America’s Oldest Brewery
Hi there! Since this is my first post on this fantastic site, I’m going to introduce myself as briefly as I can before I get into the good stuff. First, the Cliffs Notes of my background that may be relevant here: I own a company that organizes and leads tours to mostly European destinations (giving me lots of beer testing time), I am currently a Travel Agent for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agency, I am an all around Disney fanatic, and I home-brew my own beer. I also apparently have just enough spare time to blog about beer.
What I plan on doing here is delving a bit into the backgrounds of the beer and how it relates to Disney and specifically Walt Disney World. What I mean by that is that I’m going to try to give you a better understanding of what built a given brewery, what goes into the making of a specific beer, and how it came to be served in a Disney park (with a healthy dose of my opinions, naturally). My posts will also generally be longer than most because there is so much history (and because I never shut up). Although since I am almost constantly doing research for this site (aka drinking), I’m sure I’ll be putting up a few short tasting posts as well (also…I love parentheses).
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s hear about beer (ha, see what I did there…it rhymes…oh, never mind). Since I am a proud Pennsylvanian I have decided to write my inaugural post about a beer I was raised on, Yuengling Lager.
The story of DG Yuengling & Sons brewery starts in the same place as most major American breweries…Germany. David G Yuengling was a German immigrant who moved from Wurttemburg (near Stuttgart) to Pottsville, Pennsylvania in the1820s. Since work was hard to come by, he did what he knew how to do, so in 1829 he opened the Eagle Brewery in Pottsville, where it still stands. The name was later changed to reflect the family name, but the eagle is still used in Yuengling’s logo.
As brewery histories go, Yuengling’s is not nearly as tumultuous as most in its age range. By far the hardest period for them (and all) was prohibition. Yuengling survived by producing “near beer” as well as opening a dairy next to the brewery. I believe they also spent much of prohibition fighting for their right…to party.
Also odd among brewery stories is the lack of turnover at the top. Yuengling is on their fifth generation of owner with the family surname. The current owner, Dick Yuengling is the man responsible for resuming production on the family’s old recipe for Traditional Lager in 1987. It is now their flagship brand and, due to its large sales, a second plant in Pottsville was opened in 1998. One year later the former Stroh’s plant in Tampa, Florida was purchased (which is why Yuengling is available in Walt Disney World).
DG Yuengling & Sons is officially recognized as “America’s Oldest Operating Brewery.”
Yuengling Traditional Lager is a rich amber color, which is odd for an American Lager. Most, such as Budweiser and Coors, are brewed using corn grits. This keeps the color (and the flavor) light and unmemorable. Yuengling Lager is brewed with a combination of corn grits and caramel malt. This keeps the beer reasonably light, but the flavor still remains complex because of the inclusion of the malt.
For a richer body, Yuengling Lager uses a hop variety called cluster hops which produce a more controlled bitterness. For a bit of a punch, they also add cascade hops very early in the brew cycle, although I honestly can’t taste them at all.
Oh, and just in case you find yourself in Pennsylvania, especially the eastern half of the state, don’t embarrass yourself by ordering a “Yuengling.” Here, it’s just Lager. Yes that’s right, if you go into any bar from Philadelphia to Scranton and order a lager, this is what you get.
Have I mentioned that Yuengling Lager is President Obama’s favorite beer? It is, so if you don’t like it…well that’s just un American.
I am exceptionally biased because I have been drinking Yuengling as long as I have been drinking, which is since I was [age mysteriously absent]. In my opinion, it is a great American lager with a light refreshing finish but a relatively complex body. My only complaint is that the carbonation can be uneven at times, particularly on draft; sometimes I find it downright bubbly. Granted, it’s not a beer that’s going to impress your friends, but if it’s a hot summer day and you want a beer that goes down nicely and with some beer taste, Yuengling Lager is a great choice.
Overall Lager is one of my favorites and a go-to whenever I’m faced with a row of bar taps that reads Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite. In fact it’s such a good beer that it allows you to see thestrals (anyone getting that reference…okay, moving on).
So 1,000 words is probably plenty (I warned you) so I’ll stop here. I welcome any and all comments, suggestions, ribbings, joshings, taunts, jeering, mocking, and name calling. Also, please let me know if there’s anything else for the future that you would like to see me write about. You can comment below or stalk me on Twitter @brian_mcnichols
Thanks for reading!
P.S. As I was writing this, my Yuengling glass (pictured) broke…and that makes me a sad panda. Looks like another brewery visit is in order…