There have been a lot of breweries in America that have come and go, but in spite of the demise of those countless breweries, Yuengling Brewery, which is America’s oldest brewery, still continues to produce the popular beers we have today. Its success is because of the amazing combination of pride and determination, as well as tradition and innovation that were proven throughout its exciting history.
The D.G. Yuengling and Son Brewery is located in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. It proudly boasts a supreme record of continuous operation since 1829. It is the longest constant history of management by a single family in the country. Let’s take a look at Yuengling’s interesting history.
Yuengling Beer’s History
David G. Yuengling, a German brewer from Aldingen, a suburb of Stuttgart, in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, moved to the United States in 1828. He settled in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and in 1829, started a brewery there.
The Yuengling Brewery was originally named The Eagle Brewery, because it was identified with the qualities of strength and pride, symbolic of the American eagle. It was previously located on North Centre Street where the current Pottsville’s City Hall stands. However, that location was completely destroyed by fire after only a couple years of operation. The new brewery was then constructed on Mahantongo Street and it still operates today.
David Jr., who is David Yuengling’s eldest son, went to Virginia to establish another brewery on the James River in Richmond. He named it James River Steam Brewery. David Yuengling’s second son, Frederick, was the one who joined him as a partner in the original operation in 1873. That was the time when the brewery name was changed to D.G. Yuengling and Son.
In the early days of the brewery, malt from Philadelphia was transported to Pottsville by way of the Schuylkill Canal which is more than a hundred miles. Then, the final brew was then delivered by horse-drawn wagons throughout the region.
In 1899, Frederick Yuengling died, that’s why Frank, his only son, took control of the brewery. Frank managed the business until 1963 which was an amazing sixty0four years. In the late 1800’s, there were two additional breweries that were opened in New York, in Saratoga and New York City. Then a fifth brewery was opened in Trail, British Columbia. Over the years, all of these breweries were merged into the original Pottsville operation because of its continuous growth.
The Prohibition Era
In 1919, there was the Prohibition of alcohol that was legislated by Congress. This is considered as the greatest shakedowns in the American brewing history because this era forced many breweries out of business. But Yuengling on the other hand, had an innovative response to the Prohibition.
Frank believed that the Prohibition would not last long and brewing beer would become legal again eventually. The challenge during this time was how to stay in business until brewing beer becomes legal again. The solution they did was to produce three different near-beers.
The first near-beer they’ve produced was the “Yuengling Special” which was also the most popular. After that, the brewery introduced the “Yuengling Por-Tor” which is a take-off of their famous “Celebrated Pottsville Porter.” And the third one was an experiment with a unique brew and it was called “Yuengling Juvo”. They also attempted to increase their market share to include a broader range of clients with the unique beverages they designed to replenish people’s energy.
In the same era, the Yuengling Dairy was built across the street from the brewery. It produced ice cream and other dairy products. However, the business eventually declined until it closed in 1985.
The nation’s breweries won the fight against Prohibition in 1933. It was the time when Yuengling introduced its symbolic Winner Beer, to celebrate the Prohibition’s repeal. It also shipped a truck full of its popular beers to the White House to show appreciation to President Roosevelt.
When the brewing of beer was legalized again, Yuengling and Son got on an aggressive modernization program. This included new building for fermentation and storage, new boiler and brew houses, as well as new loading facilities.
Yuengling Beer in the Modern Times
In 1963, Frank Yuengling died and the management of the brewery was transferred to his sons, Richard and F. Dohrman Yuengling. During the 50’s and 60’s, the business was slow and a decline in the local market threatened to break the business’ long record of continuous production. But according to Richard, because of the determination and hard work of their uncle and father, the company survived.
In 1976, during the American Bicentennial, Yuengling and Son Brewery earned a national media recognition. The brewery was places on both the national and state historic registers during this period. It was also recognized as America’s oldest brewery.
Richard Yuengling, Sr. served as the brewery’s president until 1985. He continued the modernization by replacing old equipment in the brew-house. When he got sick, his son. Richard Yuengling, Jr. or Dick Yuengling, managed the brewery. He reinvested most of the company’s earnings in updated equipment.
He also persuaded brew master Ray Norbert to develop additional beers for the brewery to maintain its competitiveness. After five years, the brewery added Premium Light Beer, Traditional Lager, and Yuengling’s Original Black and Tan, which is a unique blend of its Premium Beer and Dark Brewed Porter.
Under Dick Yuengling’s control, the brewery was able to become a unique entity from a small regional brand. Dick noticed that all the changes they made over the years are starting to pay off. The brewery continued to grow and the production increased in the past few years. In 1989, they were able to produce 127,000 barrels and it grew to 360,000 barrels in 1996. According to Dick, there were three key elements for the brewery’s success, and they are, his aggressive commitment, outstanding distribution network, and the quality of their products.
Longevity is common at Yuengling because its brew master Ray Norbert, as well as his assistant, James Buehler, have served 80 years of service in the brewery.
In the 1990’s, demand throughout Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania outshined the existing brewery’s abilities. They increased their manufacturing capacity in 1999 by purchasing a Stroh Brewery Company plant in Florida. They also hired the former Stroh employees. The company built a third brewery in Pennsylvania in 2000. It was in Port Carbon in Schuylkill County near Pottsville.
On October 27, 2008, Yuengling began distribution in the state of Georgia. It continued to expand its distribution over the years. In May 2009 into West Virginia, in October 2011 into Ohio, in June 2014 into Rhode Island, in September 2014 into Connecticut, in August 2016 into Louisiana, and in March 2017 into Indiana. Yuengling’s ice cream also returned to the market in February 2014 after a near 30-year absence.
In the present time, Dick Yuengling positioned the brewery to survive the marketplace today and he is also preparing it for the next generation. The success of Yuengling Brewery throughout its 167-year history is because of the Yuengling family’s determination and innovation. According to Dick Yuengling, the Yuengling Brewery is a survivor.