I briefly mentioned some news about Yuengling Porter last week. (That's a glass of the stuff on the bar at the pretty damned nice Maroons, a classy sports bar in Pottsville that's going to be a regular post-tour stop for me.) It's not much, and it's not about cans (sorry, jaysus), and it's not a change, but it was significant news for me.
Here's the thing. There's a brewing 'supply' called porterine. It's like Weyermann's Sinamar: a dark cereal extract that is used to change the color of beer. I've been told (always mistrust those words; I do) that many Bavarian "dunkel" beers are simply a brewer's helles + Sinamar. Similarly, "I've been told" that Yuengling uses porterine to change the color of Traditional Lager, and that Yuengling Porter is mostly dark thanks to the use of porterine. Both of the sources of the "I've been told" are brewing industry insiders; this doesn't mean I trust them 100%, but it does add some credence.
So...when I went to Pottsville three weeks ago to interview Dick Yuengling and Dave Casinelli, and to finally tour the big 'new' brewery, I had my eyes open for evidence of porterine. I didn't see any, but that's not proof positive it ain't there, even though John Callahan -- lead brewer for the facility -- gave me a thorough tour, let me take pix of anything I wanted, and answered any question I asked (and no, I didn't think to simply ask him about the porterine...color me dopey).
What I did see, and what this whole thing is about, was "supersacks" of the dark, roasted malts that go into Yuengling Porter: caramel and black patent. It's real. Callahan said the porter is still made with the original recipe. Buy that or not, but Callahan's not any kind of marketeer: he's the real deal, pure brewer, and I first met him at a MBAA meeting at The Lion last year. If he says it, he believes it to be true.
Callahan also said, with a lot of feeling, "Thank God for Lager." Traditional Lager is about 90% of the company's output, and if it hadn't been for Lager's success, Callahan (who's been with the company for 28 years) seemed pretty sure the company would have gone under.
Instead, the company is closing in on 2,000,000 barrels in annual sales, a wholly attainable goal for 2009, according to Casinelli, who began to laugh as we both recalled something industry analyst Robert Weinberg said back when Yuengling bought the Tampa brewery in 1999, to the effect that Yuengling was doing well, but the brewery selling 2,000,000 barrels in a year was about as likely as Weinberg getting a date with Sharon Stone. "We should buy them dinner," Casinelli said with a big shark's grin, and I think it would be a fantastic publicity coup.
Anyway, that's the news from Pottsville. Sorry if I oversold it. It was a fantastic interview; you'll get more of it in Pennsylvania Breweries 4.