Friday, September 17, 2010

A Feel Good Beer Story (aren’t they all?)

What would make a guy from New Mexico hop a plane in Albuquerque, fly to Pittsburgh, then rent a car and drive to Harrisburg, just for a chance to buy a bottle of beer?

For Brian Cochran, the answer was Troegs Brewing Co.'s limited-release brew called Splinter Blue -- a combination of the Harrisburg craft brewer's Dreamweaver Wheat, tart cherries and a funky strain of yeast known as "Brettanyomyces."

Aged for 18 months in oak barrels, the 750-milliliter bottles of the limited release went on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday, and all 401 bottles were gone

The brewery planned to sell only 400 bottles to the public. Cochran, who came from Farmington, N.M., after hearing about Splinter Blue on the "Beer Advocate" website, got No. 401, a bottle originally reserved for one of the brewery's sales representatives, who gave it up after hearing how far Cochran had come.

Beer lovers began lining up outside the Paxton Street brewery shortly after midnight. By 5 a.m., there were close to 50 people in line. Sales were limited to two bottles per person. The brewery handed out bottle caps to the first 200 in line, similar to the wristbands used when concert tickets go on sale.

Cochran, who arrived around 9 a.m., was about 20 people behind the last bottle cap but figured he would stay in line when the capless people in front of him left, hoping somebody would decide to buy just one of the $22.95 bottles.

That didn't happen.

"I was one behind the guy who bought the last bottle. I thought I was shut out," said Cochran, toasting his good luck with a sample tray of Troegs other offerings in the brewery's tasting room.

"It is pretty amazing to see how far people will travel to try a beer that they don't even know will still be available when they get to the brewery," said Chris Trogner, one of the two brothers who own the brewery.

Cochran came the farthest, Trogner said, but others came from New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Not all were as lucky as Cochran. Ben Manos, a student at Towson University, drove up from Maryland on Thursday morning.

"When I got here, around 9:30, there was a line out the door and around the building," Manos said. "I ended up being about 20 people behind the last guy who got a bottle."

Because Troegs had never brewed this particular beer before, the enthusiasm for its release was based primarily on the brewery's reputation in the craft beer community. Cochran first tried Troegs Nugget Nectar ale at a brewfest in Milwaukee.

For Manos, his first exposure came on his 21st birthday. Troegs' Troegenator Double Bock was the longest name on the beer menu at a bar where he was celebrating, so he decided to try it. That led to a visit for a brewery tour, where he saw the oak barrels in which the Splinter series is aged.

"To be honest, it sounded like a breakfast cereal, with the cherries. But I knew I wouldn't be able to get it again, so I figured I'd try it," Manos said.

Though Manos didn't get a Splinter Blue bottle, he did get a nice consolation prize. To celebrate the Splinter Blue release, Troegs also put special one-off variations of two of its regular beers on tap in its tasting room: one of its Javahead Stout, a coffee-influenced beer, that had vanilla beans added to the firkin; and a variation of its Pale Ale flavored with fresh, wet Simcoe hops.

"I did get to try the two special beers on tap," Manos said. "And hopefully they will do more of the Splinter beers."

Trogner said Troegs does plan to release two others later this year: Splinter Tan and Splinter Black.

Tan will be based on the brewery's popular holiday offering, Mad Elf, with wild yeast added to sour the beer. Black is a Russian imperial stout. Like Splinter Blue, both have been aged for more than a year in the oak barrels that give the Splinter series its name.

Trogner said the brewery will be releasing about a few thousand bottles of each of those.

Like Troegs' other limited-edition series, the "Scratch" beers, the Splinter series represents experimentation and exploration by the company's brewers. The brewery's Javahead Stout and Flying Mouflan barley wine each got their start as one-offs.

"If we find things we enjoy enough, down the road we may have them more readily available," said Trogner

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Statistics