So we hoofed it up to Pottsville, this community that time seems to have left behind, for a tour of Yuengling Brewery (note: you have to be 21 to access their site. I don’t make the rules, I just pass them on).
The brewery was founded in 1829 by David Gotleib Yuengling, making it America’s Oldest Brewery! The brewery used to be in town but the family moved to the current location in order to use the Mountainous caves for aging and fermenting. Pretty ingenious if you think about it.
Yuengling is in its fifth generation of family ownership. Interesting fact: each time the brewery passes from one generation to the next, it is not “given” away. It’s sold at fair market value. The original owner believed if the business was just handed to the generation, it wouldn’t be valued. As an alternative, he created the purchase idea and the rest of the family has upheld the concept.
If you have been on one brew tour, you have been on pretty much every brew tour. They all follow a similar format: tour guide greets everyone and gives you a brief history of the brewery. Said tour guide then takes everyone through the production area and you see hops, barley, malt, cooking and canning. Tour guide then brings everyone to back to the beginning for a taste or two.
If you are visiting a smaller, craft brewery it’s possible your guide is also a brew master. If that’s the case, you are in luck. These guys know their stuff and will get into the weeds, often talking at length about how they make the beer. If you like beer, these are tours you want to be on.
Yuengling is not a craft beer and the tour guides, while sweet, are just not knowledgeable about the beer making process. It’s all about America’s Oldest Brewery! In a way, it’s like the company tagline is being horribly overused by the marketing team. Every five minutes, “what are we? America’s Oldest Brewery!” It just seemed like a bit much, a bit too desperate of an attempt to engage with guests. But maybe that’s just me.
But, the benefit to being at America’s Oldest Brewery is that you get to see a few cools things. The tour includes a peek at underground caves where the beer was fermented and chilled before refrigeration. The Yuengling’s also left up three brick walls the government erected during prohibition to prevent the facility from making beer. The walls were enormous, and in retrospect seem like a huge was of resources (time and taxpayer dollars).
There is also a stained glass ceiling, instilled at the request of employees, to prevent reflection but still allow for natural light in the brewery.
Tours are free, you just need to show up in Pottsville. If you are early, you can walk through the gift shop (how totally American). Consider yourself warned: the gift shop is next to restrooms that have a really strong, foul smell. I was really surprised by the number of people who brought small children on the tour. While the brewery didn’t seem to mind, and even serves root beer to the under 21 set. However, I strongly advise against this. The tour is an hour, a lifetime for a bored children. And, the brewery is not childproof. There are hot cooper pots, canning equipment and many, many other objects that look interesting to little ones but could cause a lot of harm.
Yuengling is an operational brewery so no open-toe shoes are allowed on the tour. They take this seriously.