After spending a few days in Lancaster, PA with the guys behind The Blind Tiger Podcast, we made our way over to Tröegs Brewing Company on Friday 4/4/14. We learned a lot about the brewery during our visit by talking with Jeff Herb, their marketing coordinator, while sampling a flight of all the beers on tap, followed by taking a detailed tour of the facility with Andrea Bernardo, their brewery tour coordinator. Tröegs is always blending the organic and mechanical aspects of brewing. John Trogner (one of the owners and the brewmaster) is big into the brewing and tech side and is always looking for new equipment, while the other owner and John’s brother, Chris Trogner, does more of the business side.
The brewery was originally housed in Harrisburg when they sold their first beer in 1997, but moved over to their new facility in Hershey in October 2011. During the move they took most of the equipment, excluding the new 100bbl brewhouse which they had custom built for them for the new brewery. They also have a separate 15bbl system for the Scratch Series, though some of the more popular scratch beers like a Fresh Hop beer and Fest Lager have been done on the 100bbl system. Typically, if a Scratch Beer makes it into bottles, it was done on the larger system. The Scratch Series is a line of beers done in small batches, or test batches, as an experimental playground to test out non-traditional ingredients and newer techniques. Scratch #135, #136, and #138 were on tap when we visited, and we were told the series started when Tröegs celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2007. Some of those Scratch Beers have turned into production recipes like the Flying Mouflan Barleywine that started as scratch #4 and won a bronze medal at GABF, as well as Perpetual IPA which surpassed Troegenator and HopBack Amber as the best seller quickly. Beers in the Scratch Series are brewery-only for the most part, but some kegs do make it out into their bigger accounts for tap takeovers or other special promotions.
A few seasonals are in development that will start rolling out soon, including the fall seasonal Hop Knife Harvest Ale (originally referred to as HopCyclone). HopCyclone is a special dry hopping process they developed for pelletized hops where the cyclone pulverizes the pelletized hops during fermentation – there is a cool video on YouTube that goes into more detail. They are slightly changing around what they’re calling the seasonals after they came up with a concept to guide their whole seasonal program called the “Hop Cycle” which is based on the annual hop harvest. Their spring seasonal Cultivator Helles Bock starts the series, then moves to Sunshine Pilsner for the summer, Hop Knife Harvest Ale mentioned above is introduced for the fall, and they’ll end with Blizzard of Hops in the winter for the revitalization and celebratory end of the Hop Cycle. All of the seasonals get distributed to all of their markets, which is every state that touches PA excluding WV, plus MA (DC, DE, MD, NJ, MA, VA, PA, and OH). Tröegs is hoping to be in NC by the summer and are looking to be in all of New England by 2015. Their goal is to be regional, however, so there are no plans to ever be out toward CO, CA, or really anywhere further than a day’s drive from Hershey, PA.
Jeff informed us that they are growing steadily at a rate of around 20% each year. In 2012 they made around 44,000 bbl, close to 55,000 in 2013, and their 3-year goal is to be at 100,000 bbl by the end of 2016. They are always about slow and steady growth, so won’t immediately be using the eight new 800bbl fermenters they’re adding externally. Once they do, it should help them get out limited beers like Mad Elf and Nugget Nectar quicker. They have also done quite a few collaborations with other breweries, including Brotherly Suds with multiple PA breweries that comes out during Philly Beer Week and, since Tröegs won Mid-sized Brewery of the Year 2012, they did a collaboration with Devil’s Backbone (Small Brewpub of the Year in 2012) and Church Brew Works (large brewpub of the year 2012) that was a black session rye IPA. Tröegs holds a ton of events as well and has an expansive list of beers, so make sure to support them whenever you can. Huge thanks to Jeff and Andrea for being so welcoming, fun, and informative during our visit!
Author: Michael Roberts