Just the Beginning

John & Cris Trogner in 1978.

When they were young, Chris and John Trogner were always inventing some new way to entertain themselves – like building skate board ramps, dabbling in car top surfing, or creating a homemade cannon. And while their father was always shaking his head at their latest endeavor, you might also catch a prideful smile on his face.

John Trogner home brewing in 1992.

When college approached they went separate ways – John (the older one) headed to Philadelphia while Chris took off for Colorado. With John finishing school and realizing he had little desire to jump into the corporate world, Chris found a new calling as the burgeoning microbrew scene captured his intrigue as much as the ski slopes. Before long he was homebrewing, and as Chris relayed near-mythical tales of guys making an actual living brewing beer, a marquee of lights flashed in John’s head, and he made the decision to join his brother for the Great Beer Rush.

Paxton Street brewery in 1995.

With Chris grinding through school (and moguls), John scoured Boulder for a job, any job, in beer. One day he walked into Oasis Brewpub just as they were having “a little emergency.” He asked if there was any brewery work available; a guy walked out from the back, tossed John a t-shirt and handed him a mop. A brewer was invented.

Tröegs ESB label sketch 1996.

Suddenly, there was a multitude of crash courses in electrical wiring, plumbing and welding and formal brewer training as John found his creative faucet. At the same time, Chris made beer the focus of every project assignment, started hatching a business plan, and just after graduation headed to brewing school in Europe. One night, over probably a few too many test brews, they hit upon the name – Tröegs. It combined their last name with kroeg, the Flemish word for pub.

Central Penn Business Journal article 1996.

However, the draw of home got the best of the wayward brothers. As their brewery idea moved from incubator to fledging, the boys returned to their native Central Pennsylvania to launch Tröegs Brewery. They tacked the odd moniker on an old warehouse on Paxton Street in Harrisburg, sold their first pint, Tröegs Pale Ale, on July 18, 1997 and lived happily ever after…

Early Paxton Street bottling line in 1997.

Oh no. Wait. This is the where the story of Tröegs Independent Brewing begins. Chris and John jumped headlong into their brewery, and found a lot of support from family and friends along the way. In the beginning it took eleven people to run the packaging line, so pretty much all hands on deck. Some of these early volunteers still walk the halls today – serving as the foundation of the Tröegs community.

Paxton Street tasing room in 2007.

As the brewery grew, the Tröegs community morphed into a home for kindred spirits with wide and varying ideas, which partly explains the Tröegs portfolio of tangential offerings. Troegenator, a big brooding Doublebock as your lead beer, why not? Hopback Amber made with a piece of brewing equipment John meshed into the brewhouse, why not? Mad Elf, their holiday offering with way more production headaches than profits, why not? In a very real way every beer at Tröegs is a Scratch Series beer – a random concept the brothers hatched for their 10th anniversary that still serves as the launching point for new beers.

In early 2010 as the old Harrisburg warehouse was starting to feel like 20 ounces of beer in a 16 ounce pint glass, the Tröegs team started to dream of a new brewery. What Chris sketched became a reality in Hershey on October 24, 2011.

Tröegs Hershey tasting room in 2011.

The new facility has two brewhouses, one for daily production and another smaller pilot brew system for research and development beers. The brewhouse is in the middle of the Tasting Room, and a large public tour path cuts through the heart of the facility pulling back the curtain for all to see. Soon after opening, a Snack Bar was added to create food as original and interesting as the beer. The Scratch Beer Series continues to thrive as more than 200 different brews have been created featuring both local and exotic ingredients to feed the collective muse.

The Troegs “family” continues to expand, as more than 175 co-workers have joined to welcome visitors with open arms. Feel free to ask questions, we all love to talk about Tröegs and our continuing exploration. Why not, indeed.

Still Just the Beginning