Brewery Spotlight

Troon Brewing

A brewery minus a taproom mysteriously sells all its cans within 45 minutes to two hours. It doesn’t even have its own website per se and uses Instagram to announce when its pre-filled, sealed beer bottles or cans are up for grabs. They manage to cause a furor when people are clamoring for their hazy IPAs, with some New Jersey beer lovers who queue up two hours before the can release starts. That’s Troon Brewery for you.

About the Place

Troon was established in 2016, but its owner and chief brewer, Alex Helms, has been in the business for a while before that. Helms was born and raised in New Jersey, and he spent a good number of years of youth near Hopewell Township.

Helms opted to do his college education in a number of cities and states after that. One thing led to another, and Helms was in a different place when he received news of a restaurant being opened in New Township.

Helms didn’t jump on the possibility of opening a brewery to pair with the restaurant because he first wanted to see how the restaurant fared. By then, Helms had already had some experience working in the restaurant and beer industry. In fact, his initial plan was to become a chef and run his own restaurant, but fate and beer had different plans for him.

When Helms saw that the restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern, had managed to hold steady, he dialed the number listed on their website to contact its owners – Jon and Robin McCoanughy. The duo showed him around the restaurant and then the old and rundown barn that was attached to it.

The barn itself is 800 acres, which meant Helms could place all his equipment easily in it once it was all spruced up. So he decided to lease the barn, rolled up his sleeves, and got cleaning. As the entire property is erected on protected land, Helms was not allowed to make any structural changes but just enough to the interiors so he could set up shop.

Image by Jack Hanington on Google Maps

Helms has had experience working in Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas. He was one of the volunteers working on the packaging line and later moved to the tasting room. This means that Helms is aware of the challenges and differences between running a brewery and a restaurant.

In most of the interviews that Helms has given, he has mentioned that a small part of him has a vague hope of opening a restaurant someday, but he is much, much happier running his own brewery with just one or two other people.

Rather than leaning all about the brewing industry and sticking to the norms, Helms opted to dive headfirst into the venture based on his home brewing experience and passion for creating beers that his customers would enjoy.

The gamble paid off. Helms, who was in his mid-twenties when the brewery was opened, making him one of the youngest brewery owners in the state, still doesn’t know the redundant basics of running a brewery but considers it the most satisfying job he ever worked in so far. This is also the closest he would get to the food industry, and he’s happy to keep the distance and not get involved in the complications unique to opening and managing a food joint.

Today, when you visit Troon, you will see gleaming tanks, clean floors, and an overall hygienically maintained brewing space that houses his four barrel electric brewing equipment.

Although Helms had some home brewing experience from before, he made an effort to perfect his skills by practicing brewing various types of beers at the Pennsylvania home of his cousin. His simple goal was to keep his preferences aside and make beers that people would love. If they preferred hazy IPAs over mix fermented drinks, then that’s what he would focus on initially.

Image by Tim Burns on Google Maps

The Business

Helm’s business model is simple: offer beers that customers prefer without any fuss or mess. The brewery itself has a strict no-tap policy that Helms has reiterated again and again on their two-page website. They don’t offer beers even for tasting at the brewery, and customers don’t get a tour, unlike the common practice in thousands of breweries all over the world.

There are two ways in which people interested in sampling their beer can go about it. The first, of course, is by ordering samplers and beers on tap at the adjacent restaurant. The second, which seems to be by far the hot topic of Troon’s fans discussions, is waiting for them to announce the next can release on Instagram and planning a trip well in advance to lay their hands on them. On an average, 500 cans are sold in each of these releases, and they all run out as quick as 45 minutes.

In addition to IPAs, Troon also has some exciting stouts, one with coconuts. Irrespective of the brew you choose to go with, you are guaranteed fresh, crisp flavors that are uncommon with other breweries’ drinks. Helms’ talent for unique brewing techniques earned Troon a spot on the Top 15 Breweries to Watch Out For in 2019 list by Hop Culture. Troon also has excellent ratings on all major beer sites and Facebook.

Those who visit the restaurant have marveled at how well the food and the brews match with each other. The price of the beers is reasonable, while the food lies on the slightly higher side, but it all evens out thanks to the warm, cozy experience customers inevitably enjoy.

Located on a farmland, most of the ingredients for the food come from the land itself, so you can expect some honest-to-goodness farmland grub to go seamlessly well with the fresh beers from Troon.

Troon’s drinks are so popular yet so hard to get a hold of, especially for non-local Troon fans, that there’s an active trade system in place for its beers. People who buy Troon beers in larger quantities are known to trade it to eager customers in exchange for beer from another site.

This just goes to show how popular Troon has become, despite being a bare-bones brewery that works strictly local. People who get a chance to tour the brewery from Helms describe him in the same way – a simple, warm guy passionate about his beers.

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