Troegs in Eastern PA, good guys employing local people, making great beer. Kudos to these guys!!

Beer: A new aroma in Hershey


For more than a century, visitors to Hershey have been able smell the sweet aroma of chocolate as The Hershey Co. made its world-famous candy.Now, a new smell is wafting through the air in Chocolatetown: beer.

The new Troegs brewery at 200 E. Hersheypark Drive has been up and running since October, and those visiting its tasting room can smell the aromas of grains and hops as the ingredients go through the brewing process and become beer.

Although the tasting room is open and production is under way, construction at the brewery is not fully completed. According to co-owner Chris Trogner, who founded the company along with his brother, John Trogner, in 1997, moving to the new brewery from the old site in Harrisburg is a two-phase project.

“We built a lot of the new brewery first, and then we had to relocate our existing brewery over from Harrisburg,” he said. “So phase one pretty much ended in November, and phase two just started.”

There could be up to five months of construction remaining as workers hook up all the tanks that were brought over from the old brewery. Much of the new equipment was shipped from the German company BrauKon, which specializes in brewing equipment. Workers from BrauKon were on site to

“The new stuff is up and running,” Trogner said. “The original equipment is being phased in, and we’re not using any of it yet, so we’re running a brewery right now at 50-percent capacity, which means we’re not putting out as much beer as we normally put out.”

Once construction is completed, the brewery’s capacity will be about 60,000 barrels a year. By comparison, Yeungling and Samuel Adams make about 2 million barrels a year, while Budweiser makes more than 100 million barrels a year.

“We’re an extremely small brewery compared to Yeungling, and Yeungling is still a very small brewery compared to Bud, Miller and Coors,” Trogner said.

The Trogner brothers, natives of Mechanicsburg, began brewing beer in 1996 and sold their first keg in 1997. Their goal has never been to compete with larger beermakers or to replicate any other beer, Trogner said.

“Our goal has always been to be a regional craft brewer,” he said. “We’re not necessarily doing things to a specific style. We’re doing things that we enjoy in beer. We’re not trying to replicate anyone else.”

The new brewery is housed in a building that was once home to The Hershey Co.’s commissary and later the company’s mail-order division. The tasting room has seats for about 200 people and also has a long bar where people can stand to sample the beers.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour during which they are separated from the brewery’s machinery by glass partitions. Once construction is complete, the brewery will offer guided tours behind the partitions that will be more in-depth and will include stops in different areas of the brewery and beer tasting in the barrel-aging room.

The brewery also has a general store where visitors can purchase six-packs and cases of beer as well as Troegs paraphernalia, such as shirts and hats.

In all, the new brewery is about three times larger than the old brewery. However, Trogner said, there are no definite plans to increase production.

“A lot of people assume we did this brewery to become much bigger, but that’s really not necessarily the case,” he said. “We did this brewery to make it much more efficient and more friendly, so this way you can come in and see the whole process.”

Troegs makes five year-round beers and six seasonal beers. It also makes what it calls scratch beers – small batches made from experimental recipes. The scratch beers are made in small quantities – just a couple kegs – and they come and go quickly, Trogner said.

“We’ll just sit around the table and talk about what we would like to try to drink, and also is there an ingredient that we haven’t brewed with before that we want to learn from? And that’s the whole concept of the scratch beers: to try to make us more knowledgeable and better brewers,” he said.

The goal of the scratch beer is not to come up with new permanent beers, Trogner said.

“You can learn different techniques and maybe apply it to an existing beer if it does well,” he said. “But when we’re brewing a beer on the smaller system we’re not necessarily thinking, ‘Hey, this is gonna be the next bottled beer.’ The idea is just to learn a little bit from it.”

In addition to beer, the new tasting room recently began offering sandwiches using breads, meats and cheeses from local businesses.

“We designed this room to hold 200 people, and we’ve always thought that if you have 200 people drinking pints of beer, you should probably offer something for them to eat,” Trogner said.

Troegs currently has 65 employees, nearly double the 34 employees it had two years ago. About 20 employees were added during the move to Hershey, and the company recently posted ads for about 10 more positions. Trogner expects to hire about 20 more employees by the summer.

“We should have 100-plus people working here by the year end,” he said.

One of those employees is brewer Jeff Jerman. The 28-year-old Mt. Joy, Lancaster County, native has been working at Troegs for three years and has been a brewer for six years.

“It’s a fun job,” he said. “You can’t be that upset when you’re at work when you’re making beer. It’s a great way to finish your day also – sit down, have a pint and enjoy what you make.”

Although brewing beer is fun, Jerman said, the beer-making process is somewhat complex.

“It’s a lot more than people think,” he said. “It’s a fairly difficult process, very precise. A lot can go wrong brewing if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t have proper equipment.”

As for the future, Trogner said it is difficult for him and his brother to look beyond six months. The main goal right now is to get the brewery up and operational, he said.

Once that happens, he said, they will assess whether sales call for an increase in capacity.

One thing that likely will not be seen in the near future is a Hershey chocolate-flavored beer. While Troegs and the Hershey chocolate factory might be neighbors, they remain two separate entities, Trogner said.

“We have played around with chocolate, and there is lot of interest in some of their (research and development) departments for fun, nothing formal,” he said. “We’re two separate entities, but we like chocolate, and some of them like beer.”

Troegs does plan to brew a chocolate-cherry scratch beer that should be out in time for Valentine’s Day, he added


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