Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - Yuengling Brewery Tour

Our current road trip around parts of Pennsylvania is coming to a close, and it has certainly been a very interesting mix of factory tours, shows, museums, and gardens.  Today we report on our stop in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where we took the Yuengling Brewery factory tour.

Ironically, I don't even like beer.  Believe me, I've tried over the years tasting various beers here and there, and every time, I'm done after one sip.  Alas, I suppose I just don't have the taste for it.  However, I'm always up for an interesting factory tour, so that's how we found ourselves on the very hilly streets of Pottsville, PA.

The story of Yuengling, America's oldest brewery, began when David G. Yuengling arrived from Germany to settle in the coal mining town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  He established the brewery there in 1829.

We waited for our tour to start in an area where the walls were covered with old photos of the brewery and preserved newspaper articles relative to the brewery's history.  Two years after the brewery was established, a fire demolished it, and then it was rebuilt on its current site.

Our tour began, and first we were taken down into the cellar where the kegs originally were filled.  Our guide discussed the various keg sizes and filling methods, then and now.

Keg filling machine

Next we were taken into the caves, deep into the Pottsville mountainside.  Temperatures were fairly cool in the caves where the beer was stored.  Our guide told us that only recently have the caves been opened to the public during tours.  

In 1919 the 18th amendment was ratified, enacting a call for the prohibition of alcohol.  To survive, the brewery switched to production of "near beer" products, and opened a dairy across the street where milk and ice cream products were offered.  

During the prohibition the government forced the building of a brick wall, sealing off the contents of the cave.  We passed by a portion of that wall that still remains as a reminder of those days.  Prohibition ended in 1933, and Yuengling resumed production of several beer varieties, including one called Victory Beer.  A shipment was happily sent to the White House in celebration of the end of prohibition.

Remaining portion of Prohibition barrier wall
Escape ladder for cave workers in case of emergency
Although we were at the brewery on a Saturday and there was no production that day, we were still taken into all the manufacturing areas.

This stained glass window was installed above the vats because previously the sunshine glaring through onto the stainless steel cookers made a blinding reflection for much of the brewers' shifts.  

We passed through some of the raw ingredients storage areas on our way to the bottling and canning room.

The hubby said he felt right at home in the bottling/canning room.  He works at Conagra Food Products where ravioli and other food products are canned.  I'm glad he was with me, as he was able to explain what various parts of the machinery do in the canning and labeling process.  Note to self:  plan any future factory tours on a day when production is running!  Duh.

Finally, we were taken back down to the pub, for taste testing. With the dark carved wood, cuckoo clocks, and the cozy booths,  I could easily imagine that I was meeting with friends in a small German rathskeller somewhere back in time.

I tried a sample of the Octoberfest brew they were promoting, but as I said earlier, it's just not for me.  I guess I'm just a wine sorta gal feeling very out of place in a beer pub.

Yuengling produces its beer varieties in numerous other manufacturing facilities now and continues to expand and grow in popularity.  This year marks 185 years as America's oldest, and now largest, brewery - family owned and operated.

Certainly, as a member of a family business myself, I have lots of appreciation for other family businesses that have made it and stayed strong through the adversities of life.

Pretzels and beer.  I'll just pass on the beer. 

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great tour to me. This beer is a favorite around our small town.