Centuries before the craft beer renaissance that we’re experiencing now in the United States, there were German immigrants bringing with them the brewing traditions and techniques that laid the foundation for the beer industry. We’re back to the number of breweries in the U.S. we had before prohibition. In other words, it’s a good time to say “Cheers!”
Not only is the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, PA the oldest brewery in the country, it’s the largest craft brewery with Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) and Sierra Nevada behind it. While the category only amounts for 13% of the market, it’s steadily on the rise.
It only seemed appropriate that I visit the one that started the independent beer movement, which is located about a two-hour drive from the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia. Pottsville is a battleground town with the upcoming U.S. presidential election. It’s a solid working class town that has been home to Yuengling since it’s founding by German immigrant David Yuengling in 1829. It’s now on its fifth generation of staying in the Yuengling family, with Dick Yuengling still overseeing the company.
The free brewery tour runs from the gift shop every half-hour from 9-1:30pm, so plan accordingly. The pro tip is to go during the work week to catch the canning in action and the smell of wort, hops and excess beer.
I’ve been on my share of brewery tours so much that I can give them myself. The guide usually starts with the same questions, “Where did everyone come from?”, “Do we have any home brewers?” and “What are the four ingredients that make beer?” You look at big tanks, a complicated series of tubes and wait until the end to drink some beer.
With the Yuengling tour, you start by visiting the caves that housed the barrels back in the 1800s and stored the beer during prohibition. It’s not the first time I went through caves that housed a brewery. In Nuremberg, Germany, there’s a brewery in a cave where I got a slight concussion from hitting my head.
Here, you have plenty of headspace.
The original brew space is still used today just for Yuengling lager cans. Obviously, it’s not the main operation, but kept in operation out of tradition. The much larger main facility is across town where they brew their 11 varieties. There’s another production facility in Florida.
While the rest of the craft beer industry is constantly coming up with new styles and experimental brews, Yuengling keeps it traditional by staying with those 11 standard: Lager, Light Lager, Black & Tan, Oktoberfest, Summer Wheat, IPL, Lord Chesterfield Ale, Porter, Bock, Premium Pilsner and Light Premium.
On the tour, you see some of the original equipment, the tool shop, ol’ timey photographs and the canning line where see cans wiz by at high speeds.
After the hour tour, you might think what I thought, “Hey, I could use a beer!” You get two samples only, but you can buy a full pint for $3. Even better, you can eat their beer ice cream. That’s two of my favorite things right there.
What I learned is that Yuengling is a regional beer and only distributed to 16 states and not outside of America. Thus, all foreign visitors to the east coast should try it while visiting. For out of state folks, the Premium beer is only distributed in Pennsylvania, so grab a case of that in the gift shop.
Speaking of gift shops, if you are in the mood for something above beer flavored food stuff, branded merch and all shorts of Yuengling goodness, try these $100 golf pants. I asked if anyone has actually bought them, the lady said, “All the time. We’ve gotten pictures of people wearing them at their wedding.” I’m going to end this post here.