A nice lady from the gift shop helped me load four cases of Yuengling Premium into the back of my van. I was only a few hundred cases short of feeling like Smokey and the Bandit, but these were Christmas gifts so I was excited anyway. Loading up the beer at the gift shop was the end of an exciting few hours at the oldest brewery in America.
I was in the middle of my Appalachian Fall Tour road trip from Syracuse, New York to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Checking to see what was ahead I found the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. I was all excited because I had been drinking Yuengling since I was [AGE REDACTED] so the chance to tour the brewery appealed to me.
I arrived for the free tour a little bit early so I could explore the massive gift shop across the street. I met a few of the ladies working there, chatted with them about my road trip, and explained that I was a travel writer and photographer. Then came a question I never could have expected.
“Do you want to meet the owner?” Do I want to meet the owner of my favorite beer? Absolutely!! I was pretty sure a kiddish grin had spread across my face. A few minutes later I met Richard Yuengling, Jr.
I spent a few minutes chatting with him and learned the amazing history of the oldest brewery in America. Richard is the fifth generation of his family to own and operate the brewery that first opened its doors in 1829. At that time German immigrant D.G. Yuengling was interested in serving a beer to quench the thirst of local coal miners. 188 years later, through fires, depressions, and the Prohibition, the brewery is still family-owned and operated with Richard working almost daily and his three daughters taking over duties in the brewery.
The tour began in the basement of the brewery across the street. Our tour guide, Lori, explained the beginnings of the brewery and the machinery surrounding us that is no longer in use. One of the most interesting moments happened right at the outset of the tour: we were introduced to the entire line of Yuengling beers. Until this time I had never known Yuengling offered anything other than the lagers seen on grocery store shelves across the country. Premium, Porter, Black & Tan, Chesterfield Ale, and Yuengling Light are all types with distinctive flavors I never even knew existed!
The tour continued with a little walk through history as Lori explained the early days of Yuengling as we walked through a cave. Yes, a cave. The cold, damp interior was a perfect refrigerator for those early kegs that didn’t require electricity. It was so perfect, in fact, that during Prohibition the owners were required to brick up the entrance to guarantee they were no longer brewing. It was a fascinating piece of company and national history in a cold and damp cave that just made the entire experience memorable.
The entire tour lasted about an your. I learned the family history of the brewery, saw all aspects of operation in the facility, and learned about the difference between bottling and canning beer. The day I toured the brewery they were set up for canning. From frigid rooms to electrical rooms, basement to the top floor, the tour covered the entire facility as we learned the process of making beer from hops to gift shop.
The tour ended back at the gift shop with a large taste bar where the tour members were allowed to choose their favorite beer, or sample a new one. I tried the Premium since I had never heard of it before. One sip from this golden beer and I was sold. It was well balanced between hops and malt and went down smooth without any bitter after taste. I had been a Yuengling Lager fan all my life, but now I had found a new favorite.
I spent about an hour browsing through the gift shop. I was mostly looking for Christmas gifts since the holiday was just a couple months away. A few beer glasses featuring the company logo, a couple bottle openers, and a growler for my brother. Of course I loaded up with four cases of the Premium beer; one each for my dad, brother, and sister, and then one for myself to enjoy later. I also picked up a copy of Mark Noon’s Yuengling: A History of America’s Oldest Brewery. I haven’t gotten through the entire book yet but it’s a well-written journey into the history of this family owned business.
From beginning to end my experience at the Yuengling Brewery was exciting, educational, and memorable. I got to meet the owner and he is the most down to Earth guy you could imagine. I took a free guided tour of the entire facility. I found a new favorite beer that still bears the name Yuengling. As I look at my schedule for the year and browse a map looking for destinations to explore I always try to work in a return trip to this exciting attraction and locally owned business.