It was a very chilly weekend; the roads were treacherous and temperatures were so cold that the the wiper fluid lines on our car froze. After having to stop a few times to manually, clear off the windshield, we made it to Hershey, Pennsylvania, the current home of Troegs Brewery.
Founded in '96 in Harrisburg, Troegs expanded to the current brewery in Hershey in 2011. Walking into the compound, the store is to your right and the tasting room is straight ahead. You check in to your tour at a desk in the store. You can also see their original homebrew set up in the store.
We grabbed a drink before our tour started in the tasting room. The main brewing kettles are situated behind the bar. The opposite side opens up to a deck overlooking the parking lot, which is obviously not open in the winter.
The tour starts outside of the lab. Right off the bat you see how interconnected the brewing side is to the customer/drinking side. The brewery is part of the tasting room, and everything else in the process is able to be seen through the "self guided tour". This is the only brewery with two tours I've been to.
John, our tour guide, led us behind the bar into the grain room. They do a good job with keeping the dust down. John mentioned they spray the grains down to prevent dust from getting kicked up.
John gave a nice brief overview of grain and how they impart different flavors, even passed around a few containers of grain. Munich malt seemed to be the main base malt used from the way John discussed everything. From here we are lead up a few steps in the grain room to the brew deck, overlooking the tasting room.
The brew deck is where the magic happens. The main brewhouse is a 100 barrel system with the biggest hop back I've seen.
Towards the end of the brew deck is the boil kettle and the tool for hops. Here we got the normal spiel about bittering hops and aroma hops and how those contribute to flavor. We had a sample of citra pellets and cascade leafs passed around for people to smell. From the brew deck we walked down a flight of steps, through a door into the fermentation area.
The tasting tour (as this is called) has the lovely opportunity to taste beers straight out of the fermenter.
After a talk about the differences between ale and lager yeast and the importance of temperature during the fermentation process, we arrive at a tasting table in front of three giant foeders.
We got to taste Cultivator helles bock, Troegenator double bock, Jovial dubbel (out of primary), and Nugget Nectar ale.
After the tasting we are led around to the first bottling line for corks and caging. Past this you can see the bright tanks which lead to the kegging line and the bottling and canning line.
The tasting tour ends back in the gift shop and you exchange your lanyard and safety glasses for souvenir pint glasses.
We went back to the tasting room to grab some food and drink before hitting the road to go back home. The tasting room has a bunch of long tables which is very german biergarten-like. Food is available at the far end of the tasting room. A variety of different dishes are available. They have the standard pretzel and brats, as well as substantial sandwiches, soups, and popcorn. We got a bratwurst and a venison open faced sandwich to split, which were both very good.
The tasting room is also home to the scratch beer series, experimental small batches of beer only available at the tasting room. On tap for our visit was #172 Chocolate Stout.
From the tasting room you can walk through a set of doors to go on the "self guided tour", which is a glass-lined hallway with information about the process of making beer. The self guided tour ends at the barrel room, which was closed with the lights off.
Evan: Light bodied, light flavored, easy drinking lager. We were in a bit of a rush when we first got there and ordered. This through me for a loop until I realized it had 25 ibu and was a lager. A clean and unoffending beer.
Lisa: A light, refreshing beer.
Evan: A much more robust lager. A bit on the dark side and clocking in over 7% with a nice malty backbone.
Lisa: Mahogany in color with a malty sweetness, a delicious American double bock beer.
Evan: Hard to beat a fresh hoppy beer straight from the source. Almost juicy from the hops, it is full bodied and full flavored.
Lisa: This is my favorite beer that Troegs makes. A hoppy amber ale that is amazing.
Evan: I had no idea they were making Belgian corked beer until this trip. Off of the primary it just tastes young. It was under carbonated but rather mediocre. We got a few bottles to take home, which were way better. Out of the bottle it has a fantastic belgian yeast character smell and flavor. Surprisingly though is has almost no body at all, easy to drink and not too filling.
Lisa: The Jovial we had from the fermenter on the tour tasted very young, very bland and not very Belgian. The bottle we had later tasted a lot more flavorful and Belgian. It still tasted light for a 7% Belgian Dubbel, but it was tasty.
Scratch #172 Chocolate Stout
Evan: Easy drinking and less filling than youngs double chocolate stout. Decent chocolate flavor without being overly sweet, still lets the roast from the stout through.
We opened a bottle of LaGrave we got at the Troegs' store while writing this post.
Evan: Light belgian yeast nose and a nice clear golden color. Doesn't drink like a true belgian tripel, more like an american triple pilsner. Tastes very light for 8% which is great but dangerous. It is a nice clean beer but not very belgian, though it has more body than Jovial.
Lisa: This is good, but has less body than I prefer my Belgian tripels to have. Tastes lighter than 8%.