January brought a slew of breweries dropping press releases declaring their brewing schedule for the coming new year. Seasonal brews are scheduled to meet the changing weather and impending one-off beers pique the interest of drinkers looking for the next new thing. The most dedicated of craft beer drinkers will parse the brewing calendars and fancy a returning darling or plan around the release of an upcoming rarity.
Tröegs Independent Brewing in my backyard of Hershey, Pennsylvania does not release a schedule to the public. Instead, Troegs will drop a new beer on the market with little notice; a surprise meant to delight its customers. But even a company with no public release schedule can't help but drop hints about what may be to come.
Close observers of Troegs know that their Scratch Series is truly the Troegs brothers' brewing worksheet. It's a way to play with ingredients and methods while also gauging a beer’s reception via their limited releases at the brewery.
Besides being their brewery notepad, the Scratch Series can let us peek at what is to come. When riffing on a style in close succession with multiple variations, visitors to the brewery are able to see and taste what may be to come in the future.
This beer practically disappeared from my tumbler.”
First Cut Mango IPA, released at the beginning of February, was just that kind of beer. First Cut is a light bodied IPA brewed with Simcoe and Comet hops that are coupled beautifully with the creamy sweetness of mangos. The resulting beer has a sweetness that is not cloying or over the top and only adds to this brew’s uncomplicated drinking character. This beer practically disappeared from my tumbler.
Simcoe hops can be earthy and have what people generously call a "cat box" aroma, these never appear in First Cut. Instead, the mango enhances the tropical fruit notes of the hops, enlivening them while also smoothing out Simcoe's occasional rough edges.
The beer poured a welcoming orange gold into the glass but laced the glass nicely from a soft head. An undemanding finish invites you back to the glass for another strong pull; before you know it, you are ready to crack another.
Looking back at the four Scratch beers (#261, #263, #266, and #270) that led to First Cut, it is clear the brewers were working to tone down the beer and move toward an easy drinker for the impending spring. There is a delight to be had in surprises but there is also joy in following breadcrumbs dropped for those seeking to understand the brewer's creative process. Troegs gives us both.