Something unexpected happened during our Black is Beautiful brew day with Harris Family Brewery.
We had agreed going in that the inspiration for our collaboration American brown lager was cornbread, specifically a well-guarded recipe from the family of Harris brewmaster Shaun Harris. “No matter what time of year it is,” said Shaun, “if you go to a dinner in our neighborhood, somebody’s making some corn bread.”
We had already decided that the corn notes would come from Pennsylvania blue corn, and our friends at Deer Creek Malthouse generously donated some grown at Dancing Star Farms in Bedford County. The roasty notes – meant to be reminiscent of the brown char near the edge – would come from chocolate and caramel malts.
“I love the part of cornbread that’s between the burnt side of the skillet and the yellow center,” says Tröegs brewmaster John Trogner. “That crust with those graham cracker flavors … that’s the best part of the whole thing.”
Left for the brew day in Hershey was a hop combination that would add the finishing touch: a hint of lemon. Thanks to social distancing, our two teams of brewers were smelling, analyzing and choosing our favorite hops several feet apart, with the intention of coming together to hash out the final combination. Much to everyone’s surprise, when we each shared our favorites, we realized we had both made the exact same choice.
Both teams loved the lemon candy notes of Lemondrop hops, the balanced fruity and floral characteristics of Hersbrucker, and the hints of pineapple in El Dorado. Done and done.
When we tasted the first runnings of the wort at the end of the day, Shaun confirmed we were on the right track to his family’s recipe. “I got corn straight from the door, right in my face,” he said. “And this doesn’t change my opinion on the hops at all. I’m very happy about this.”
‘Help people with independence’
Harrisburg, where we first opened our doors more than 20 years ago, holds a special place in our hearts, and we’ve been talking with the team from Harris about a collaboration since they embarked on their journey to open Pennsylvania’s first black-owned brewery. The nationwide Black is Beautiful collaboration, organized by Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio, Texas, was the perfect opportunity for us to finally get a brew day on the books.
“This movement doesn’t have a leader,” says Timothy White, owner and operations manager at Harris. “What it is is a whole bunch of groups of people everywhere speaking to the same cause, and I think that’s a good thing. It empowers the people.”
Proceeds from the beer will benefit Amiracle4sure, a local nonprofit that provides education, mentoring and advocacy for people as they transform their lives after incarceration. The organization was founded by White’s mother, Marsha Banks.
“We do mentoring, housing assistance, clothes, resume help. We’ll take someone who doesn’t have a Pennsylvania ID and hold their hands to help them get one. A lot of people live with someone and never had a lease in their name. Or they’ve been driving for 15 years and never had a license. So we spend a lot of time teaching people how to get your own and all the things that come with that. We try to help people with independence.”
When we were thinking about ways this beer could benefit the community, Amiracle4sure was an easy choice. “That’s the kind of community project we like to get involved in,” said Trogner. “I love that direct connection to an organization that has been doing the hard work for a long time.”
On the horizon
The Harris Team – Harris, White and Jerry Thomas – blew past their fundraising goal of $30,000 in late June and set a new stretch goal of $60,000. They have a brewery location in Allison Hill, which they described as a craft beer desert, and are “waiting for the world to open back up.”
“In Allison Hill, a lot of people are looking to us to be the anchor of prosperity and growth there,” says Harris. “There’s barbershops and daycares, but it’s very important to make stuff and to teach people to make stuff.”
The Harris Family and Tröegs Black is Beautiful collaboration releases Thurs/Aug. 6 at Troegs. A limited run is available in 16-oz. cans and on draft. When it’s gone, it’s gone! Details on visiting Tröegs can be found at troegs.com/visit. To donate to Harris Family Brewery, visit the brewery’s GoFundMe page.
About Black is Beautiful
Black is Beautiful is a worldwide collaborative effort started by Weathered Souls brewery in Texas. Its purpose is to bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily. The mission is to show that the brewing community is an inclusive place for everyone of any color.
Our Black is Beautiful collaboration beer is available on draft and in 16-ounce cans exclusively at Tröegs Independent Brewing in Hershey, PA. Be sure to check out troegs.com/visit before planning a trip to the brewery.
To learn more, please join our brewmaster John Trogner and the Harris Family Brewery team on Saturday, August 8 at 2 p.m. for a panel discussion at the Fresh Fest DigiFest, where they’ll discuss the collaboration in more detail.Share:
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