Just got a press release from Yuengling about the purchase of the Hardy Bottling Facility in Memphis. They are in negotiations for the purchase, and have signed a letter of intent. Here's the first paragraph:
Dick Yuengling, Jr., president and owner of D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., today announced the company has signed a letter of intent and is in serious discussions for the purchase of the Hardy Bottling Facility in Memphis, Tennessee, which will allow them to distribute Yuengling lager, their flagship brand and Yuengling's much sought after portfolio of brands in select new markets in the United States.
The "Hardy Bottling Facility" is the former Coors brewery in Memphis, where they made Zima at one time. Carolyn Hardy, the former plant manager, led an employee buyout of the facility in 2006. Apparently, things have not gone quite as well as they might have hoped. Unfortunate for the company, but if Yuengling does make the purchase, they have a track record of saving jobs. I don't know if the workers at Hardy are unionized or not; Yuengling took on the union workers in Tampa, and they later voted to de-certify. The release did say that no plants will be closing, and no jobs will be lost: great news.
So why did Yuengling decide to buy yet another facility, not long after expanding the newer Pottsville brewery? I thought they had capacity to spare. Apparently not:
Our three existing plants, two in Pennsylvania and one in Tampa, FL are limited in their production capabilities. In addition, the cost of freight and logistics challenges our ability to market our products at the competitive prices to our loyal consumers.Good news for the people who've been hankering for Yuengling. The release made no promises on timing: "We can not put a specific timeline on this yet, only to say our company is working very hard to manage our growth in our usual slow and methodical manner."
Okay. What's this mean? Well, first, it means New England should finally see Yuengling, along with other parts of the country that are jonesing for an American-made, American-owned light lager beer, a beer with a real history behind it, from America's oldest brewery. Sounds hokey, but I think it's real; it's certainly worked for them in Pennsylvania.
Maybe more importantly, it puts Yuengling on the national radar. Up till now, the big boys could call it a regional brewery. Now they're going national, in their "slow and methodical manner." Will they continue to do things "the Yuengling way," feet on the street, not a lot of reliance on marketing and laptops, leaning on the beer and the story? I believe that's the way to bet.
The joker in the deck is Dick Yuengling. He's getting older, his daughters are in the business, things are good...is it time to retire? My guess is no. I think Dick wants to take his shot at a national market, and judging from how he sounded when I interviewed him last November, I think he's ready for it. I really wonder what will happen when the torch passes, and the daughters are, inevitably, offered a buyout deal from a much, much bigger brewer. Impossible to predict the result. We'll just have to wait and see.
More here from the Wall Street Journal.