In 1982 brothers Chris and John Trogner from Mechanicsburg, went separate ways to attend college – 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. With Chris grinding through school, John scoured Boulder for a job, any job, in beer. One day in 1995, 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.
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, a combination of their childhood nickname, “Trogs,” and the Dutch word for “pub,” kroeg. The Trogner brothers’ vision was finally on the path to fruition.
With $800,000 of funding from private investors, the brothers ordered the bottle assembly line first. Although they did not have a building yet for the brewery, they remained optimistic and knew they would find one. With problems arising because of zoning laws and size constraints, they waited patiently for the right opportunity to lease a building. 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. One year after their establishment, the Trogner brothers were still learning exactly what went into producing, marketing, and distributing their product, during the year, Tröegs’ availability went from tap-only to tap and bottles, from three fermenters to five, and from two styles of beer to four.
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. As the brewery grew, in 2007, 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. 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.
In 2021 Tröegs completed a series of upgrades that made the Hershey brewery more energy efficient. A two-day shutdown in late September set the stage for several projects, beginning with a large rooftop solar array. Tröegs partnered with Solar Renewable Energy in Mechanicsburg on the installation of a 643kW system. Now up and fully running, the 1,628 panels produced 812,366kWh annually, or an estimated 15-20% of the brewery’s annual energy needs.
We like to think of our little corner of the brewing world as the wayward home for the perpetually curious. It’s no accident that independent is our middle name. Being independent means we’re able to push our own boundaries, have a little fun and focus on the long-term health of the brewery. We don’t have anyone to answer to other than our customers and our co-workers, and that means we can do what’s right for you and what’s right for our beer. We’ve been at this for 24 years … and it’s only the beginning.