I must confess that my first foray into the culture of fine cuisine wasn't through food, wine, or spirits, but rather through the oft-underappreciated world of quality beer. While this passion began at UNH, I truly cut my teeth on craft beer at the Moan & Dove, first as a patron, then as a staffer. On the road to my personal beer snobbery I eventually veered off the interstate to a very specific and limited array of tastes and beers. As Meghan can attest, I don't like sweetness, my preference is bitter and dry (for beer... stay focused). Because of this, I've always resided on the outskirts of American microbrew/craft beer fanatics as my favorite beers center mainly around pilsners, English bitters, and India Pale Ales (IPA). That preference really limits my excitement in the world of craft beer. Simply put: sweetness masks bad flavors. If you or your friend ever tries "home-brewing," don't be surprised if the first beer out of the tank is a flavor-heavy varietal: stout, porter, Belgian-style, etc. When there are very few ingredients going into the beer there is very little to mask the bad flavors which can arise from water quality, ingredient quality, and variations in temperature, pH, and humidity. Sound intimidating? Well, have no fear: Victory Brewing Co. is an American craft brewery that relishes the challenge and consistently makes brilliant, crisp, dry beers.
Its showcase beer, in my opinion, is the Victory Prima Pils. A German-style pilsner, made from a mix of German & Czech whole flower hops, it is light, crisp, and dry with hops that are upfront and a bit floral in aroma. The beer is straw-colored with a grainy grit. It starts easy and finishes with a hint of lemon and a little bit of yeast. The Prima Pils is my standard, go-to pilsner that I judge all others in its class against. When it comes to great beer, the most crucial way to separate the sheep from the goats is not in the first few sips, but in the last few. This pilsner is highly drinkable, from the front to the back of the six-pack. Victory is one of the few craft breweries in America that consistently puts out great lager beers. If you enjoy this style, then check out the Victory Lager & the Victory Baumeister Pils (I've only seen this on draught).
Victory Brewing Co. Prima Pils
The second Victory beer that regularly populates my fridge is the HopDevil IPA. If the HopDevil were a song, it would be well balanced with not too many booming lows (malty sweetness, e.g. Stone IPA) and not too brittle at the high-end (sharp, biting hops, e.g. Smuttynose IPA). This beer is still clearly an American-influenced IPA (think: More Is Better!), though not to the extent of the west coast-style "hop-monsters" that push the limits of alcohol content in beers (think: Double IPAs). High alcohol content means more malt, which means more sweetness and less drinkability, and this is where I get off the bus. The HopDevil is not a very dry IPA. The caramel-flavored German malt hits you before the American whole flower hops, but the hoppy bitterness makes up for it by lingering long after the finish finishes. Unlike the Prima Pils, you're unlikely to come out okay on the other end of this six-pack. At 6.7% alcohol you'll lose your share of one-man rock fights during a session with this hearty IPA. While the HopDevil will continue to frequent our household, it's not of the same caliber as the Prima Pils when taken side-by-side with beers of the same category.
Victory Brewing Co. HopDevil IPA