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BEVERAGE Friends brew devil of a beer


Published: Wed, September 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


By BARRY SHLACHTER
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Just when you think it can't get any better, another beer hits the market that knocks you off your feet.
Victory Brewing Co. of Downington, Pa., has been around since 1996, but its accidental flagship beer, Victory HopDevil India Pale Ale, has only now made it to Fort Worth. Texas isn't even listed yet on Victory's Web site as a state where you can buy its beer.
I say accidental because the Victory founders, boyhood friends Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet, figured that the HopDevil was too edgy -- and far too hoppy -- to be their biggest brand. The two German-trained brewers expected Festbier, an Oktoberfest-style lager, to be the likely contender.
You can't get Festbier in Cowtown, but you can get HopDevil.
If HopDevil has any shortcoming, it's that the label is a bit cartoonish -- hardly worthy of such a formidable, thoroughly enjoyable and complex ale.
One of the best
Simply put, this is one of the best IPAs available. It pours a hazy, dark orange with an initial sweetness overtaken by lashings of hops. There are hints of nutty malts, but this is a hops-fancier's brew. And a hefty one, at 6.7 percent alcohol by volume. The head dissipates sooner rather than later, but the beer's attributes far outshadow this.
Covaleski and Barchet met on a school bus when they were 10 and remained fast friends until heading in different directions for college and careers. Both eventually tired of their office-tied first careers and gravitated toward brewing.
After domestic apprenticeships, one followed the other to Weihenstephan, Germany, and further brewing studies. Both worked at craft breweries on the East Coast before striking out together, starting up a brewery and restaurant not far from their roots in Pennsylvania.
In 2002, their HopDevil was named top American beer at the Great British Beer Festival, no faint praise for this extra-hopped style of English ale, which was created in the 18th century.


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