Friday, April 18, 2014
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Green Gauntlet: Headwaters Pale Ale from Victory

Is Downingtown's new brew greener?

Green Gauntlet: Headwaters Pale Ale from Victory

Brandywine Creek — rich with history and celebrated in the region’s artwork — has another important role: A prime ingredient in Victory Brewing Company’s beer.

As the story goes, the founders of the Downingtown brewery, Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet, chose that location specifically because they liked what they found flowing in the Brandywine’s east branch.

“That fresh, clean water has undoubtedly contributed to the success we’ve enjoyed over the years,” they said in a recent blog post.

And now, they’ve released a new beer in honor of it: Headwaters Pale Ale.

They’re also donating a portion of the proceeds — a penny per bottle — for an annual grant to a local watershed advocacy group.

I couldn’t wait to share the news with Sylvie Verdant. My extreme green buddy is always happy to hoist one with me — as long as I save even the bottle caps for recycling — and we’ve had vigorous debates about what makes one beer greener than another.

Breweries certainly have made efforts.

A 2010 report by the Green Business Bureau claimed that Colorado was at the heart of the green beer revolution, with breweries subscribing to wind power, turning old keg caps into tabletops, using recycled paper for six-pack holders, and more.

Nice, but Sylvie and I generally stick with the local brands because we don’t like the carbon footprint of transporting all that heavy liquid and glass from across the country. So we’re big on Sly Fox and Yard’s and, yes, Victory. Fortunately, the region has plenty of artisan breweries and plenty of choices.

So now we’ll have new factors to weigh as we sip. Alas, we haven't yet sipped Headwaters. But Victory describes it as a "firmly crisp and aromatically arousing pale ale" that  "integrates a softly supportive malt base" with underlying "streams of herbal hop complexity." Right.

Sylvie, who recently returned from a secret Earth Day mission that she still refuses to discuss — I hope she didn’t break any laws — is intrigued by Victory.

They got big points with her in January, when they unveiled an installation of 345 photovoltaic panels, installed by SunPower Builders of Collegeville. A monitor in the restaurant below gives customers a view of live data, and she always checks it when she rides over on her bike. (It’s a long trip from her solar-powered treehouse, and she gets thirsty.)

The company also has a fancy system to retain the leftover heat from boiling their brew. They have energy-efficient fermenters — which now will be powered by the sun.

And now the new pale ale and the grant.

The company hasn’t yet determined which organization will get the first grant, but they anticipate the first quarterly check — for sales from Feb. 15 to April 31 — will be for $2,500.

Assuming Headwaters Pale Ale takes off, they envision making the grant nationwide.

Sylvie just hates to give anything a nod from the get-go. She’s way too skeptical for that.

But she reluctantly admitted that she loved the idea. And the Headwaters name, especially. “People need to know where their beer comes from,” she said, “and why headwaters are so important.”

I could tell she was ready to launch into another monologue about how the headwaters are the first, best chance for a clean waterway, and how that’s why it’s crucial to protect them.

But I’ve heard it before. Many times.

“What about the award?” I asked, eager to distract her.

“Well,” she said. “Let’s wait and see what group they pick.”

Meanwhile, as is always the case with Friday’s Green Gauntlet, we want YOU to weigh in by commenting below.

Is Headwaters Pale Ale a greener beer?

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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