Sixteen Sweet Years of Victory

By Bill Covaleski

Sixteen years ago today, Victory Brewing Company was born, so to speak. With the opening of our doors on this day (February 15, 1996) that we officially began operations. Today, as we celebrate the sweetness of 16 years in business, we take a moment to reflect on where we started.

Our desire to start a brewery was born years before VBC ever opened. In fact, our original business plan, which sits beside me on my desk as I type this, was dated June 1994. I’ve kept this plan to remind me of our idealism and as a reminder that critics aren’t always right. With the only wealth we had being brewing experience gained in Germany and 5 years of industry work, we were desperate for dollars to start our business, and we naturally turned to family and friends to include them in our dream. One of the first potential investors we identified was an older cousin of mine who had parlayed his accounting degree into quite a successful career for himself. When the plan was returned to me, without a check, he had penned various comments all over this very copy, all of which were negative. Some of which were helpful.

The best comment of them all? “Don’t like this. Is B******t!” Very constructive.

The main criticism from him as a prospective investor was that Ron and I had no experience running a business. But wait! We left out an important fact. Ron and I had months of Junior Achievement in 1979 to fall back on!

During our time at the mentored business experience, Ron took on the role of CEO for our faux business. I took on the role of disinterested employee. Either way, Ron had executive experience. See photographic proof:

But none of this impressed my cousin enough to invest in Victory.

As I scan back through the original business plan, ignoring the nay-saying scribbles, I am pleased that much of our initial vision has come to fruition in our sixteen years

Even back in 1994, we noted that our competitive advantages would come from the ingredients we use and the techniques we employ. That remains true today. The imported malt and whole flower hops we use today are the same stellar ingredients we proposed as we were getting started. In 16 years of business, we are proud to say that we have never compromised on quality in favor of price.

Some of the most significant developments we’ve made since opening in 1996, make where we started seem almost laughable.

As we got started with Victory Brewing Company, the entire business consisted of just Ron and me. We did every job. We were the brewers, book keepers, marketers and delivery drivers.

“Initially, Victory Brewing Company’s products will be distributed by either of our two Brewmasters and principals, Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski. Allowing us to forge close links with our retailers and gain customer insight, we feel this is the proper approach to take.”
~ The 1994 Business Plan

Today we have more than 200 employees, people who shouldered the burden that has spectacularly outgrown two elementary school friends.

Not only did we start with just two employees but with just one email address. Drink@victorybeer.com was registered to receive all email for the company in 1997. At the time, we couldn’t understand why a beer business would need to receive email and we certainly wouldn’t need more than one address for such things!

Today, we embrace our web presence and the ability to digitally connect with our audience through email, Twitter, Facebook, texts and soon, an app! This profusion of digital communications options is making me feel old.

Ron and I are proud of the success we’ve achieved and humbled by the dedicated fans who have provided the critical support that our crazy beer notions needed to survive. Though we don’t drive the delivery trucks anymore, we still believe in forging close links with our retailers and customers. We welcome your comments via social media and love answering the questions you submit to us at brewmaster@victorybeer.com.

While many 16-year-olds are hoping for car keys on their birthdays, we are grasping tightly to the keys we already have – the keys to our success that we developed back in 1994. So far, so good.

 

16 Responses to Sixteen Sweet Years of Victory

  1. Steve PRetti February 15, 2012 at 6:34 AM #

    I am so happy you never compromised. I hope your cousin is doing well, despite his decision not to invest! Looking forward to tasting Eclat Cocoa Lager soon.

  2. Eegs February 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM #

    You two should be extremely proud of the work you have done to grow your product into a nationally recognized brand. Congratulations!!

  3. Steve Kreckman February 15, 2012 at 8:20 AM #

    Congratulations on seeing the your dreams become reality, all too rare in the world these days. Thanks for sticking with it for all these years and bringing craft beer excellence to our corner of the world!

  4. Michael Edleblute February 15, 2012 at 8:43 AM #

    I shall have a Victory today in your honor! Cheers to you and your crew! Nice work!

  5. Jeff Tincher February 15, 2012 at 8:53 AM #

    Congrats on the successes you both have had and the business. I enjoy reading this blog and especially these great “true life” stories of how it all began. Really helps to bring your devoted customers and beer lovers closer to Victory!

  6. Chris S. February 15, 2012 at 9:28 AM #

    Wow time flies! Back in the fall of 97, I was looking for a little extra money. My friend had been working in the kitchen and told me that you guys were looking for some help on the bottling line. What 21 year old wouldn’t jump at that opportunity? “The bottling line” which really just consisted of myself, my friend, Ron and his dad. We worked one day a week, loading cases by hand and stacking pallets. I remember the buzz at the brewery was that Victory was picked up by a distributor in the far away land of Virginia! There were many days of raw hands from stuffing cases and many long afternoons cleaning glue from every single little tiny part of the labeler.
    I’m proud of how far Victory has come and to have been a part of a great company during their early years. Keep up the good work and here’s to many more great years.

  7. Rebecca Stillman February 15, 2012 at 9:33 AM #

    My husband, Curt, & I have been enjoying Victory since the beginning! When our daughter was young & in school, we would enjoy our weekly lunch date of pizza & beer while sitting at the bar. It’s been fun watching your business grow & thrive! Congratulations!

  8. Kam February 15, 2012 at 9:50 AM #

    Great post, you guys deserve all your success and achievements (both junior and otherwise)!

  9. Jim Busch February 15, 2012 at 10:17 AM #

    Happy Birthday Bill and Ron! And some of us recall when the name on the cover of that plan was not Victory. ;-)

    Well Done!

  10. Jeff Manzella February 15, 2012 at 11:11 AM #

    I love the RUSH t-shirt! Great beer and taste in music. I am coming for dinner tonight!

  11. Carol Griese February 15, 2012 at 3:32 PM #

    Congratulations! We found you shortly after we moved to WC in February of 1997 and have been regulars ever since. The restaurant was (and still is) a wonderful place for parents with small children. It was the only place we would take our 3 boys when they were little. Here’s to many more years of success and good beer!

  12. Green's Greenville February 15, 2012 at 9:44 PM #

    Congratulations! It has been awesome doing business with you guys…look forward to many more brews..VICTORY!

  13. Bill C February 15, 2012 at 10:26 PM #

    You all have made our day, and our last 16 years, for that matter! Thanks for the positive thoughts and considerate support that have nurtured our crazy beer notions into bliss for all of us.

  14. Bill Petty February 22, 2012 at 11:37 AM #

    Congratulations on your 16th and many more subsequent anniversaries to come. I love all of your beers and if I see the big red V tap handle at a bar, I know that I have at least one beer that I can trust at the place.

  15. Mike Klaene March 7, 2012 at 4:41 PM #

    Ron and Bill – Congratulations on making it to your sweet 16! First time we came there was after seeing a piece about you on the local cable access channel. Even though we live only 3 miles away Victory was not easy to find. You only had 4 beers: Brandywine Lager, Festbier, Prima Pils and no foot rail at the bar.

  16. Michael April 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM #

    More doppelbock, please!

    Also, where can I score one of those awesome RUSH t-shirts!?!

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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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