Let’s roll back the clock to 1996…
January 6th to January 8th – Thirty-one inches of snow was dumped on Philadelphia. Twenty years later and it’s still the largest snow storm to ever rock the City of Brotherly Love.
The X-Files was in it’s 3rd season with episodes airing every Friday night on FOX (does anything good air on Friday nights anymore?). And now it’s back on the air for a brief six-episode run. Proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
February 17th – Gary Kasparov redeems himself and defeats Deep Blue. In Philadelphia of all places!
March 20th – The British Health Secretary announces that a form of Mad Cow Disease has been spread to humans.
July 5th – Dolly the Sheep was born.
And in 1996 Craft Beer news…
The number of breweries in the United States grew by 33%, i.e. the count went from 858 in 1995 to 1,149 in 1996. Included among the breweries that opened for business in 1996 are Dogfish Head, Stone, Flying Fish, Yards, Iron Hill, and of course Victory. Not only are all six of these breweries still in business today, but they have also grown by leaps and bounds in their brief 20 year histories.
In 2014, the Brewers Association listed three of these breweries on their Top 50 Overall U.S. Breweries List: Stone was #14; Dogfish Head was #19; and Victory was #35. Given all that, I would say that 1996 was a very good year for Craft Brewing. In fact, 1996 was such a good year, that if I were Bill Covaleski, I would look back on all I’ve achieved over the last 20 years and consider going on a road trip with Sam Calagione to visit their dear friend Greg Koch so that they can drive out to the Southern California desert in a 1965, suicide-door equipped, Lincoln Continental Convertible, crack open a few bottles of Saison Du Buff, and do this…
Let’s get back to 2016…
In early January, Victory announced their plans to release the Anniversary 20 Experimental IPA in celebration of their 20th Anniversary. I think the “Experimental” part of this beer refers to the use of an experimental hop variety called Idaho 7. Here’s what Victory had to say about the Idaho 7 hop in their press release:
Discovered in the third largest hop producing state in the country, Victory helps the [Idaho 7] hop make its east coast debut by utilizing twenty years of craft brewing knowledge to harness all of its juicy hop power into a 12 oz. bottle. Part of the reason for Idaho 7’s promising power lies in the location where it grows – a land formation dubbed the ‘shelf,’ in a remote area in Idaho. This extremely low mesa in western Idaho creates the ultimate soil and climatic conditions for growing hops.
The Tesseract is a remnant of one of the six singularities which existed before the universe’s creation. After the universe came into existence, four cosmic beings known as the Cosmic Entities forged the energies of these singularities into six immensely powerful objects called the Infinity Stones. The Tesseract itself represented the fabric of space, and was used by various civilizations to achieve their ends.
OK, so maybe I went too far. Let’s move on to our impressions of Victory’s latest offering…
- ABV: 5.5%
- Appearance: Clear, golden yellow color. Minimal head and lacing with just a fine bead of off-white foam that clings to the inside walls of the glass.
- Limpd: Crisp and fresh with all of the expected IPAish characters. Lots of hops with a nice note of apricots in the background and just a hint of wet bread.
- G-LO: Very fresh and fragrant smelling with light citrus, a touch of pine, bready yeast, and some fresh cut grass.
- Limpd: Light and mildly carbonated with a taste as crisp as the aroma. There is a little tang upfront and then a lot of citrus flavor (more juice than rind). The race to the finish is a bit of a battle between the sugars and the hoppy bitterness with the hops winning out in the end and leading to a pleasant, mildly bitter and rather long finish.
- G-LO: Soft and lightly bubbly mouthfeel. Slightly bitter at the start with a good bit of citrus (orange or tangerine zest without the bitter pith). Some sweetness comes through in the middle with a touch of honey and tea biscuits. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering citrus flavors coming through in the aftertaste.
- Limpd: I am not a huge fan of IPAs especially the experimental kind. I find them to be too unfinished, too rough and frankly too experimental. The Anniversary 20 is an entirely different thing. This is a really well-crafted beer. It hit all the right notes with a nice blend of citrus and hops and a great finish. Here’s to hoping the Experimental IPA becomes a part of the Victory line-up.
- G-LO: The Anniversary 20 Experimental IPA is very reminiscent of Victory’s Anniversary 19 that we reviewed almost exactly one year ago. Just so you know, that’s a very good thing because I really enjoyed last year’s Anniversary Ale. This time around, the Anniversary 20 has an almost Prima Pils like quality thanks to its crisp and clean finish. I really liked this beer and would definitely try it again.
Wait! Don’t go yet. We have some breaking news…
On February 16th, Victory announced that they’ve been purchased by a holding company called Artisanal Brewing Venture which was formed by the owners of Southern Tier Brewing. Here’s what Bill Covaleski had to say about this buyout/merger in a recent Men’s Journal article:
We can only do so much to attract the attention that we need to keep the sales momentum and see our products properly placed on shelves, but when we walk into wholesalers as now the 15th largest brewing entity, it’s a different conversation.
The last 20 years of craft beer were very ‘kumbaya,’ but now there are some really significant sharks in our little fishbowl. This merger is a great way for us to preserve the heritage and innovation and creativity of craft beer. We’ve created a bigger fish for those sharks to swallow, and we’re not fighting one another. We’re working together to fight the shark.
Craft brewers took a world where people didn’t care about flavor or freshness in their beer, and changed it dramatically. We’ve won what we set out to do, and we don’t want to lose now by standing in front of a freight train.
To find out even more about this story, click here to read a recent article by Tara Nurin that was published on Fortune.com.