Saturday, January 28, 2012

Live from Tröegs Brewing

Mural in Entrance (File Photo*)
Thought it was time for another "live" post, so I'm coming to you today from Tröegs Brewing's new facility (fondly known as T2) in Hershey, PA. I'm hanging out with some other craft brew lovers and Justin's Brew Review readers -- good times, good people, great beer. In true Tröegs pride fashion, I'm wearing my HopBack Amber Ale t-shirt. While this is not the first time I've been to T2, it is the first I've had a chance to write about it. Let me say that if you have not been here yet, you should really take the time to do so. There's no time like the present - come on out!

Currently, Tröegs is only offering self-guided tours, but their website tells us of plans on offering a low-cost, taste-as-you-go, guided version coming in late February of this year. If I understand correctly, you'll even get a souvenir pint glass out of the deal -- not too shabby! Back to the self-guided tour: when you come in the front door, keep going straight through the doors and you'll enter the tasting room. There are multiple barkeeps at the impressively long bar, which includes a growler fill-up station (actually, they have an automated machine that is fun to watch as it fills the growler).

The Impressively Long Bar
After you grab a brewski at the bar, take it with you as you hang a right and enter the self-guided tour area. (Don't worry - you can come back for more later.) It's a nice setup -- they have signs that describe each step of the brewing and bottling process. It's not nearly as intimate (read small) as their old Harrisburg brewery (read about the tour I took there just over a year ago), but it's definitely impressive, modern, and a bit more touristy (makes sense - it's only right down the road from Hershey Park). At the end of the line on the tour, you enter the gift shop area where you can pick up Tröegs paraphernalia and/or (probably "and") some cases to go.

Growler Filling Station
Alright, gotta go tend to my Pale Ale. Hopefully, you can make the trip to Hershey and visit this great new facility that Tröegs has crafted--like their beer--for the pleasure of all. Prost!

Thankfully, this sign was not on the entrance doors.

* The photo I used of the 2-story mural in the brewery entrance is a file photo because it is not currently there. I asked the Trogner brothers what happened, and they said that they are repairing multiple cracks in the wall. Never fear - they assure me that "it will return".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homebrew: Irish Chocolate Stout

Irish Chocolate Stout, the homebrew variety.  Not my homebrew, mind you.  I enjoy drinking craft beer, but I would not have the patience to craft it myself.  I'll leave that to people like my neighbor, Matt, who supplied this great beer for my tasting pleasure.  (Incidentally, I found out about Matt's affinity for beer when we ran into each other at Yorktoberfest, which I wrote about here and here.)

This was the first time that I've ever had the opportunity to try a homebrew, and I certainly hope it won't be my last!  I was impressed with how professional it tasted, especially since Matt tells me he brewed it in his kitchen!  I feel like it was something I could have bought at the local Mix-a-Six (even though there really aren't too many of those local to York, PA...but I digress).

Being that this is a homebrew, I was expecting to write that I didn't have any beery stats for you.  In fact, I even drafted the following:
Sure, homebrewers can have their beer analyzed at a laboratory in order to figure out the ABV and IBUs [1], but that costs money [2].  Precious money that could be put right back into crafting more beer.  I don't know about you, but I'd forgo the numbers in favor of more beer!
But it turns out that I was wrong - Matt tells me that the ABV should be around 4.5-5.0%, and using the beer's specific gravity, he feels that it's probably closer to 5.0%.  Also, the IBU was around 36-37.  He gave quite a few other details too - I'll share a few here.  The chocolate flavor was introduced using an extract.  (Incidentally, his next chocolate brew will use cocoa powder for comparison.)  Matt says, "I let my beer carbonate in the bottle.  It's an old school technique, but I think it allows the flavor to come through a little better and smoother than pushing CO2 through it in a keg."  It sounds like it takes at least two months until the beer matures:  one week in the primary fermenter, two to three weeks in the secondary fermenter (a glass carboy [3]), and about a month to age.  After that, Matt says he tests one bottle a week until he feels it's ready to drink.

Speaking of being ready to drink, let's get to the good stuff!

This stout was as dark as can be.  The frothy, caramel-colored head dissipated shortly after pouring.  A cursory whiff put me in mind of Tröegs JavaHead Stout [4].  A deeper inhalation brought a sweeter smell, almost a Hershey syrup scent.  My tastebuds soon realized the sweet flavor.  The initial impression: sweet, just like the smell.  As the liquid washed over the back of my tongue, the stout flavor kicked in.  Aftertaste was sweet as well, though not sickeningly so.  It had the right balance of strong stout and chocolaty sweetness to satisfy.

A very smooth, easy-to-drink beer, which backs up Matt's assertion that bottle carbonation lends to a better, smoother brew.  Overall, this Irish Chocolate Stout was excellent!  So do you craft your own brews at home?  What interesting combinations have you tried?  I'd be interested to hear what you have to say!  Just leave a comment or "tweet" me @BrewReviewMann.  Prost!

[1] One of Justin's Brew Reviews's most popular posts, "How Does Your Beer Measure Up?", goes into more detail about ABV, IBU, and color.
[2] In the same post referenced in Footnote 1, I mentioned that you can have a laboratory perform this test on your beer for about $10.  Unfortunately, I did not cite where I found this information - I apologize for that oversight.  I just "Googled" it and found a helpful blog post informing readers that White Labs performs this testing for a reasonable amount of money.  For your consideration, homebrewing reader.
[3] Having no idea what a glass carboy was, I had to look it up (see picture on right, courtesy of this blog).  I've seen these before and knew that they were used in homebrewing, but I had no idea that it was called a carboy!  Wikipedia says that a carboy's capacity is typically five to fifteen gallons (that's 40 to 120 pints according to and that they are also known as a demijohn (anyone else thinking about "Music Man" now, or is it just me?).
[4] Admittedly, I reference Tröegs' brews a lot.  What can I say?  I love 'em!  That being said, this comparison should speak volumes.