Often played at weddings, the 1979 No. 1 chart-topping hit “We Are Family,” by Sister Sledge declares “We are family, I got all my sisters with me, We are family, Get up everybody and sing.” Also keeping it “all in the family” are the four Yuengling sisters ― Jennifer, Debbie, Wendy and Sheryl ― who along with their dad, Dick, are leveraging six generations of brewing expertise while charting the continued long-term success of “America’s Oldest Brewery,” D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc.
Founded in 1829 in the coal-mining town of Pottsville, Pa., by Wuerttemberg, Germany immigrant David G. Yuengling, the brewery’s original moniker was Eagle Brewery, which debuted the iconic eagle and barrel icon on its labels to represent purity, quality and strength. These guiding principles have driven the independent and spirited nature of the Yuengling brewery and brand for more than 192 years, explains Wendy Yuengling, chief administrative officer.
After David’s son, Frederick, Yuengling’s great, great grandfather, joined his father as a partner, the brewery officially changed its name in 1873 to the aforementioned D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. Even though the eagle is no longer part of the brewery’s name, to this day, the eagle and barrel logo remains a prominent part of the brand’s packaging, Yuengling says.
In 1976, the brewery was placed on the national and states’ registers as “America’s Oldest Brewery,” a distinction that is an irrefutable part of the brewery’s history that also is marketed in its tag line.
“We take great pride in being America’s Oldest Brewery, keeping the business American-owned and family operated, and strong for future generations,” Yuengling explains. “Our family has persevered through some incredible moments in our country’s history such as two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and now the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have persevered all these years because of the hard work and resiliency shown by the previous generations, the commitment of our Yuengling employee family, and the consumer support of our loyal communities.”
For example, in 1919 and 1920, as the 18th amendment was ratified and Prohibition occurred, the brewery survived by switching to near-beer products like Yuengling Special and Juvo, a non-intoxicating cereal beverage.
Proud to be the sixth generation in the Yuengling brewing family legacy, Wendy Yuengling manages the brewery’s administrative functions. The third oldest Yuengling is joined in leadership by sisters Jennifer Yuengling as vice president of operations; Debbie Yuengling, who is the employee engagement and culture manager; and Sheryl Yuengling, who is in charge of order services and IT administration. Their father, Richard "Dick" Yuengling Jr. serves as the company’s owner and president.
Through nearly two centuries, the brewery has transitioned from a small family operation to a nationally recognized brand that produces more than 2 million barrels of beer annually to beer drinkers in 22 states. Southern and westward expansion has followed as a result of brewery operations in Tampa, Fla., and a joint venture inked between D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. and Chicago-based Molson Coors Brewing Co. in September 2020.
“Many fans know Yuengling for our Yuengling Traditional Lager. What many don’t know is that Lager didn’t become our flagship brand until 1987,” Yuengling says. “Two of the brewery’s original beers were Lord Chesterfield Ale and Dark Brewed Porter, released more than 150 years earlier, and we are still producing both of those heritage brands to this day following the same traditional recipes.”
192 years of brewing history
The story of Yuengling Brewery is the story of the American Spirit, perseverance and an unwavering dedication to high quality standards. The brewery’s 192 years of success is built on a firm foundation of core brands in its diverse and growing portfolio. These include its flagship Yuengling Traditional Lager, which represents more than 75 percent of brand sales, Light Lager, Black & Tan, Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, and three of its recent new additions, Yuengling Golden Pilsner, Raging Eagle Mango Beer and FLIGHT by Yuengling, which is billed as “the Next Generation of Light Beer.”
To attract new, more health-conscious beer drinkers, the low-carb, low-calorie FLIGHT by Yuengling is an upscale light beer, with great taste and stats that is a step up from the competition, Yuengling explains.
The easy-drinking, clean, crisp 4.2 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) FLIGHT contains 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbohydrates in each 12-ounce glass bottle, the company says.
In addition to strong growth from FLIGHT by Yuengling, the brewery’s first-ever beer collaboration with Derry Township, Pa.-based Hershey’s — Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter — is a new fan favorite released in October 2019, in 14 states and via draft only. At 4.7 ABV, the brew combines Yuengling’s nearly 200-year-old Dark Brewed Porter recipe with the indulgent taste of Hershey's chocolate, the company says. For the beer’s second year in 2020, and as a direct response to passionate fan feedback, Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter was bottled and expanded distribution to all of Yuengling’s 22-states.
Building on the success of its Hershey’s Chocolate Porter and seeking to further disrupt the beer scene, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. continues to drive its own interpretation of flavorful boldness with the February release of Raging Eagle Mango Beer.
At 6 percent ABV, the fruit-and-field pilsner is a contemporary, edgy beer brewed with classic hops for a refreshing, crisp taste of mango freshness in 24-ounce cans, the company says. Designed to appeal to adventuresome 21-35-year-old young adults, Raging Eagle feeds into consumers’ passion and energy and those “looking for bold, invigorating flavor in their next beer adventure,” Yuengling says.
“Most recently with Raging Eagle, we heard that consumers were craving more flavor,” Yuengling explains. “We saw an opportunity to leverage our six generations of brewing expertise to create a bold mango beer that appeals to adventurous drinkers and adds a new edge to our portfolio of iconic beers.”
Go west, young man
Yuengling, the anglicized version of Jüngling, is the German word for a "young person” or “youngster.” While the company belies the young title, there’s plenty to glean from the company’s rich 192-year history.
For instance, built in 1831, the original, historic brewery on Mahantongo Street still is operational and open for free 30-minute tours and tastings for legal-age consumers with ID. Built out several times through six generations of leadership, the 275,000-square-foot, red-bricked brewery primarily produces Yuengling in cans. It also is the site of the company’s iconic brew house with stained glass ceilings and stainless-steel kettles along with historic caves that were hand-dug in the 1800s and used for beer fermentation before refrigeration. Across the street, there’s also a retail gift shop and tasting room where visitors are encouraged to “grab a cold Growler of their favorite Yuengling to go.”
To meet customer demand for its products, particularly the 4.4 percent ABV medium-bodied flavor of Yuengling Traditional Lager, in 1999 the brewery broke ground on a new 250,000-square-foot state-of-the-art plant across town at Mill Creek that opened in 2001. Continuing its expansion efforts, in 1999 D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. purchased the Stroh brewery in Tampa, Fla., which enabled the brewer to meet demand in its northeast markets and to produce and ship beer up north until the new Mill Creek brewery became operational, Yuengling says.
“[In 2000,] our new Mill Creek brewery came on-line. The new Mill Creek brewery was completed and the first batch of Yuengling beer was brewed in 2001,” she says. “The Tampa brewery then allowed Yuengling to open up southern markets with Tampa production. Both Tampa and Mill Creek have QC labs and testing equipment, research and development capabilities, and produce our portfolio of brands in cans, bottles and kegs.”
Today, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. employs about 350 employees working in sales, operations, administration and retail within three breweries and across its 22-state footprint.
However, the Yuengling footprint is about to get bigger due to the aforementioned joint venture with multinational drink and brewing company Molson Coors, which employs 17,000 worldwide. In January, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. announced the first step in its westward expansion with distribution of its iconic beers into Texas, the second largest U.S. state by area and population. The brewery anticipates rolling out beer to the Lone Star state in the fall of 2021, with further expansion to follow based on the brewer’s “disciplined and methodical approach to expansion” that has brought it success for more than 190 years, Yuengling says.
“We saw tremendous opportunity in the high demand for Yuengling in Texas. Fans across the country (and outside of our initial 22-state footprint) regularly asked when they’d be able to enjoy Yuengling’s great beers without having to hop on an airplane or smuggle them across state lines,” Yuengling notes. “Through this long-term brewing partnership, our team will tap into Molson Coors’ brewing expertise and operations to make our beer accessible to consumers in western states, where we don’t currently sell.
“Together, Yuengling brewers will work closely with Molson Coors to use its world-class brewing facilities to expand Yuengling’s presence west for the first time in company history,” she continues. “Of course, one of our biggest priorities throughout this partnership is to ensure we still maintain the quality, independence and reputation we’ve built in our family business for 192 years.”
As a result of the venture and westward expansion into Texas, a new entity — The Yuengling Company — was formed. The new venture will develop and support the selling and marketing of Yuengling brands in western expansion markets; D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. will remain 100 percent family owned and operated and function separately from the new joint venture company, the company says.
Yuengling notes, “Our partnership with Molson Coors brings together three iconic brewing families between Yuengling, Molson and Coors with over 425 years of combined brewing history.” The joint venture Board of Directors includes Jennifer and Wendy Yuengling, as well as Coors and Molson family members.
Thirsting for more
In addition to its new joint venture, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. at its core, maintains a strong family culture while it focuses on future growth opportunities and telling the ripe story of America’s Oldest Brewery.
Coming down the pipeline is the revitalization of the Tampa brewery campus. Slated to open in 2022, the goal is to create a first-class destination to experience the brewery’s brands and more. Amenities will include a small-batch pilot brewing system; a restaurant serving fresh, local cuisine; an outdoor recreation area and beer garden; a multi-use concert and entertainment pavilion; an onsite 15-story hotel; and a gift shop and coffee bar. Consumers also can learn more about the history of America’s Oldest Brewery through digital interactive displays, artifacts and advertising memorabilia.
Staying connected with the Yuengling beer community, listening to its fans and instilling a spirit of family, community and perseverance is deeply ingrained in the company’s culture and history, the chief administrative officer says.
“Our distinction as America’s Oldest Brewery differentiates us from other companies. And our family approach to the business is also unique,” she enthuses. “It’s not every day that you see a sixth generation company still being 100 percent American owned and family operated. And when we say family, we don’t just mean the five generations of Yuengling’s who came before us; we also mean the generations of employees who helped make this business a success.
“We’ve been successful all these years because of the hard work and resiliency shown by the previous generations, the commitment of our Yuengling employee family, and the support of our loyal consumers who have supported our brands,” she continues. “Our company is one large family business, and I think we see that as a big differentiator for us — we see our employees as playing a huge role in helping us continue to innovate and grow. We will maintain our foundation as America’s Oldest Brewery, while building upon our success and innovating for the future.”