The taste of victory has returned to Downingtown - Victory Brewing Company that is.
Victory reopened on May 7 after five weeks of extensive renovations, adding 2,200 square feet and nearly 150 additional seats to the popular restaurant and brewery - much to the delight of beer and barbecue enthusiasts throughout the region.
Victory co-owners Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski sought to better accommodate their thriving customer base.
"The idea for expansion was to enhance our guests' experience while creating more space. Before renovating, we found ourselves in the unfortunate predicament of occasionally turning people away" said Covaleski, who along with Barchet, is himself a master brewer.
"Now, the kitchen has grown by about 25 percent and it is stocked with specialized equipment like our rotisserie smoker, to bolster our barbecue offerings," Covaleski said. "We have found barbecue to be vastly underplayed in this area."
Located within the Downingtown Technical Park in a neighborhood just south of Route 30, the site's renovations purposefully retain a warehouse-like appearance to reflect the building's history as the former Pepperidge Farm bakery, which was once a major regional employer.
Today, the brewpub has a definite beer-centric look: Several impressive domed copper kettle tops, imported from a defunct brewery in the Czech Republic, hover over the long bar while display cabinets showcase beer paraphernalia from Pennsylvania - nostalgic cans and coasters from such old-time breweries as Schmidt's, Rolling Rock and Iron City.
Barchet and Covaleski, who are both 45 and grew up together in Collegeville, met in 1973 while in the fifth grade. The two reunited after college, learning they share a common enthusiasm for home brewing. "Ron studied brewing techniques while in Germany, and then went to work at the Baltimore Brewing Company. I took over his job as brewmaster there, just prior to our starting in business together," opening Victory in 1996, Covaleski said.
Today, Victory has become one of the more successful producers of handcrafted beers in the country.
The pair has won numerous awards for their prized libations, including Champion Ale at the 2002 Great British Beer Festival (for their Hop Devil Ale). Their Victory Prima Pils garnered a Silver Medal at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival.
The restaurant's menu has been tailored to be casual and approachable. Angus burgers and hearth-baked pizzas, salads, sandwiches and several vegetarian dishes are offered, as is a fine selection of barbecue. These smoked-in-house specialties include ribs, chicken, pork, brisket, salmon and pastrami.
Prices are from $6.00 (for soups and appetizers) up to $21.00 for the eight-ounce filet, which is served with two side dishes. Barbecue items average $15.00; sandwiches are about $8.00, and pizzas run in the $10.00 range. Draft beer is served in a regular glass (0.4 liters) or tall (0.5) - a pour of Prima Pils or Donnybrook Stout is $3.25/$4.50, respectively.
Victory Brewing Company is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Those under 21 may dine in the restaurant or they can visit the bar area with a parent or legal guardian. The restaurant also has a game room and several billiards tables.
Covaleski is happy about the beery successes he and Barchet have achieved and the positive impact they have had on the community. "After all these years, we know we have put a good footprint here in Downingtown" - no small victory for two buddies who love brewing together.