A Pleasant Surprise

By Glenn DeLuca

For BeerNexus.com

The CBA or Craft Brewers Association is in a real quandary. One of their missions is
to have the craft brewers’ percentage of beer by volume increase. And with the
explosion of breweries and quality beers it has to >11%. But as the macro brewers
buy up craft brewers they are no longer considered craft brewers, so their volume no
longer counts…hum, so being successful can also has a negative aspect.

Back in 2010 they raised the production limit for small brewers from 2 to 6 million,
allowing Boston Beer to remain the #1 craft brewer. In early 2015 they tweaked their
rules again, deciding to soften their stance against using rice and corn as adjuncts,
watering down the traditional pillar of their craft beer definition. That welcomed some
of the country’s oldest breweries into the fold; D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville PA
(1829), Straub Brewing of St. Marys PA (1872), August Schell Brewing of New Ulm
MN (1860) and Minhas Craft Brewery of Monroe WI (1845 as Blumer Brewing). That
change brings two new breweries into their top ten list with Yuengling the new #1;
that’s one way to increase your percentage…

I don’t remember when I had my first Yuengling, probably in the 80’s. Before being
much more readily available I was lucky to have it once in awhile when visiting family
in PA.

Yuengling, America’s Oldest Brewery, has been through and weathered many
different storms; made near beer and ice cream to survive Prohibition, grain rationing
during WWII (which helped to shape the lighter style lager we still have today from
the macros), the rise and domination of the macro breweries and now the rise of the
craft breweries.  Basically it was an eastern PA family brewer that struggled through
the 60’s and 70’s and the family was concerned about its survival. Richard “Dick”
Yuengling Jr. had other ideas so he bought it from his father, Richard Yuengling Sr.
in 1985 to become the fifth generation owner. At that point they were only producing
137,000 bbl of beer, but Dick went to work; strengthening the distribution network,
modernizing the brewing and bottling equipment and digging out an old recipe for
Yuengling Traditional Amber Lager to take advantage of a spike in heavier style
beers. And it worked! By 1990 they had outgrown their .5M bbl brewery capacity and
decided to build a new one in Pottsville. Interestingly enough at the same time the
originally Schlitz now Stroh 1.6M bbl brewery in Tampa was for sale, so they decided
to buy it! Dick said their goal was to be better able to serve their current customers
as opposed to expansion, which makes sense when you decide to build a new one
next to your current one. After their new one opened, the FL brewery allowed them to
expand along the East Coast where they’re now in 17 states and DC. My friend and I
did tour the Tampa brewery a few years ago and enjoyed it.

Dick Yuengling has been at it for many years now, but loves what he does and his
typical day is 10-12 hours. I don’t think he’s unlike many of today’s young brewers
who love their craft. Listening to some of his quotes give you an idea of where he’s
coming from; “beer is beer, its corn and barley and water and yeast and hops- lots of
hops”, “we’re kind of a nuts and bolts company”, “we make kind of standard American
beers, but we just happen to make them with a little more taste and character than
other people.” And on current trends; “I think people are drinking less but they are
drinking better” and “we’ve made ale and porter here, which are craft brews, since
the inception of the brewery, it was just that people never discovered them.”  

Although they’ve added to their lineup of beers recently (Bock in 2009, Octoberfest
in 2011 and Summer Wheat in 2014) they’ve stuck to their standards as opposed to
some craft brewers who want/need to be experimenting/coming up with the latest
funky beer. And he’s very similar to Jim Koch, in the sense he’s not big on hops.
Their Lord Chesterfield Ale is their hoppiest beer. And if you remember Sam Adams
wasn’t big on IPAs/ hoppy beers for quite a while until Jim Koch realized he needed to
be in that portion of the market and now does a great job with them (witness the IPA
Hopology 12 pack I just picked up).

Yuengling is doing well today. Running their breweries at near capacity and keeping
their geographic footprint close to production, along with a reasonably priced
consistent product are working well in tandem. In the range of 4M bbl, Yuengling is
the #4 American brewer behind A-B, MillerCoors and Pabst and just ahead of Boston

Dick Yuengling is getting on in age but not ready to call it quits. He has four
daughters who are all now involved in the business and certainly appear to want to
keep it a family business. We’ll have to see if the tradition of the succeeding
generation buying it from their father at full market price continues.  I saw a video clip
of a meeting the five were having.  Seems like it’s the typical conflict of ideas; he
seems to be more focused on staying the course (which he’s done a hell of a job
with) while his daughters are pushing to change some things up. They understand
who runs the company so they only push so far. History does repeat itself and Dick
himself must realize it as he was in conflict with his father, so much so he left the
company to run his own distributing business before returning to buy it. But I’m
wondering if the daughters may be having a little influence; especially when I heard
about the new Yuengling IPL, their first entry in the IP category, supposed to be

To digress momentarily; I meet the guys for Friday Happy Hour. We used to always
go to our local NJ brewery, but they decided to raise prices, so we thought we might
work in a little variety, checked out some other places and found a few that had both
reasonable selection and prices. A couple of them have since closed but as it turns
out the best place turned out to be Hooters in Wayne (NJ).  I know what you’re
thinking, why would we go to Hooters to drink beer.  Well first they have 24 taps, so
after you exclude the standard choices of Coors Light, Angry Orchard, Heineken,
Stella, Yuengling, Blue Moon, etc. you’re got about a dozen good taps with the likes
of Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Great Lakes, Coronado, Speakeasy, Coney Island,
Shiner, etc. They rotate the seasonals more quickly than some of the others but the
selection is always good. Happy hour used to be half price on all, but they changed
that slightly for craft beers, not the standards, but they do take off a $1 for the NJCB
card. So selection, price, tables and chairs, TV’s, AC in summer, heat in the winter,
need I say more…best not.

Well awhile back I walked in to find my comrades with pints of Yuengling IPL! One of
them had checked out beermenus.com and saw it was there.  He then looked further
only to find it was one of two places in the state where it was available on tap…yup,
that would be Hooters. Hard to believe but they consistently carry Yuengling and
Yuengling Light on tap so probably got an opportunity many other bars wouldn’t get. I
must say I enjoyed it thoroughly, a nice hoppy lager, which I was able to enjoy for a
few weeks until it ran out. Unfortunately that’s what seasonal is all about.

It’s good to see (and taste) the next seasonal from Yuengling. I can’t help but have
the feeling it could be  the daughters’ influence as they begin to get more involved,
but no matter I’m looking forward to whatever they come up with next and of course
the 2016 version of IPL. Some might not view Yuengling as a craft brewer so not
paying much if any attention to what they offer.  But they must be doing something
right as their business has increased even w/o joining the IPA trend.  They make a
quality lager, which is definitely one I have no hesitation asking for, more so in the
summer when I’m looking for a lighter style.

So I for one am glad to welcome Yuengling as an “officially” recognized craft brewer. I
encourage their forays into the hoppier world of brewing and look forward to
supporting them more than I have in the past.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer.
beernexus.com presents
Big G's Beer Beat
by Glenn DeLuca
BeerNexus is proud to
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Big G" DeLuca
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