victory where we will soon see the Headwaters flowing. Thanks to Scott’s citra selection, It’s only a matter of time before Headwaters will pour from Victory Brewing Company onto store shelves and bar taps near you.

I spent yesterday with the Roy and Carpenter families at their family farms. Both the Roys and the Carpenters have been in the hop-growing business for several generations.

The Roys have the distinction of being the largest privately-owned hop farm in the world — with close to 3200 acres of hop crop. They have multiple processing facilities. In these facilities, the hop cones are separated from the vines and leaves. The Roys have a very modern and technologically-advanced facility and are constantly re-investing in new technologies and methods. Their interest in the latest and greatest allows them to increase their efficiency and increase the quality and consistency of their harvests.

I also went to their experimental yard where they had more than 30 different varieties growing. I was able to bring some samples back for the crew to rub.

In the afternoon, I went to the Carpenters ranch and met Brad, Greg, and their father Tom who have been growing hops for their entire lives. It is truly a family company. The Carpenter’s offices are located in the house they grew up in. And both of their wives as well as some of Tom’s grandkids are part of the business now. 

If anybody embodies the spirit of American entrepreneurism and self-sufficient independence, it is the Carpenters. For a guy like me who is into nut, bolts, and machinery I was in awe of to see that the majority of their picking, cleaning and separating equipment is designed, engineered, and built in-house. They are constantly reworking the hardware for better results.

I was able to see our simcoe being finished picking and the last of it in drying, and the start of the citra. The Carpenters worked very hard to increase their acreage of simcoe and citra specifically to accommodate our growth.

Sounds like Scott had a great visit. We just hope it wasn’t so fun that he “forgot” to catch his flight home.

September 9, 2011

Yesterday Scott got down to business and visited two hop farms.

I spent most of the day at the Segal Hop Ranch. The ranch is currently being run by the third generation of Segals to operate it since it opened. Back in 1968, the Segals were the first hop farmers to commercially grow cascade hops, and they deserve credit for giving rise to one of the most dominant hop varieties being used in craft brewing. 

High-oil cascade hops

The Segals are known for the high oil content in their cascade hops. And it is those oils that contribute to the aroma we get from hops in our beer. At the ranch, I selected the cascades that we will be using for some of our brands over the course of the next year. After evaluating the lots they harvested prior to my arrival, I chose Lot #10. The aroma from that lot was perfect for HopDevil.

Hops being harvested

During the visit, the Segals showed me an unnamed experimental hop they are growing that had a fruity aroma with notes of banana and vanilla. John Segal and his farm manager, Martin Ramos hosted me during my visit and spoiled me with homemade tortillas and awesome Mexican food made by Martin’s mother.

Right: Citra

Left: Experimental

Later I visted the Perrault Farm where I met Jason Perrault (4th generation). The Perraults have been insturmental in helping the growth of simcoe and citra hop varieties. There, I was able to rub some citra’s which were not quite ready to pick. I was told they were going to “let them hang” until they were ready. I was amazed how much the aroma will change over the last few weeks before harvest.

Hanging hops.

After that it was off for a bite to eat at the Sports Center, which has a great beer selection and nice Rueben.  

September 8, 2011

The interwebs decided to hold Scott’s latest update hostage until just now. The photos he sent along caused the email update he wrote on Tuesday to be held in Victory mail purgatory. But never fear, he did arrive safely in Yakima and is currently busy hand-selecting our precious hops.

Here’s what Scott had to say about his day ‘o travel:

I spent the entire day on Tuesday traveling. The booming metropolis [read: itty bitty town] of Yakima is located off the beaten path so it took three flights to get here.

I left my house at 7:15 a.m. and arrived here at 5:15 p.m. PST. Despite the heavy rain in Philly, my flight left on time and the flights were fairly smooth. The best part was the incredible view as we flew over the mountains and landed in Seattle (which I enjoyed after making a connection in Chicago). The peaks of Mount Rainier and Mount McKinley were higher than the aircraft as we descended, which, while awesome in some respects was a bit unnerving for a guy like me who hates to fly. I had a two-hour layover before the final leg of my travel from Seattle to Yakima, so I was able to enjoy the first beer of my trip and relax my nerves from the first two flights. I started with a Pike Place IPA and finished with a few others.

The final flight to Yakima gave me even more views of incredible mountains, which gave way to smaller desert hills. Then, finally, I saw the green, fertile plain of the Yakima Valley.

To give an idea of the size of Yakima, I took this photo of the airport…

I celebrated my arrival by talking hops and beer with Jim Boyd of Roy Farms at the Sports Center in Yakima. Jim grows much of the cascade and centennial hops that we use at Victory.

For my final photo from day one, here’s the stunning view from penthouse suite:

Check back tomorrow for more fun and sarcasm from Scott’s trip.

September 7, 2011

A few weeks back we told you about our hoppy conundrum and gave you a little insight into the incredibly tricky business of brewing predictions.

We still haven’t gotten our hands on that magic crystal ball to tell us exactly what hop orders to place, but we are about to get our hands on our 2011 hop crop. And that means we’ll have plenty of the citra variety to go around. So get ready — the floodgates are about to be lifted and Headwaters Pale Ale will be making waves at a retailer near you very soon.

We expect Headwaters to flow from Victory Brewing Company no later than October 17. In the meantime, we’ll be updating this blog every step of the way. You get to see the daily tasks that ultimately make Headwaters possible — starting today.

Remember meeting Scott in last week’s post? As our Director of Brewery Operations he keeps all of the various Victories brewing. Yesterday, he boarded  a plane headed for Yakima, Washington to secure the American whole-flower hops we use in our beers, including the citra we need for our forthcoming batch of Headwaters Pale Ale.

Stay tuned for photos and stories from Scott’s trip and more behind-the-scenes of our Headwaters production. Oh, and of course, even more water-related puns to pour from this blog as the Headwaters begin to trickle again.

- K.N.

10 Responses to Behind the Scenes: Watch Headwaters Flow

  1. Alfred Imhof September 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

    I have to say… Victory Headwater Pale Ale was my “go to” beer all Summer! Hats off to the brewmaster and his excellent well balanced pale ale!

  2. Bill the homebrewer September 7, 2011 at 6:23 PM #

    Only recently tried the Headwaters Pale Ale (been a Victory fan though since the late 90′s). Have to say, its probably one of the best Pale Ales I’ve ever had. I even like it better than my previous favorite, Great Lakes Burning River! As a homebrewer, I’ve always judged breweries on how good their pale ale is. If you can’t make a good pale ale, you don’t score any points with me. Victory’s Headwaters is a ‘home run’!

  3. Citrameister September 8, 2011 at 12:40 PM #

    Counting the days until October 17! Have 5 bottles to last me, not gonna make it! Everything is Better with Citra!

  4. Stan Rubin September 12, 2011 at 4:49 PM #

    I have known Scott for many years and Victory for a much shorter time. He’s a good man and makes great beer. Best of luck to him and Victory………

  5. Charlotte Snyder September 16, 2011 at 2:33 PM #

    What a handsome young man you picked to wear that tee shirt. I’m sure all the girls will want one!

    Zach’s MeeMee

  6. hervey September 16, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

    awesome video .. so head waters is from OR or PA cause Honey Brook is the heads waters for the brandywine

  7. Dave King September 17, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

    Scott, cool stuff. Joan and I were there the week before you, as part of our motor home tour of the West. We ran into Jim Koch from Boston Beer at Chatoe Rogue on 9/9/11. Here are my photos.

    See you when we can,
    Dave & Joan King, BIER in Endicott

  8. Elizabeth Hall September 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM #

    Scott is a great man. He looks so svelt! Miss vacationing with him and his long belly and semi-truck sized cooler filled with fresh ice on the hour. Maybe next summer we can get our families together for another week full of fun festivities. Bring that mis-labeled, under filled beer!

  9. Kathleen October 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM #

    It feels like such a treat to now get Victory beer in San Francisco. It was such a nice surprise to discover Headwaters for the first time this summer. It was the first time I’ve ever tried a Victory beer while NOT at the brewery! It makes me miss Downingtown!

  10. Greg B July 24, 2013 at 8:22 AM #

    Headwaters Pale Ale is world class. I seem to forget this alot. It’s probably because I live so close to the brewery. I go to a craft beer beer dist and buy excellent brews from all over the world (mostly the US) and say to myself WOW I’d love to visit their brewery etc etc….I live within 100 miles of VICTORY and I am just now planning to take the trip. My brother in law and I have been taking about it for years and we both agree that we spend lots of money on brews from all over the world and we basically rate them against Headwaters. I’ll say it again…World Class TOP 5 in my book…..

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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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