Franklin D. Roosevelt may have unknowingly made one of the most poignant–albeit simple–historical statements while sitting down to a dry (alcohol-wise) dinner in 1933:
“I think this would be a good time for beer.”
After that FDR drafted the repeal of Prohibition against beer, it was approved by Congress, and after that he received a truckload of Winner Beer, courtesy of the Pottsville, Pennsylvania, brewery Yuengling.
As a tribute to my grandpa, I took a trip with my dad to what could be considered the oldest craft brewery in America, to see what it was all about. Nestled in a sleepy coal-mining town, Yuengling’s rich-red brick building boasts both an official placard noting its historic stature and the only semblance of a crowd of people for miles.
While it’s really a tourist-aimed establishment by now, the original building is visibly steeped in history and the tour is both informative and substantial. Dad and I ventured into the cool, dank caves where fermenting, kegging, and underground transporting originally occurred. We even saw the remnants of where a brick wall–built by the government during Prohibition to block the caves–had been torn down.
Yuengling stayed afloat during prohibition by opening a dairy plant, and by brewing near beer and (just enough of) their porter which was prescribed to pregnant women and the anemic (and conveniently kept a solid yeast strain in existence so they were ready to launch back into real brewing immediately).
Because of this perseverance on their part, Yuengling is officially the oldest brewery in America. Their passion about beer and the viral, underground nature of their popularity classifies them, for me, with the rest of the microbreweries who fight for their right to brew daily and to creatively win over their drinkers nightly.
The former women’s studies minor in me was delighted to learn that the most recent Yuengling son (Dick Yuengling, Jr.) was blessed with four beer-minded offspring to carry on the brewery’s name–all of them daughters. Each of these fine women are already well-versed in different roles at the brewery, ranging from brewing, to marketing, to business. So as this “young man’s” brewery approaches it’s sixth generation, there’s a chance it will be led by a woman’s hand. Cheers to that!
Special Thanks to: Dad, Aunt Cattie, Kathleen, Grandpa, and FDR