Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pink Boots at Troegs & Visit to Appalachian

“The farther behind I leave the past, the closer I am to forging my own character.” ~Isabelle Eberhardt

September 19: Last night I rebelled against my own schedule and stayed up reading a novel until 3:00 am. Sometimes you just have to do that. Slept in and after my shower and a nice chat with Lauri Lebo, I got on the road toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was about 15 minutes away.

Troegs Brewery Sales & Communication guru Ed Yashinski was my contact at Troegs, but he was so busy getting ready for a Beer Dinner in Philadelphia that saw him only once.

Troegs is owned and operated by two brothers, John and Chris Trogner. Chris was out of town on a sales trip. John gave me the grand tour and then set me loose with brewer Chris Brugger for a few hours.

“Brugger” is really enthusiastic about Troegs’ BrauKon brewhouse. From what he tells me, among the German brewing equipment manufacturers, BrauKon seems most willing to work with Americans regarding our propensity for using huge quantities of malt and hops. Thus Troegs has an appropriately oversized mash tun and a hop jack. Interestingly, the Germans told Troegs that hop jacks are illegal to use in Germany. If you add hops after the kettle, you would have to label that beer as, “Beer Flavored With Hops.” I liked Troegs’ intelligently designed five-vessel brewhouse that combined new automated German BrauKon vessels with their manual JV Northwest system.

I walked around a bit to observe what the other crew members were up to. Troegs recently took over a new section of their building after the local hospital moved their storage to a larger unit elsewhere. John is enjoying the sudden luxury of space by experimenting with wood-aged beers, including a brettanomyces beer.

At about 3:00 pm, John had hamburgers cooking on a grill off the dock. The crew has had a crazy production push the last two weeks, and he wanted to reward them with a barbeque. (Photo below.)

We sat on stacks of pallets and enjoyed burgers and pulled barbeque pork and a few beers. Most of the crew was done with their shift. It was a hot sunny afternoon and we tried to stay cool in the shade of a small beer festival canopy.

I tasted several beers, including Troeg’s famous “Mad Elf,” at 11% ABV (alcohol by volume). The starting gravity was 22 degrees Plato – and that’s before the cherries were added. Troegs’ Mad Elf is so popular that they began brewing it in August in order to satisfy demand. John assures me that demand will not be completely satisfied this year, in spite of beginning production so early.

After the barbeque respite, the brewers and I lined up for the photo at the top of this page, L to R: Brooks Miller (whose wife had just begun labor, with first baby due tomorrow), John Trogner, Chris Brugger, Andy Dickson, Teri and Whitney Thompson.

Most of the crew departed right after that. I worked on emails while Whitney finished up the paperwork on the third and final brew of the day. It was nice to hang out with another woman brewer again. I was the first other woman brewer that Whitney had ever met. I added her to my Pink Boots Society list and we counted up the women brewers: Whitney was the 34th woman on the USA portion of the list. (There are six women former boots-wearers on the Emeritus List and eight women brewers on the International List.)

After work, at 7:00 pm, Whitney took me to nearby Appalachian Brewing Company where we met up with Chris Brugger. Appalachian's Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves and Assistant Brewer Jeff Jerman (photo right) set me up with a sampler set of all 18 beers that were on tap tonight.

They don’t brew all 18 here: Appalachian has two additional locations: a 7-barrel system in Camphill, PA and a 10-bbl system in Gettysburg, PA. (Yes – that Gettysburg.) This system in Harrisburg was huge, and Jonathan gave me the quick tour. If I remember correctly (and I rarely take notes, so I have to memorize the information, often under the influence of good craft beer), the system here had a 30-barrel brewhouse and they just took delivery on a whole bunch of 125-barrel fermenters. That’s pretty aggressive for a 2,500-bbl per-year distributing brewpub.

After our Appalachian beer sampler, Whitney, Chris and I moved upstairs to "The Abby," Appalachian's Belgian bar. We ordered some Oktoberfest seasonal dishes, grabbed a couple of Belgian beers, and moved to the patio.
Whitney’s boyfriend, Larry Horowitz, brewer at Iron Hill Brewery in Philadelphia joined us. The photo above shows the four of us posing and “doing the Garrett.” Left to Right: Teri, Whitney, Larry and Chris Brugger. After lots of laughs, it was time to head back to the brewery parking lot where I was camped for the night.

Had to wear earplugs as Troegs’ neighbor is a trucking company. Semi-trucks idled their motors and came and went all night. It sounded like a truck stop but I slept through it all.


bookwoman said...

Two of my favorite local brews. We had a case of Mad Elf last year and I shared some with my cousins, who are recent college graduates (ie, drinkers of cheap mass-produced stuff). The first cousin to taste it commented, "Wow, I'm not used to beer with flavor." I have done my job. Now, if I can just get the other cousin to stop drinking beer through a straw...

WafflesRevenge said...

Hey I know a bunch of those people in that Troegs picture, glad you stopped by 'the burg' and hope you enjoyed!