Brewer Bytes with Victory Brewing Co.
An Interview with Ron Barchet, CEO and Co-Brewmaster
Posted on 6/2/2012 by Chops
When discussing America's top craft breweries, only a handful of names will regularly grace the conversation. One of those names is the Victory Brewing Company. Not only do they create some of the highest quality brews on the craft market, but they also do it with an enthusiasm and pride that you can actually taste. Victory has been very kind to BrewChief since our launch; they even sponsored our first ever Round Table event. So when we approached Victory about our new Brewer Bytes section, CEO and Co-Brewmaster Ron Barchet was more than happy to participate. And in true Victory style, we got more than we expected. Cheers!
What inspired you to get into brewing?
I wasn't happy in the career I had at the time. I felt that I needed to be working with my hands. I loved beer and so I started home brewing. I fell in love with the science of it. To be a great brewer, you have to have a handle on multiple sciences: physics, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, engineering. In addition to loving the science of brewing, I had a strong sense that craft beer was an industry that could succeed.
Do you have a fond memory about building your brewery?
Bill was the first one to check out our brewery location. After visiting the old Pepperidge Farm factory, he called me and explained it over the phone. Right away, he listed off all of the negatives about the space. But once he started telling me the attributes, I knew right away that it was the spot, before I'd even stepped foot inside.
Do you have a not-so-fond memory about building your brewery?
There were plenty of mishaps along the way. Bill and his father worked together to build our original pizza oven for the brewpub. Just as they were finishing, it collapsed on itself. An even bigger setback, was when we found out that our bottling line was going to be delayed by three months, leading us into a cash crisis. Or original projections were based on bottling beer right away; we were behind by three months before we ever started our first brew.
How do you feel about your overall success today?
Unbelievable. We are now what I thought of as our end goal. I never foresaw being more than a 100,000-barrel brewery. We are now exceeding our own expectations.
What do you feel sets you apart from other brewers?
Attention to quality. It's evident in our ingredients (45 varieties of yeast and use of 100% whole flower hops).
What is the most challenging beer for you to brew?
Victory Lager. It is a German-style helles. I've always called it a naked beer. If you get anything wrong you will be able to taste it.
What was your worst brewing experience?
There were several occasions when beer has been lost. Any time that happens, it is the worst experience. Since opening Victory in 1996, we've had a handful of boil overs. Once in particular was especially infuriating as that wort boiled over so quickly that it spilled from the brewhouse into the brewpub. Not only did we lose precious beer, but we spent hours cleaning up the hot, sticky mess.
What was your best or most rewarding brewing experience?
The first brews we did here. We designed the brewery system to be optimal for what we wanted. We had confidence in our design, but we couldn't breathe easy until we saw it all come together. The reward was the relief we felt when we tasted that first brew and realized the beer was great.
What are your favorite breweries outside of your own?
Augustiner Bräu, Fuller's, La Trappe, New Glarus, Orval Brewery, Sierra Nevada and Westmalle Brewery.
What are your favorite beer styles?
Lagers, pilsners and pale ales.
What would you say to a beer snob who is hating on your brews?
We don't like snobs; they're not worthy.
What would you say to a beer novice who is trying your brews?
Open your mind to try different beers and you might be surprised by the diversity of flavors. Expect to dislike 75% of the beers you try. The key is to find the 25% or the 1 that you do.
What advice would you give to a new home brewer?
Read as much as you can and enjoy the freedom of experimentation.
What is the best thing about being part of the beer industry?
The camaraderie and the freedom to do what you love.