The Ghost of Yuenglings Past

Is there any better thirst quencher on a sultry
summer day than a tall hefeweizen, served in
the proper glass, or even a “lawnmower” beer
in a frosted stein? When the rest of the
family has nestled all snug in their beds after
the celebration of Christmas Eve, is any drink
more appropriate than the latest offering of
Anchor’s “Our Special Ale”, while
contemplating the Christmas trees and
thinking about  the checkbook balance?
Raking leaves and taking a break for a glass
of Octoberfest, or resting after shoveling
snow with a snifter of strong barleywine ale
are other positive aspects of drinking our
favorite libation. Pairing different foods with
the right brew, standing around a keg of plain
old American style  “beer” at a picnic, sipping
out of a can on a bus ride , or quaffing an
over-priced, watery “cup” during the seventh
inning stretch all serve to further enhance the
positive image of beer as a beverage of
moderation for regular people. While
irresponsible drinkers are always able to
showcase the negative aspects of the product
of the brewer’s art, I prefer to not dwell on
them here. Instead I offer an as yet unheard
of positive side : beer as a means of
contacting the departed!

My grandfather, Charles H. Eisenhart, referred
to by everyone, including his grandchildren as
“Henry” was a beer drinker, though certainly
not a connoisseur. As a devoted fan of
American lager who never graduated to bigger
and better things, he probably would have
preferred Coca Cola to an IPA. Nonetheless ,
he was not averse to trying new flavors of
pilsener or lager and he knew a good deal
about them. He had a great attention to
detail, and where most of us would remember
a favorite ‘beer” event from years past, he
was able to not only remember the event, but
also what kind of beer he’d had. From the
time I was a little boy in Newark, I remember
him being a devotee of Schaefer, and even
after he moved back to his birthplace, York,
Pennsylvania, when I was twelve, Schaefer in
12oz. returnables was a constant. As I grew
old enough to sit around the kitchen table in
the wee hours and actually drink some, I
learned quite a bit about my grandfather’s
“beer history”. He told stories of rot-gut home
brew during prohibition. He made this vile
stuff in a crock, covered with a piece of
cheesecloth to keep out the flies, and
situated behind a gravestone in the cemetery.
From him I learned that although Helb’s was
York’s largest brewer, the first beer to hit the
market in York after repeal was Hornung’s of
Philadelphia. He would discuss the anomaly of
drinking  “Ballantine” at “Ruppert” Stadium at
the Newark Bears’ games and informed me
that Trommer’s White Label was served on
tap at Grant’s Lunch in downtown Newark.

When Schaefer closed up in Brooklyn and
opened their modern facility in the Lehigh
Valley, only an hour and a half from York, he
no longer bought it because “it didn’t taste as
good”. For a while Stroh’s Fire Brewed
Bohemian Style was his choice, and when  a
nondescript beer from Koehler’s Brewery in
Erie began to market a brew called “Olde Pub”
( and which Henry INSISTED upon calling
“oldie” pub) in York for $3.99 for a case of 16
oz.returnables, many a case of Olde Pub was
schlepped home.

Then one day in the mid seventies, he and I
discovered Yuengling’s. I’d heard of it
because of my father’s opener collection, but
since it wasn’t marketed too far outside of
the coal regions, I never tried any. It became
“our beer”. Every visit I made to Pennsylvania
found my car loaded with Yuengling Premium
in  pint deposits for the ride home. As avidly
as military fighter pilots made “Coors Runs”
before Coor’s was available on the East
Coast, so I made many a “Yuengling Run” and
in fact still do, since I prefer the returnable
bottles to the throwaways that are sold here
in New Jersey. Alas, the pint returnables are a
thing of the past. They were easier on the
pocketbook, even if they were substantially
harder on the back.

My grandfather drank Yuengling’s exclusively
until his sudden passing on Flag Day of 1991.
The family gathered “back at the house” after
his funeral on the hottest June 17th in the
history of man. South Central Pennsylvania
can be the equivalent of the Mississippi Delta
when it comes to heat and humidity. There
wasn’t a breath of air stirring and the
thermometer stood at 93 degrees. My
brothers and I  got some cold ones from
downstairs, repaired to the front porch, and
told “Henry” stories and reflected how much
we were going to miss him. Over the next
hour or so his name must have been
mentioned a hundred times. I happened to
remark that a few days before he died, he had
procured the very Yuengling we were drinking,
and that I felt  funny drinking his beer
without him being there to enjoy it with us. It
was only then, on that sticky, dripping, muggy
day, completely devoid of a breeze, that my  
grandmother’s wind chimes rang for a full ten
seconds, playing what almost sounded like
the Yuengling jingle. There was no breeze,
and none of us were near them.

It had to be the Ghost of Yuenglings Past,
letting us know he was still around!

Cheers!

Dan
Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
Someone
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Dan!
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