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June 6, 2011

With Love Beer Garden Featured Brewer Q&A: Bill Covaleski Of Victory Brewing Company

Bill Covaleski founded Victory Brewing Company in 1996. (Photo courtesy Victory Brewing Company)

[This is the first installment in our With Love Beer Garden Featured Brewer Q&A series, which we’re publishing each day this week in honor of the Philly Beer Week With Love Beer Garden at the Four Seasons Philadelphia Hotel’s courtyard. Tonight’s featured brewer is Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Company. Read on to hear him weigh in on Philadelphia “beer heroes,” making a collaborative beer with Chef Jose Garces and more.]

It’s finally here: the With Love Beer Garden officially opens today with the launch party for the re-release of Victory Summer Love Ale. Victory Brewing Company Founder, President and Head Brewer Bill Covaleski is tonight’s featured brewer, meaning he’ll be on hand at the With Love Beer Garden to say hello and talk to guests about all things Victory.

A Levittown, PA native, Bill founded Victory Brewing Company in 1996 with childhood friend Ron Barchet. Today, Victory Brewing Company’s craft beers can be found in 30 states and three countries. Victory beers have won medals at both The Great American Beer Festival and The Great British Beer Festival.

We recently talked with Bill to get the scoop on Philadelphia “beer heroes,” making a collaborative beer with Chef Jose Garces and more.

Uwishunu: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We can’t wait to see you at opening night of the With Love Beer Garden! In addition to the Beer Garden, what are some Beer Week events that you are most looking forward to?

Bill: For me, I’m most looking forward to The Chef, The Brewer & The Farmer dinner at Fork Restaurant on June 8. I always love working with Chef Terence because he’s a calm and funny flavor genius. This event is really special because I surprised him with the concept (enhancing Victory beers with herbs and spices that would closer align the beers to his dishes) and he jumped on it. All three parties shared a memorable night of beer-fueled R&D in the Victory kitchen in March so I can assure you these flavors are dialed in and sure to impress even the most jaded foodie palate. This is THE beer dinner of Philly Beer Week.

Uwishunu: Now, you recently celebrated Victory’s 15th anniversary — congratulations by the way(!) — why do you think the Philadelphia beer scene has thrived so impressively in the past decade and a half?

Bill: Two reasons why the Philly beer scene has thrived, and both are related to people, not products. Folks like William Reed, Paul Kimport, Tom Peters, Tom Kehoe, Eddie Friedland and Ron and I just never could accept the fact that Philly was the nation’s #1 Coors Light market in the mid-eighties, so we rolled up our sleeves and changed that by investing our lives in products, and a concept, we believed in. The list of beer heroes is surely longer than I’ve indicated here, but you get the idea.

The second tier of beer heroes are those running restaurants here in Philly that have so enthusiastically embraced area brewers amazing creations. Their dedicated but unpretentious promotion of local beers and products have helped gain a huge following of normally skeptical Philadelphians. This is truly the Brotherly Love (of suds) that this great city was destined to prove existed.

Below, Bill talks about some of his favorite Philadelphia bars and restaurants, a collaborative beer with Chef Jose Garces and more.

Uwishunu: We couldn’t agree more! Speaking of Philadelphia pride, we know you like to source ingredients locally whenever possible. Can you tell us why sourcing ingredients locally is important to Victory?

Bill: Local products are important to us at Victory for a number of reasons. First and foremost, freshness. Why choose anything less than fresh? The second reason is equally important in that we remain dedicated to keep open space here in Chester County and the surrounding area green and productive through the economic support of local farming. Collapsing our consumption footprint is easy to do in this area, really.

Uwishunu: The New York Times anointed Prima Pils the best Pilsner in the country, and Victory Summer Love Ale was featured in Esquire as one of the six best spring and summer beers. What are some of your favorite Victory beers to enjoy outdoors in the summertime?

Bill: Both of the above! Plus, my wife ensures we have plentiful Whirlwind Witbier at home all summer long. We are so fortunate to have an inquisitive and voracious audience who supports all of our tasty beer experiments!

Uwishunu: And we’re fortunate to have passionate brewers like you to supply us with delicious products. Philadelphia has plenty of awesome bars and restaurants. What are some of your favorite places in the city to go to grab a beer and a bite? Do you have any favorite beer and food pairings?

Bill: Hmm, way to many to do justice to but I’ll always go for Johnny Brenda’s grilled octopus and a Prima Pils when I can and the varied and delicious ceviches of Chifa draw me there often. Have you checked out our collaborative beer with Chef Jose Garces yet? It’s custom built as a ceviche partner, but remains much more versatile still.

Uwishunu: We haven’t, but that’s the first thing we’ll do after this conversation. Any words of wisdom for our readers attempting to navigate Philly Beer Week? Any don’t-miss events you recommend?

Bill: Download the app. Hydrate often. Make safe and wise travel decisions. Repeat all for 10 days.

With Love Beer Garden Kick Off/Victory Summer Love Ale Launch Party
Where: The Courtyard at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, 1 Logan Square
Note: You can enter straight from the corner of 18th and Cherry Streets; you don’t need to go through the hotel
When: Monday, June 6, 4-8 p.m.
Cost: Pay as you go
More info: www.facebook.com/visitphilly

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