Apr 26, 2016

Creative Crossovers: An Interview with Bill Covaleski

by: Carly Rapaport-Stein

As part of the Craft Brewers Conference, Victory Brewing Company is hosting the Amber Waves art exhibit and auction. Held at the National Museum of American Jewish History, the auction features 27 works from around the country, and was brought together to showcase the connection between well-crafted beer and great artwork. This year, the proceeds from the auction benefit Mural Arts!

I took a few minutes to chat with Bill Covaleski, one of the founders of Victory Brewing Company and a host of the conference, about the creativity that blossoms throughout all industries in Philadelphia. Read on for his insights, and then join us us on Thursday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m.!

Carly: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Bill: I was born in Levittown PA, and I graduated from Tyler School of Art. I worked locally as a graphic designer for 5 years as I honed the home brewing skills my Dad inspired in me. My partner, Ron, and I connected on a school bus when we were 10. Home brewing inevitably replaced ice hockey for us and the shared passion pushed us to apprenticeships in brewing under a German trained Dutch brewmaster. Our families and friends had faith in us and our business plan – they helped put Victory on its feet financially and the doors swung open to our humble brewpub in February 1996.

Carly: As a craft brewer, how do you approach the creative process of developing new brands or tastes?

Bill: The process begins with a flavor vision, a concept of a flavor that we find interesting and feel our audience will appreciate. We know our equipment well so the next step is selecting the malts, hops and yeast that is going to take us there. We have over 70 yeasts strains in house, which is highly unusual, and offers us tremendous creative range. The rest of the process is what I call ‘artisanal manufacturing’ in that we work with the best raw ingredients suppliers for the most flavorful and nuanced ingredients and combine them in the manner that will deliver the envisioned flavor impact. From there, automation and a talented team assure that the process of brewing, fermentation, finishing, and packaging is replicated with 100% accuracy each time. The pleasure of enjoying the results is an important final step that we relish as a team.

Carly: What sorts of crossovers do you see in the creative process between brewing and art making?

Bill: Many. Both begin with a vision, taking you to a consideration of both your limitations as well as your opportunities. You work through the process with the goal of communicating something intangible, aiming for an emotional response. You know you have resolved the task when the creation speaks to you. Then comes the important part of assessing if you achieved the response you intended. Since brewing is a business upon which many livelihoods depend, this final step requires real long term monitoring. Customer engagement is one of my favorite parts of the process, actually!

Carly: What drew you to Mural Arts in particular?

Bill: I love that Mural Arts impacts everyone. The outdoor ‘gallery’ provokes responses from folks who might otherwise not give a hoot about art. Mural Arts proves that art is part of our daily environment. We applaud and support this mission fully. Mural Arts is, for me, a proud part of this great city of Philadelphia.

Carly: What are your thoughts on the current creative scene in Philadelphia?

Bill: Philly evolves on its own timeline, on its own terms. We seem to thoroughly disdain pretense. That aspect of us permitted incredible, unknown beers to show up on backboard menus next to the equally inspired dishes from ambitious chefs and be embraced by an unintimidated, loyal customer base. Liquid art blossomed across our area in this manner. Any such expression of creativity inspires other creativity, be it music, art or dance. My favorite expression of the creative range that Philly fosters is the amazing Sun Ra Arkestra, cats who truly walk their own path. I have followed them since the late 80’s. Their defiant creative direction inspires many to forge their own creative paths as well. Add to their impact the impact of one-time Philadelphians like John Coltrane, Billie Holliday, Stan Getz… etc. and you see that Philly is always driving forward, creatively. Restless energy today as always!

Carly: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Bill: Philadelphia should be honored to host the 11,000 creative brewers of the Craft Brewers Conference for the second time in less than a dozen years. We here in Philly have so much artistic creativity to showcase that hosting a party like this is easy. As a part of the culture of our Philadelphia area for these past 20 years we at Victory feel comfortable leading the charge with delicious creations and artistic events.

Carly: Great, thanks for your time, Bill! Looking forward to seeing you on May 5!

The views expressed in all guest posts and interviews do not necessarily reflect the views of Mural Arts.

Last updated: Nov 4, 2016

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