Sunday, January 16, 2011

Terrific Tour of Tröegs (Truly!)

So the tour at Tröegs was pretty sweet. I have to admit that I felt a bit out of my element when I first walked in - everyone there appeared to have been there before and was very comfortable with the whole experience. Since it was my first time there, I wasn't quite sure what to do first, but I adapted quickly. There were three main areas: the Gift Shop, the Tasting Room with seating to sit and sample, and the Growler Bar. First, I headed toward the Gift Shop, since that's where I was supposed to check in for the tour. I also walked away with a new Tröegs pint glass.

Next, I headed toward the Tasting Room where they had just about every beer Tröegs produces available to try. On the way in, I had passed about 5 people that were leaving, and each one of them was walking out with a case of Nugget Nectar. Considering its apparent popularity, I was a bit curious what it tasted like. So I asked the people in the Tasting Room to try some Nugget Nectar, and they handed me a sampling glass with some in it! I thought I was ordering a pint to try - I had no idea they actually let you sample it before you buy it. It was decidedly sweet - a bit sweeter than I'd like a beer to be, but I wouldn't have said "no" to a pint. However, I really wanted to try the JavaHead Stout, since I'm an avid coffee-drinker. So I got a sampling glass with the JavaHead in it, and I was hooked! I immediately ordered a pint of the dark brew. I was impressed with how tasty it was - you could taste the coffee flavoring along with a hint of chocolate. It was not nearly as bitter or "dark"-tasting as I thought it would be, considering its black coloring. I would definitely recommend this one.

JavaHead Stout
After the tasting experience, the tour began. I was impressed by the fact that tour was given by Chris Trogner himself. Chris and John Trogner are the two brothers who conceptualized and started Tröegs.

I think it's amazing that they both give tours each and every week. The brewery itself is not huge, but it gets the job done. I enjoyed Chris' presentation of the brewing process. He didn't use lingo or jargon - he gave an informative talk that anyone could understand. He actually passed samples of barley and hops through the tour group and invited us to taste the barley - he said he didn't recommend tasting the hops, as you would then taste it for the rest of the day. There were three different types of barley in the samples - a light, a medium, and a dark. He recommended we start with the light and proceed to the dark, making note of the different, progressively bolder flavor of each one. He said that the barley flavor very directly translates into the final flavor of the beer. They also talked about the importance of yeast and how it plays a major role in the beer's final flavor as well.

Yeast Tanks
One of the great things about Tröegs is that they are a craft brewery, so they focus on making a limited amount of great beer. To that end, they are also constantly experimenting with new and innovative techniques and ingredients. Hence, their "Scratch Beer Series". Right now, they are on Scratch #39 and # 40. Additionally, they are experimenting with the use of barrels and the different types of woods or previous contents (such as whiskey). They call this their "Splinter Series".

Barrels Used to Make the Limited "Splinter Series" Beers
Tröegs has more information about the brewing process on their website. If you live anywhere near Harrisburg, PA, I definitely recommend taking a half-hour of your Saturday to visit Tröegs. Even my wife, who does not like beer, enjoyed the tour. You need to make reservations for the tour, but they make it very easy by allowing you to sign up online, which is what I did. I'm sure you won't want to leave without picking up a case, too - I chose the Anthology 2, which includes a mixture of HopBack Amber Ale, DreamWeaver Wheat Ale, Pale Ale, and JavaHead. Zum Wohl!

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