“Running a business, like art, is about problem-solving,” Bill Covaleski said. “And brewing, like art, is about expression.”
Covaleski is the co-founder of Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Company. Although his passion for brewing began after college, he said his graphic design studies at Tyler School of Art greatly influenced his work.
“I first started home-brewing with my dad, who had a basic 5-gallon kit,” said Covaleski, who graduated from Tyler in 1985. “I quickly learned that brewing was not only art, but also a science.”
After his first batches failed due to a lack of technique and sanitation, Covaleski cracked open the books and began studying the rich history of brewing and its fundamental science.
Covaleski said he soon gave his childhood friend Ron Barchet a brewing kit for Christmas, and a decade later the two opened Victory in 1996.
When the duo first opened their micro-brewery there were 1,087 American breweries, and Covaleski said the two thought they were late in the game. He noted that now there are currently at least 1,759 breweries, with another 725 planned for the near future.
Although believing they had a late start, Victory was successful due to the comradely and support that exists among the brewing community – “95 percent free of jerks,” Covaleski said.
The brewery has expanded its sales to 29 states.
“Although we may be a little over extended, we still sell 36 percent of our beer in Pennsylvania,” Covaleski said.
One of several micro-brewers in the Philadelphia area, Covaleski explained that there is a huge marketplace and therefore low competition. Each brewery develops its own niche and supportive customer base.
However, a commonality between many of them is their dedication to the environment. Breweries like Yards have invested heavily in renewable energy for their company. Victory recently won The Good Foods Award for its HopDevil and Helios ales.
According to The Good Foods Awards, this decoration is given to companies for “leading the way towards a tasty, authentic and responsible food system.” Victory has pushed for responsible energy, donations towards community support, as well as watershed stewardship. Their Headwaters Pale Ale was created in honoring the importance of pure water and a portion of its sales go directly to environmental advocacy groups.
Covaleski continues his work at Victory as the creative director. He said his experience studying at Tyler enables his design of beer labels and graphics for the brewery.
His favorite Victory brew?
“I’ve probably consumed more Prima Pils than any other beer we’ve made,” Covaleski said. “But picking a favorite beer would be like picking a favorite child.”
Yotam Dror can be reached at email@example.com.