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Victory Dark Intrigue: How Geeky Victory Can Be

The Victory Brewing Company most people know from the shelves of their local beer store offers a solid line up of big character beers.  They don’t do many limited-release highly hyped beers, but the variety and the quality of their everyday beers are as good or better than just about any brewery out there.  Solid, reliable, predictable and excellent, these are the words that come to mind.

But folks who visit the Victory ’s brewpub in Downingtown, Pennsylvania know a very different Victory.  The brewpub is Victory’s test lab, it’s their playground, a place for Bill, Ron, Frank (the Yeast Whisperer), Kevin and the rest of the crew to totally geek out about beer. 

The beer board is usually full of over a dozen brewpub-only beers that make it wise to have your transportation plans well sorted before you set foot inside, because you’re going to want to taste them all. Maybe there’s a rausch bier they’re playing with.  Or a set of single hop ales.  Or a classic Irish Stout.  Or Hop Devil on cask. On and on it goes.  It’s a beer nerd Mecca.

Don and I learned this when we went to Victory last May to shoot our ill-fated TV demo reel.  It was tough to figure out where to start (good thing we started early!).  We instantly saw Victory in a whole new light.  They weren’t just the solid and reliable brewers we knew them to be – they were wild men (and ladies)!  It’s a side of Victory we hadn’t seen before.

We had full run of the place, and while we were scouting shooting locations, Don came across something he knows very well.  Heaven Hill whiskey barrels.

When we asked Bill Covaleski what was inside the barrels, he waved it off and quickly led us away.  When we asked some of the other Victory folks about it, they too were coy.  I was hoping it was Storm King, Victory’s super-hoppy imperial stout, but no one would confirm nor deny this. Storm King is my wife’s favorite beer, and was the first craft beer that I ever considered as my go-to selection, so it has a special place in my heart.

A few months later, Don and I ran across Bill at the Great American Beer Fest in Denver.  Once we reminded him who we were (I think he meets a lot of people) we cut to the chase and asked him about the barrels again.  This time he was more open and shared his secret.  It was Storm King (!), and they were going to do something rare for Victory – a limited-release beer.  We were sworn to secrecy and in return were promised to get a taste of it when it was done.  Deal!

Well that day has come, as I recently received a corked and caged bomber full of Dark Intrigue, the name they’ve given their Bourbon barrel aged Storm King.

Now for those of you who have had Storm King, you know it’s the last beer you have for the night.  This is partly due to its 9.1% ABV, but mostly because of its overpowering flavor.  It’s everything all at once – huge roasted malts, aggressive hops and a nice little burn of alcohol.  It overwhelms your senses in the most pleasurable way possible and makes it near impossible to taste any beer that follows.

Spending some time in Bourbon barrels has done wonders to take the edge off of Storm King. The huge malt is there, but just as the hops are ready to blow the top off of your palate, they are soothed by broad, smooth notes of vanilla and chocolate, which is followed by a sweet Bourbon finish.  The barrel aging transforms Storm King into a sweet and smooth delight.  It’s a neat trick.

A harder trick is actually getting your hands on some Dark Intrigue.  Supplies are extremely limited, and only about 270 cases were distributed across eastern Pennsylvania and up to the Boston area.  Victory held 80 cases back to sell at the brewery, and those were gone within 45 minutes.  As a matter of fact, it’s so limited, they could only spare a single bottle for Don and I, and I’m the one who got it.  Ha ha, Don!  Why don’t you Google “Dark Intrigue” on that fancy new iPad you won at your company Christmas party and lick the screen!

Victory says they currently have no plans to do another limited release beer, as they are ramping up for a new beer they will be releasing nationally in February.  Once again, they are being coy with the details [UPDATE: Not any more].  I guess they’ve figured out that it pays to build suspense leading up to the release of a new beer.  I’m excited to see what they’ve come up with.

In the meantime, if you’re ever in the Philly area and have a little time on your hands, I highly recommend a visit to Victory so you can see just how geeky they can be.  Their brewpub also has some of the best food I’ve ever had at a brewery (and many restaurants for that matter) and the beer and food pairings are a lot of fun, too.

And if you can’t swing a trip to Eastern Pennsylvania, go ahead and seek out Dark Intrigue, as it is a rare glimpse into all the pleasures and delights that Victory has to offer.  Hopefully, more beers like it will be flowing into the marketplace from Victory next year.

And if you can’t tell, I like Victory.  A lot. 😉

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Categories: Beer, review

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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25 Comments on “Victory Dark Intrigue: How Geeky Victory Can Be”

  1. December 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    This was the highlight of my last trip to Philly… and will be on my itinerary at the end of the Month. Hoping one of my friends who DID score some DI will be willing to share. 🙂

    • December 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

      I hope you get a taste of it, to, Amy. If you know Storm King as well as I do, it’s really cool to taste how the time in the barrel transformed it. It’s unique because they aged such a hoppy monster.

      Have fun at the brewpub, and order the jerk chicken sandwich in my honor. And the chicken nachos. And the gyro pizza. And…

      • December 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

        I want a pretzel. Desperately. I have dreams about the pretzels from their brewpub.

        • December 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

          With that buttery dipping sauce! You’re killing me, Amie!!

        • February 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

          I had one Saturday night – it was better than I remembered!!

  2. Greg K.
    December 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I was supposed to split a case with a friend of mine that lives about 30 minutes from Victory. He went on release day and was four people short when they sold out of cases. Oh well. Black Ops just came out so I’ve stocked up on that

    • December 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

      Close call! I haven’t had Black Ops yet, so I’d be excited about that, too.

      • Greg K.
        December 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

        I’m definitely excited about the Black Ops. They were selling it at my local Shoprite, a place not really known for its rare craft beers

        • December 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

          Wow, and I can’t find it. WTF?!

    • December 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

      I told you I’m sorry I couldn’t get you a case Greg! I was able to get a few single bottles at least, (at least) one of which I’ll be sharing.

      After they sold out of cases, they had two cases behind the counter they sold at a 2x per person limit… Except of course to the guy in front of me, who begged his way into 4.

      I called a few local places near me, they all said “we’re getting one case and it’s spoken for already”, so, it’ll be tough, if not impossible to find at this point

      • Greg K.
        December 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

        Jeff I’ve made my peace with it haha. Although now I’ll just text you whenever I hear of some popping up in PA while I’m reading the BA forums.

  3. December 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Yo Jimbo!

    This sounds like quite the interesting beer! I wonder if it’s available in Philly or South Jersey. I’ll have to do some research on my pending holiday beer/booze run.

    I have yet to make the pilgrimage to their brew pub. A buddy of mine lives near there. Should make it part of my next visit to his house. Also need to head down to Rehobeth for a visit to Dogfish Head. So much to see, so little time!

    Peace Yo!
    G-LO

    • December 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

      Yeah, definitely make a stop if you can – I really fell in love with the place (as you can see by the post).

      And I have to get down to Rehobeth, too, but now that the show is on, I’m sure it’s all nuts, all the time!

  4. December 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    hey kids! what I love most about this is the concept of the “brew pub” (or in my case “tap room”) as the playground and test lab for Victory. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill at GABF this year and was suitably impressed. Those of us in this biz know that we have many varied audiences to please between those who buy our “solid, reliable, predictable and excellent” products off the shelves, those who come to our Tap Rooms and Pubs to hang out with friends and those who come For The Beer–it’s a balancing act that Victory does VERY well! cheers
    The Wolverine Beer Wench

    • December 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

      Good to see you here, Wolvie Wench!

      I agree that it’s a balance, and I’m happy to see that Victory is trying out the limited-release thing away from the brewpub so other folks can get a taste of their geekiness. They are well respected, but don’t have the beer geek cred that DFH or The Bruery or some of the other breweries that do limited-run beers enjoy. And they should, because they brew as well or better than anyone.

  5. Greg K.
    December 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Victory just announced what the new beer will be. A pale ale

    http://beernews.org/2010/12/victory-headwaters-pale-ale-introduction-marks-brewerys-15th-anniversary/

    • December 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

      Yeah, that kills the suspense, huh?

  6. Alex
    December 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I’m intrigued! [low-hanging fruit]

    Too bad I won’t get within 1000 miles of a bottle. I tried Storm King for the first time a couple of weeks ago and found the over-hopping to be kind of off-putting for the style. Sounds like this version would solve that issue for me.

    • December 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

      I think you’d struggle with it because the hops are still there, just subdued a bit by the oak aging. I’d love it if Victory would barrel age a detuned, less hoppy version of Storm King in oak. That would be a pretty amazing beer.

      • Alex
        December 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

        Why don’t you send me a bottle, just so I can be sure? 🙂

        • December 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

          Because I only had one, and it’s all gone!!

          Not sure I’ll get a second chance at this one.

  7. Michael
    May 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    They held 70 cases to sell at the brewery (the other 10 probably went to employees). My sister lives 15 minutes away from Victory and works 5 minutes away. I asked her if she could go and get me some. She waited in line for over an hour. They were limiting to 1 case per person; when her chance came up, there was 1 case left – and they wouldn’t sell her the whole case! Everyone before her that wanted a case got one, but she was only allowed 4 bottles. If the policy was a case and anyone who wanted a case before her got it, she should have been able to get the case for me too.

    • Don
      May 26, 2011 at 8:44 am #

      Obviously the policy was one case max until the last case then it went to 1/3rd of a case max. If your sister had just left 2 minutes earlier we probably wouldn’t even be having this discussion. 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Beer in the Morning » Around the Beer Blogosphere December 18, 2010 - December 18, 2010

    […] Victory Dark Intrigue: How Geeky Victory Can Be Okay, if you put the gun to my head and told me I HAD to pick one favorite brewery, I’d have to say Victory. Hey, I like ‘em hoppy. Every Victory beer I’ve enjoyed has had unmistakable character. This post from Beer & Whiskey Brothers gives us another look at Victory. I think I love them even more now. […]

  2. Victory Headwaters Pale Ale « Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - February 14, 2011

    […] their anniversary with a mass appeal-beer like Headwaters instead of something rare and fancy like Dark Intrigue.  His answer was refreshingly honest – Headwaters was scheduled to release around the […]

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