The brand spanking new addition to Tröegs Independent Brewing, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, called the Splinter Cellar has come to fruition. I got to experience the spectacularly designed space last night during the grand opening. All of the people that had a hand in imagining, designing, supporting and building this masterpiece was in attendance – even local ingredient suppliers like Sunny Brae Hops, Deer Creek Malts, Peter’s Orchard, Weiser Farm Market and Big Hill Cider.
What Exactly is the Splinter Cellar, You Ask?
The Splinter Cellar is a home for wild yeast and a wide-open canvas for creative beer cellaring. The space is attached to the left of the main brewery and tasting room. Three 21-foot-tall oak foeders (shown above) are the centerpiece as you walk into the room. The foeders were custom built by Giobatta & Piero Garbellotto, a 200-year-old Italian barrel manufacturer. Each foeder is made of dozens of staves (wooden planks) of Italian, Hungarian and French oak that have been air dried for three years to mellow any harsh flavors.
“Foeder” (pronounced “fooder”) is a Dutch word for large oak tank. Beer aged in foeders pulls undercurrents of vanilla and toasted coconut from the oak. The 9,300-gallon wood tanks also provide a happy home for wild yeast and bacteria, things typically not welcome in a brewery. That’s why the Splinter Cellar had to be a separate part of Tröegs brewery as to not cross-contaminate and alter the flavor of their “clean” beers (ie. Sunshine Pils, Perpetual IPA, etc).
The slightly porous wood of a foeder allows a steady creep of oxygen that keeps the microflora hard at work. Secondary fermentation with brettanomyces, pediococcus and lactobacillus gives wild ales their sour, funky, or acidic flavors.
A Perfect Evening at the Splinter Cellar
My husband, Derek, and I each grabbed a brew and began exploring the space. Besides the massive foeders and bar area, a visitor can go upstairs to explore a cozy little art gallery. I literally couldn’t stop grinning and snapping pics as I took it all in.
We kept having the tendency to wander off in separate directions. Derek (aka Brew_Dude on twitter) was most interested in the fermentation equipment – especially what he deemed “the fanciest airlocks ever!” To see the pic of what he’s talking about, checkout his Instagram post @dmarkel14. I agree. That be fancy!
Derek spent most of his time engaging with all the brewers/brewery owners hanging in the lower level to talk shop: John Trogner (Tröegs Co-Owner), Tim Mayhew (Tröegs Brewing Manager), John Stemler (Free Will Brewing Co. Co-Owner & Brewmaster), Ben Kishbaugh (Big Hill Ciderworks Co-Owner) and Brandalynn Armstrong (Zeroday Brewing Co-Owner).
The Grand Opening Toast
Chris Trogner took a moments pause to address the attendees and welcome them to the Splinter Cellar.
John Trogner introduced the limited amount of their Splinter Series beer called Wild Elf ale. It’s brewed with cherries and honey and weighs in at a whopping 11% ABV.
Born from their once-a-year holiday favorite Mad Elf, Wild Elf goes through a year-long secondary fermentation in oak with locally harvested Balaton cherries and the wild microflora that rode in on them.
The brew is tart, layered and highly carbonated. Wild Elf is a beer rooted in local goodness and can only be created from Pennsylvania cherries to obtain this unique flavor explained John.
> Watch John & Chris’s Cherry Selection Adventure (produced by Troegs)
A celebratory toast of Wild Elf (just released) and shouts of cheers filled the room as bites of deliciousness created by Chef Christian and his team were butlered around to guests. So pretty and so tasty. Especially this pastry topped with whipped cream and cherries that were soaked in Wild Elf. How fitting!
> View the Celebratory Toast Video (produced by Troegs)
Where Can You Find Wild Elf?
Wild Elf can be purchased right now at the Hershey brewery in 375-ml cork-and-cage bottles. It’s $12/bottle and is being sold by the bottle and in 12 packs. In the upcoming weeks, a limited amount will roll out throughout Pennsylvania only.
So Much to Explore
See for yourself how completely breathtaking the Splinter Cellar is. I took 107 photos, mind you. I get a little carried away. I just can’t help myself. But for your sake, I’ve widdled the photo gallery down to just a handful. You’re welcome. (wink)
I spent most of my time on the upper level where the Art of Tröegs Gallery is located. The exhibits will rotate regularly. For the opening celebration, winners artwork from the Spring 2016 Art of Tröegs Contest is on display. You’ll also find fan favorites from past years and pieces Tröegs commissioned from artists up and down the East Coast.
Included in the debut exhibit is my personal favorite: 2016 contest winner Brian Begley’s size 13 Nike Dunks retrofitted with Tröegs labels, bottlecaps and poptops. Super cool. I want a pair! Size 7 womens, please.
Other notable pieces are:
- a collage from Brooklyn’s Jay Riggio that features an upended landscape with a Hollywood pinup and dozen of tiny cutouts from DreamWeaver Wheat and Perpetual IPA labels;
- a bottlecap, broken glass and cement mosaic from larger-than-life Philadelphia artist Isaiah Zagar;
- and a curiously surreal oversize bottle split by zipper from Boston glassblower Stephanie Chubbuck.
While perusing the artwork, I bumped into Lindsey Tweed. The creative genius behind Tröegs recent rebranding initiative. Gosh I love her work! Her label designs are on those Nike Dunks that Brian created.
My pal and Harrisburg Beer Week co-hort, Sara Bozich, was hanging in the gallery with her husband, Andy Surra. Fancy meeting them there! We chatted about the artwork and how I need to get the other stellar brew option on tap: Scratch 244 – Belgian Style Saison (Apple) made from apples from Big Hill Ciderworks orchards. It was smooth and fruity with a touch of funk. I enjoyed that the brewmasters used a yeast with mild flavor (no strong pepper, clove or banana overtones) which didn’t overpower the richness of the apple notes.
What? Not enough photos for you? Well okay then. Check out more glimpses of the Splinter Cellar in this Tröegs Facebook photo gallery.
You definitely should consider making the trip to see everything for yourself. Guided Production Tours now start in the Splinter Cellar and will go through the mill room, hop cooler, brewhouse deck, fermentation cellar and packaging lines.
You’ll hear how brothers Chris and John Trogner discovered craft beer, planned their brewery and survived trial-by-fire as they learned the business. You’ll get up close and personal to see, hear, smell, taste and touch the things it takes to brew Tröegs beer. Samples of a few fermented and finished Tröegs favorites are available at the end.
Daily Guided Tours:
Monday – Sunday
- 11:30 am
- 12:30 pm
- 1:30 pm
- 2:30 pm
- 3:30 pm
Note that there’s also a 4:30 pm tour Friday through Sunday plus a 5:00 pm walk-in tour.
What’s in the Works at Tröegs?
- As more barrels are added and new foeders start producing, more Pennsylvania wild ales and Splinter Series beers like Barrel-Aged Troegenator, Nebulous and Impending Descent will show up in bottleshops, bars and restaurants where Tröegs is sold.
- An outdoor greenspace and courtyard are going in next to the current patio to be open in Fall 2016.
- Tröegs has partnered with Land Studies Inc. and RGS Engineering to increase parking in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to be completed Spring 2017. Yes! Much needed additional parking!!
(Follow Me On: Twitter & Untappd: @dzyngrl | Instagram: @dzyngrl14)