The Nostalgia Series: Every Day Is April Fool’s Day (Beer Yard 2005)

Long ago and far away, when we were young and excited and could all laugh at one another, April 1 was always a special day at the Beer Yard website (as it was and still is for many others), and as part of retelling our craft beer history in the Nostalgia Series, I figured some laughs would be more than appropriate. And so here we go, back to April 1, 2005 and the stories that appeared that morning.

Victory Brewing Will Shutter New 50-barrel Brewery, Reclaim Old Brewhouse from Weyerbacher

Downingtown brewery will lower its sights and aim for a more comfortable niche, founders say

Co-owners Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski of Downingtown’s Victory Brewing Company, one of the real success stories in local craft brewing, say they will shut down their recently installed 50-barrel brewhouse “as soon as we can manage it” and reacquire their old 25-barrel system from Weyerbacher Brewing of Easton as part of a revised business plan that “will enable us to rediscover our original vision.” As part of the downsizing, the on-site brewpub will also cease operation.

“When we were just a couple of kids on a schoolbus in Collegeville, with some bottles of lager stolen from our parents’ refrigerators in our lunch boxes, we wanted to grow up to be brewers, not businessmen,” said Covaleski. “We have seen the mountain, climbed to the top and, well, it just wasn’t all that much fun.”

Covaleski said he and Barchet will “go back the way it was,” doing everything themselves and letting most of their employees go. “It will mean an entirely different lifestyle,” he added, “and we will produce many fewer beers in much more limited distribution. Even our old plant will be more than we really need. The thing is, we’ll be doing what we love.” Barchet nodded in agreement throughout his partner’s presentation and later told bystanders, “this will mean I’ll have more time at home to grow hops and other stuff.”

Contacted in Easton, Weyerbacher owner Dan Weirback said his company will not object to giving up the old Victory plant, and in fact was looking forward to it. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “with the added capacity, we’re were brewing all too many bourbon-barrel aged beers and it’s been debilitating our staff. Somebody’s got to empty those barrels, you know. Now, if you’ll eschshuzz me, I gotta go take a nap.”

Victory’s far-reaching decision immediately inspired legal objections. A laws suit filled within an hour of the news conference by a person identified in court documents only as “major investor Richard R.,” demanded that the brewery continue to operate its on-premises restaurant. His argument: “If they close, where the hell am I going to go every day?” He was supported in his action by his wife, who filed a separate affidavit urging the court to “force Victory to maintain its brewpub and my sanity.”

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News & Notes

Flying Fish renames Farmhouse Ale, new Sly Fox varietal (?) project, Tom Kehoe recreates the past and you’ll never believe the truth about Fergie

New Jersey’s Flying Fish Brewery announced today that it will change the name of its best-selling “Farmhouse Ale” to “Traffic Circle Ale,” effective immediately. “We want to fully identify with the culture of our home base,” according to brewery founder Gene Muller, “and ‘farmhouse’ doesn’t quite do the trick.” He said that “Strip Mall Ale” was considered and rejected because “people might then think we’re located in the Greater Northeast.”…Sly Fox brewer Brian O’Reilly, who was so excited about “serving and pouring greatest variety of IPAs ever offered by one brewery at the same time” in his 2004 IPA Project that he could hardly control himself, told the Beer Yard exclusively today that he will attempt a similar feat in 2005, brewing “12 distinctive Light Beers to all go on tap the day after Thanksgiving. We’re it calling Project Bringing In The Light.” When asked about which hops and malts would be used, O’Reilly snorted, “Hops? Malt? Are you kidding? Have you ever tasted a light beer?”

Yards founder Tom Kehoe announced this morning that, to help perpetuate a sense of the wellspring from which Philadelphia’s craft brewing tradition sprung, he will partition off the rear third of his new SUV and install the complete original Yards brewery in the space. “It will be a traveling exhibition of living history,” said Kehoe. “I’m also thinking of filling the back seat with oyster shells to promote our Oyster Stout. Whatever works.”…In a real shocker, today’s installment of “Ask Fergie,” the Philadelphia Weekly advice column penned by Fergus Carey, of Monk’s, Grace and Fergie’s Pub fame, reveals that Carey is neither from Ireland nor Irish at all, but actually the black sheep scion of a Main Line family who took up the identity of “some guy wandering through town back in 1987; I gave him bus fare to New York for the right to use his name. It was just a lark to start, but it turned out it was a good way to avoid going into the family business. But now that me…I mean, my…income from ‘Ask Fergie’ has made me rich beyond me…darn it, there I go again…my wildest dreams, I thought it was time to come clean.” The good news is that, while Fergie isn’t Irish, partner Tom Peters, despite claims to the contrary, apparently is.

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