Small Business Spotlight: Tröegs Brews Success in Hershey
Started in 1997 by brothers Chris and John Trogner, Tröegs Independent Brewing has made a name for itself in the Central Pennsylvania community for its signature brews and commitment to its neighbors. We caught up with John to learn more about their story and success in Pennsylvania.
How did you get started with Tröegs?
In the early ’90s, I was in college in Philadelphia and my younger brother Chris was in Colorado and found himself in the midst of a brewing renaissance. He eventually convinced me to come out and explore the craft beer movement. Within a week of making the move to Colorado, I landed a job at a brewpub by literally walking in and asking how I could help. From there on out, it was a trial by fire situation. We were lucky because we had the freedom to learn as we went and just wing it.
While I was at the brewpub, my brother was working at an Italian restaurant, and we hatched a plan to open a brewpub in Colorado. We come from a very entrepreneurial family, so we always knew we wanted to start a business together. We just didn’t know what it was until we got brewing on the mind. The problem was that there was already a bunch of small brewpubs and breweries open in Colorado.
This prompted us to eventually make a decision that was critical to our early success. We decided to move back home to central Pennsylvania to open our brewery. In 1997, Tröegs Brewing Co. opened its doors on Paxton Street in Harrisburg, just down the road from our current facility in Hershey.
How has Tröegs grown since opening?
When we opened, we started from the ground up in Harrisburg. We loved the old brewery, but when we outgrew it and were looking for a new space, we fell for this little corner of Hershey.
In general, seeing the beer culture grow up in Central PA has been great, and we’re happy to be contributing to that alongside brewing brethren like Appalachian Brewing Co., Pizza Boy, and so many others.
We don’t have any grand plans for world domination. The majority of our sales are in Pennsylvania, and we think there is room to grow right here in our backyard, as well as in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Most recently, Tröegs was named one of the top best brewery tours of 2018 by 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards and has moved to No. 30 on The Brewers Association annual list of the largest U.S. craft-beer producers of 2017.
What makes you proud to be a Pennsylvania business?
Our priority is buying the best ingredients in the world. We’re lucky because about 30 miles south of the brewery is the Pennsylvania Fruit Belt — 20,000 fertile acres covering the slopes of South Mountain. It’s one of the finest fruit-producing regions in the United States.
We like getting out of the brewery to see, smell, and taste the ingredients, and oftentimes, our co-workers pitch in with planting or harvesting. The more our team knows and works with our ingredients the better, and the relationships we’ve developed with local growers over the years are really beneficial.
About 60 percent of our sales are in Pennsylvania, so sourcing local ingredients resonates with our customers. They know a lot of the farms and have emotional connections to certain locales. When we share those stories, our fans have a stronger connection to our beers, and it gives them a sense of pride and ownership.
The brewery is only one part of the Tröegs community. While we love keeping our vendors and producers local, we also love supporting local causes we believe in.
Our community outreach program ALEtruism inspires our workers to take an active role in community partnerships. We partner with dozens of local and regional charitable, non-profit organizations, who share our sense of community. These range from environmental entities such as Manada Conservancy, a land conservation organization situated right in our backyard with whom we’ve helped organize tree plantings and creek clean-up initiatives, to Common Wheel, a Lancaster PA-based organization that strives to connect people and improve lives through the power of bikes. We also partner with the Harrisburg Area YMCA in organizing our signature community event, the Hop Dash 5k Race.
Ultimately, it’s through our passion for beer and deep-rooted sense of community that brings us together with these organizations to help make a positive impact in our local community and beyond. These groups are more than partners; they are friends, and collectively we can work together to make Central Pennsylvania — and beyond — flourish.
The Small Business Spotlight is a monthly series featured on the second Saturday of the month which highlights businesses and entrepreneurs who are positively impacting their local community.
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As the older (but not necessarily wiser) of the two brothers responsible for craft beer brainchilds such as Nugget Nectar, Mad Elf, Perpetual IPA and Troegenator Double Bock, John Trogner has been overseeing the brewing side of Tröegs since the PA-based brewery first opened its doors in 1997. In 2012, Tröegs received the Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewer of the Year Awards at the Great American Beer Festival. Twenty years in, the brewery (now situated in Hershey, PA) broke the 100,000-barrel threshold and was ranked by the Brewer’s Association as the #30 largest craft brewery in the United States based on sales volume.