Monday, January 4, 2016

First Day: D.G. Yuengling & Son, America's Oldest Brewery

I am waiting for you, Vizzini! 
You told me to go back to the beginning... so I have.
--Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

As promised, I restarted my freelance career in earnest today, by going back to where things started: the Yuengling brewery, America's oldest, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

You see that sign on the wall? I touched that sign the very first time I ever visited the brewery, way back in the last week of December, 1982. It was closed that day, but I'd be back. I wrote the first story I ever wrote for pay about Yuengling, in a beer store newsletter I wound up producing for seven years, the same beer store newsletter that would get me my first assignment for what was then Malt Advocate, which would lead to my long-time column in Ale Street News, which would lead to Pennsylvania Breweries... 

I wanted to go back to the I have.

I was joined by my old friend Scott Fasnacht, who was with me on a tour of Yuengling in 1985 that was a landmark for me -- my first real backdoor tour of a brewery -- and John Holl, editor of All About Beer, who had never been to Yuengling, and since I'm going to be writing my first All About Beer column about this visit for him, we thought it would be fun if he came along. 

We took the 11:00 tour: the old kegging line, the damp and dark lagering caves, the brewhouse, the machine shop, the canning line, and tasting in the Rathskellar, which didn't look much different from my son's first birthday, when we (his mother and I, and his four grandparents) took him on the tour and got his picture with a man who was there to take the tour for his 81st birthday (if I could find the picture, I'd share it). I got a hand-rolled Black & Tan: Porter and Premium. Still tasty stuff, by God.

Then we went across the street where they've almost finished refurbishing the old Yuengling creamery, where they used to make Yuengling ice cream (one of the many things Frank Yuengling did to get through Prohibition). The place looks great, with a huge gift shop area (the brewery merchandise has always been some of the best) and a nifty tasting room with a beauty of an old tap box and what I was told was the backbar out of what had been the oldest bar in Schuylkill County. Neat stuff, opening soon. 

Then we went over to the expansion brewery, the Mill Creek facility. I was very happy to run into Dave Casinelli, the COO, and the man who has a large part of the credit for making the brewery the success it is today (he'd say the main share goes to Dick Yuengling, and it's hard to argue that!). Dave welcomed me back to beer -- which I have to admit, was a thrill -- and I asked him how things were going. I got an honest answer, which I'll be talking about a bit in that column; you'll just have to wait!

We walked on down to the beautiful new bar and hospitality room, where they showed us this video. I have to say; it was well-done, and moving. It's 27 minutes long; take the time to watch it, there's some great stuff in there. Because the really neat thing about Yuengling is that they don't have to make up anything; they've got a story a marketer would kill for. They don't hide anything, they don't try to make what they are or what they do anything except what it actually is.

And then...I drove home. Once again, a freelancer. Once again, a beer writer. Back at the beginning.

1 comment:

JGoose said...

Thanks for sharing the video.