Congratulations to D.G. Yuengling & Son, who just officially became America’s largest brewer, moving ahead of Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), according to Beer Marketer, as the largest U.S.-owned brewer that makes all its beer in the states. That sounds highly improbable for a family business and a beer sold almost exclusively in the East (and long concentrated in the Northeast), and especially to anyone who doesn’t follow beer industry brewings. However, all the national brands are now owned by foreign corporations and industry market share is greatly fragmented by smaller brands, microbrews, popular imports, and reduced consumption overall.
If you’ve never visited the hillside town of Pottsville, PA, the Yuengling brewery tour is a good reason to do so (the other is the fiction of John O’Hara, who wrote many a novel and short story about the town in its economic hey day as Gibbsville). The company now has a second brewery in Tampa.
This news should be a big deal for Pennsylvania, but it hasn’t registered to the extent it should. Perhaps that is because marketing isn’t what has propelled Yuengling to the top (hard to top the ad budgets of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors), but quality and persistence are. Yuengling Lager is a really good everyday beer that makes it consistently popular everywhere it is sold. This state has a proud brewing tradition and many brands historically associated with various localities: Philadelphia (Schmidt’s), Pittsburgh (Iron City), Rolling Rock (Latrobe). . .one of my favorite TV commercial memories from childhood when visiting relatives in Scranton was “Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimmee Gibbons”, the slogan of the Wilkes-Barre based Lion-Gibbons brewery.
Beyond state borders, I have always had a soft spot for Coors, because there was a time it attained cult status in the East when refrigerated transport for a time kept it mostly West of the Rockies. Later, when Newton Associates had the Graphic Packaging account, which had been a folding carton packaging unit of Coors, a lucky few (not myself included unfortunately) traveled to Golden to shoot a packaging plant video and got an exclusive Coors brewery tour. Another legendary beer of the time was Olympia from Washington state. Today, we help the O Bee Credit Union with PR — ironically, it began life as the credit union for employees of the Olympia brewery, which closed in 2003.
So, although many popular breweries and brands are gone. Yuengling’s rise is happy beer industry news locally. Fortunately, PA is also blessed with a resurgence of microbreweries such as Victory and Stoudts, as well as excellent brew pubs and beerhalls like Iron Hill and Brauhaus Schmitz. For all those Pennsylvanians who enjoy beer, the announcement of the Yuengling triumph is like Octoberfest in January.