Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Best Part of the Yuengling Brewery Tour Isn't Just the Beer

“The entrance was built for a horse and buggy, not a truck. I don’t want to be the first person to knock a brick out of the arch.” Chad cleared the bricks with only inches to spare. Most days, he backs his truck into the Yuengling brewery twice. He and his little Jack Russell dog named Bert collect the hops, corn, and barley discarded by the beer maker. The wet mixture falls from a shoot in the brewery above into his 15 ton dump truck. His tailgate drips making puddles on the worn floor and the air smells like beer. He delivers this brewer’s grain as feed for regional livestock. Chad is not part of the Yuengling Brewery tour. We just happened to encounter him on our trek up one of Pottsville’s seven hills to the Gift Shop entrance where our tour would begin.

Our tour guide Vicky told us we could
photograph anything in the
brewery except her. She warned us to respect her wish since she’d be our bartender later when it came time to sample the Yuengling products. Ed snapped 154 pictures, none of Vicky.

The Yuengling Brewery is America’s oldest brewery, family owned and operated since 1829. Both the National and State Historical Registers declared this distinct recognition during the country’s Bicentennial in 1976. A plaque on the brewery building acclaims this honor.

As our group moved through the brewery, Vicky explained the brewing process. More interesting than all the vats, kegs, cans, and other manufacturing equipment was how Yuengling responded to Prohibition with innovation. A vacant building across from the brewery stands as testament. The beer maker turned to ice cream production.

Yuengling also produced “near beers” malt-based beverages with less than .05% alcohol to survive that period. With the repeal of
Prohibition in 1933, Yuengling produced Winner Beer. Vicky told our group that Yuengling reacted to the end of Prohibition by shipping a truckload of Winner Beer to President Roosevelt at the White House.

A wall mural in the brewery celebrates the end of Prohibition. It features a smiling gray-haired man holding a bottle of Winner Beer in his hand. His other hand holds a mug with a frothy head raised for a celebratory quaff. By contrast, another mural depicts six scowling ladies. Their obviously didn’t like their job as bottle washers.

“I have the best job in the world,” declared the man watching the factory line. He watches the open cans of Yuengling rotate on a
conveyor, get filled with beer and then be sealed with the pop top lid. He posed for a photo then waved us along on our tour.

After that stop, I was beginning to get thirsty but we had one more stop on the tour before sampling Yuengling beers.

Vicky took us to the cave, a dimly lit underground cave where in the days prior to refrigeration the beer stayed cold. Unlike the cave our daughter took us to in Missouri (Connor’s Cave), the Yuengling cave had no bats and we could walk erect. I could feel the dampness and cold through my light sweater. Numerous passages went off from the main tunnel. Ed and I dallied for a few photos then caught up to the group in the Yuengling Bar where Vicky poured me drafts of Black & Tan and the Traditional Lager.

May 21, 2008

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