The Splinter Cellar at Tröegs Independent Brewing isn't actually a cellar. It's a soaring space that echoes the craft brewery's new branding: clean and minimalist. The focus of the Splinter Cellar is three new 9,300-gallon foeders, which are giant wooden barrels where beer is aged to perfection. The first magical brew to come from the Splinter Cellar is Wild Elf.
Thursday night, Tröegs celebrated the grand opening of the Splinter Cellar with an invite-only party. Wild Elf was passed around for a toast from owners Chris and John Trogner, who thanked everyone for helping make the Splinter Cellar a reality.
The Splinter Cellar will be used to create Tröegs splinter series beers, which are essentially beer experiments in small batches. The foeders (pronounced "fooders") are each 20-feet tall. The barrels are made of dozens of Italian, Hungarian and French oak boards that have been air dried for three years. The wood mellows beer as it ages, removing any harshness. A variety of flavors are pulled from the wood, like vanilla and coconut. The wood also allows bacteria and wild yeast to thrive, thanks to its porous nature.
Loud rock pulsed from the DJ's speakers while partygoers sipped, not just Wild Elf, but also Sunshine Pils, Peterpetual IPA and Tröegenator Double Bock. Warm wood tones from the foeders were complimented by white tile, gray cement, silver railings and white walls. The nearly monochrome palate highlights the tall barrels where the magic happens.
Wild Elf, the first beer aged in one of the new foeders, was born from Mad Elf, Tröegs seasonal holiday ale. On a cherry-tasting trip to nearby Peters Orchard in Adams County, brewers began imagining a new sour beer, inspired by the tartness of local Balaton cherries. They filled a small foeder with Mad Elf and the cherries, allowing any wild yeast and bacteria hitchhiking on their skins to add to the fermentation.
After ten months of aging, the first taste was reminiscent of cherry pie, with a spicy through line, as well as undercurrents of almond, vanilla and coconut. Wild Elf, like Mad Elf, is a thick, syrupy ale that's not for everyday drinking, but for special occasion savoring. Everyone I spoke to loved it. Wild Elf is available in 375-ml cork-and-cage bottles at Tröegs Hershey brewery. In the following weeks, a limited amount will roll out throughout Pennsylvania.
Art of Tröegs
Pieces from the recent Art of Tröegs contest was on display in the upstairs gallery. Brian Begley, winner of the 2016 Art of Tröegs contest and New Jersey resident, was on hand to talk about his customized size 13 Nike Dunks. "I've always loved sneakers," he said. Begley, an illustrator and graphic designer, explained how he has followed the athletic shoe industry, since Peter Moore designed the first Air Jordan for Nike. His passion for sneakers made his objet d'art an obvious choice. He lifted the shoes to show me the insoles made from Tröegs labels. Shoe panels and lace tips were also covered in Tröegs labels. He said, "I figured if I didn't win, I would at least have a new pair of sneakers."
Troy A. Weston, another Tröegs artist, enjoyed a glass of Wild Elf while we talked about his piece. Weston, who lives in Central PA, bought a bust of a girl from a thrift shop, then painted over it to create a Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) mask. He said, "I sell a lot in Sweden." Day of the Dead in Sweden? "It's very popular there," he explained.