Friday, July 01, 2011

“Beer Across The Border”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Visits to Erie, Pennsylvania come regularly in the Ice household. Typically, I use these occasions to find collectable junk, look around at local food retailers for fresh business ideas, and pause to stock up on brew unavailable here in Geauga County.

But most recently, I came away with something more – a tidbit of genuine news.

While visiting ‘Beer 4 Less’ on Peach Street, I spoke with ‘Tom’ (not his real name) a manager who has become a familiar figure during these eastbound excursions.

“Yuengling is coming your way,” he assured me, faithfully.

My reply was diplomatic. “Yes, I’ve heard that for years.”

Tom smiled sharply. “No. This time I mean it. Dick Yuengling signed an agreement with the Budweiser distributor out there. You’ll be seeing it very soon.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

He nodded with certainty. “The only bad thing is that fewer of you guys will be driving here to get that stuff. I get a lot of customers from Cleveland.”

I made my purchase, and headed west on I-90. But his words continued to echo. Later that night, I began a column on the subject:

“During the past couple of decades, people in northeastern Ohio have grown accustomed to seeing familiar institutions replaced by those from Pennsylvania. Giant Eagle purchased Rini-Rego Stop ‘n’ Shop, our region’s premiere supermarket chain, in 1997. More recently, PNC Bank absorbed National City under a plan developed by the federal government. And many sports fans abandoned the struggling Cleveland Browns in favor of Pittsburgh’s celebrated Steelers, after years without a winning season. Happily, one impending arrival from the Keystone State is sure to be welcomed with universal applause – Yuengling beer. Cleveland used to be a brewing powerhouse. At one time, brands like Black Label, P.O.C. and Leisy’s offered blue-collar drinkers a variety of local refreshment choices. But the market dominance of Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing overwhelmed that proud tradition. The products of Great Lakes Brewing demonstrated convincingly that there was still a desire for quality brew on the northcoast. But those searching for an affordable, everyday brew were forced to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Yuengling’s arrival in Ohio seems sure to change that situation.”

The next day, a news report appeared in the WTAM-1100 newscast that repeated Erie Tom’s assertion. Yuengling was coming. Soon.

I decided to refresh my memory on the history of this venerable brewery. An article on Wikipedia detailed the company’s beginning:

“The German brewer David Gottlob Jüngling immigrated to the United States in 1823 from Aldingen, a suburb of Stuttgart, in the Kingdom of Württemberg. He anglicized his surname from Jüngling to Yuengling and began the ‘Eagle Brewery’ on Center Street in Pottsville in 1829. His eldest son, David, Jr., left the Eagle Brewery to establish the James River Steam Brewery along the James River in Richmond, Virginia. The first brewery burned down in an 1831 fire and the company relocated to W. Mahantongo Street at 5th Street, its current location. The Eagle Brewery changed its name to ‘D. G. Yuengling and Son’ in 1873 after Frederick Yuengling joined his father David in running the company. Although the company's name changed, the bald eagle remained the company's emblem…During the Prohibition era, Yuengling survived by producing ‘near beers’ (beverages with a 0.5% alcohol content) called Yuengling Special, Yuengling Por-Tor, and Yuengling Juvo. The company also ran a dairy which produced ice cream and opened dance halls in Philadelphia and New York City. After the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, Yuengling sent a truckload of ‘Winner Beer’ to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in appreciation, which arrived the day the amendment was repealed — particularly notable since Yuengling beer takes almost three weeks to brew and age.”

Reading from company text, I pondered taking a tour of the original brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The descriptive language of their ad made me eager to visit:

“Come tour the site of America's Oldest Brewery. Discover the hand-dug fermentation caves that were used for storage before refrigeration. Wander through time and enjoy a taste of living history in a building that has produced fine beers through times of peace, prosperity, upheaval and world war. Tours are open to the public at no charge.”

It would be a much longer drive than going to Erie. But one worth taking, in the near future!

D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.
5th & Mahantongo Streets
Pottsville, PA 17901
(570) 622-4141

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