Saturday, February 25, 2012

Victory: Prima Pils – Creativity meets discipline and maturity

Located in Downingtown, Pennsylvania – about a 30 minute drive to the west of Philadelphia, Victory Brewing Company has about a dozen regular beers, another ten or so seasonal beers, and an often active and busy brewpub that I look forward to revisiting the next time I’m in the area. If you happen to be a classic movie fan, it’s worth noting that, aside from being home to Victory and their outstanding brews, Downingtown’s claim to fame is its host to the diner scene in the 1958 sci-fi horror movie entitled The Blob, which was largely filmed in the surrounding area. The diner today, named Chef Mcjon’s Downingtown Diner, still stands, and for reasons of nostalgia, it is worth the visit.

Victory was first opened back in 1996 by two life-long friends – Ron Barchet and Bill Covalski, both of whom are well-trained and thoroughly experienced brewers: Ron studied at the Technical University of Munich at Weihesnstepan and worked at the Baltimore Brewing Company and the Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia, and Bill studied at the Doemens Institute in Munich and also worked at the Baltimore Brewing Company. And their expertise and experience certainly shows in Victory’s Prima Pils – a decidedly fine, year-round, 5.3 percent ABV representation of the best traditions of the pilsner style, but with stronger bitter character that gives Prima Pils some distinctiveness.

Life outside the bottle begins with a transparent, light-golden or straw color, culminating in a medium-sized and relatively resilient white head. The average amount of lacing artfully and lastingly decorates the side of the glass. The nose of Prima Pils is a rich mixture of standard pilsner notes, including the assertive Saaz hop presence. Bready and earthy, the background aroma is accompanied by more focused citrusy and flowery notes – all definite marks of a good pilsner.   

Taking a mouth full reveals a medium-light body and generous amounts of carbonation, making this a very refreshing summertime treat. Like the aroma, the flavor of Prima Pils is the undeniable mark of an excellent pilsner, although it’s a bit more bitter than most Continental varieties. With its grainy texture, the moderate malt presence provides a nice backbone for the more intense citrusy flavor from the hops. With a bitterness that begins about halfway between the start and finish, Prima Pils rounds out by delivering a mildly dry and bitter punch, and then slowly fades away over the course of another minute or two.

All in all, Prima Pils is a fine, yet distinct representation of the pilsner style. While I found the head to be a bit timid both in size and resiliency (emphasis on the bit), the aroma and flavor hit their marks precisely. The hop forward notes are delicately and harmoniously supported by the maltier side of life, and the timing of the hop bitterness is spot on. While some brewers concoct more experimental varieties under the pilsner name, but then fail to catch the essence of the style, with Prima Pils, Victory in my humble view shows the creativity it takes to craft a beer that slightly challenges the boundaries of the style; but they also show the discipline and maturity is takes to capture the more traditional representations of the pilsner style.


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