Whether you’re sipping a frosty Budweiser, imbibing a locally-sourced craft beer, or popping the top on a Pabst, beer is a very popular drink in the United States. So what is the oldest beer company in America?
The Eagle Brewery was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, by David G. Yuengling, a German immigrant. The Eagle Brewery was rebranded as D. G. Yuengling & Son in 1873. Its founding date of 1829 makes Yuengling the oldest beer company in the US.
So is Yuengling still family-owned? What is their oldest beer? Is Yuengling Chinese? You’ll learn the answers to these questions and more in this post.
Yuengling Beer: An Oldie but a Goodie
In the year 1823, a man named David G. Jüngling left his hometown of Aldingen in Württemberg, Germany, and emigrated to the United States. After arriving in America, he anglicized his last name to Yuengling and found his way to Schuylkill County. After a few years of putting down roots, Yuengling founded a company that he called Eagle Brewery in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
After two short years of operation, Yuengling suffered a minor setback when its plant and headquarters were destroyed in a fire in 1831. But, not one to give up easily, Yuengling rebuilt his operations from the ground up and carried on.
Yuengling’s delicious brews proved rather popular. The company continued growing and producing high-quality beer until 1873, when David Yuengling’s son Frederick joined the company. The maturation of the brewery into a family business called for a name change, and the company was renamed the D.G. Yuengling and Son Brewery.
As the 1800s became the 1900s, Yuengling expanded. They opened new plants in Saratoga, New York City, and British Columbia. Everything seemed to be going splendidly, right up until the year 1919 brought calamity in the form of Prohibition.
The era of Prohibition was the death knell for many family-owned breweries, as it became illegal to manufacture or sell intoxicants such as alcohol. This ban included hard liquors such as whiskey and rum, and it also included beer; this obviously posed a significant problem for a company whose main product was beer.
While many breweries panicked, Yuengling, under the watchful eye of Frank Yuengling (son of Frederick Yuengling), pivoted to stay alive. Frank assumed that Prohibition would not weather the test of time and switched operations to the production of “near beer” malt beverages. These included the Yuengling Por-Tor, a non-alcoholic porter; and a cereal-based beer known as Yuengling Juvo.
In 1933, Frank Yuengling’s vision came to pass. Prohibition came to a close as people rallied in support of beer. The prohibition of alcohol was ended by the 21st Amendment, which had been extremely unpopular with the vast majority of the American public.
Yuengling, relieved to be getting back to their core business, sent a truckload of “Winner Beer” to President Roosevelt as a gesture of their appreciation.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Porter is named after the sturdy laborers who hauled goods (such as casks of beer) about England in the 18th century, who loved to relax at the pub with a thick glass of this silky brown beer.
In 1960, Yuengling brought on a new brewmaster, the late N. Ray Norbert. Mr. Norbert helped develop some of Yuengling’s most iconic brews, including the Traditional Lager. We mention him here because, as brewmaster, Mr. Norbert’s expertise and skill in the art of brewing helped bring Yuengling great success.
Indeed, the 1950s and 1960s were challenging times for small beer brands. Those decades saw vast purchases and expansion by brewing giants such as Anheuser-Busch. Yet, thanks to their independent spirit and delicious beer, Yuengling survived as an independent brand.
After enjoying a massive surge in popularity in the 1990s, Yuengling has been engaging in a thoughtful and controlled expansion of its operations. Today, Yuengling is producing more than 2.6 million barrels of delicious, American-made beer every year!
The Many Beers of Yuengling
Beer comes in an astonishing variety of styles. Yuengling, being a traditional brewery, brews several different styles of beer depending on seasonality and other factors. However, the best-known beer made by Yuengling is the Traditional Lager.
Traditional Lager is an amber-colored beer with a pleasant body and flavor. This beer is very drinkable and broadly appealing: not many beer guys would turn their nose up at a free Traditional Lager.
Another excellent and widely known Yuengling is the Black & Tan. The Black & Tan is a traditional English beer style that combines a pale ale with a stout, resulting in a pleasantly rich beer accented with caramel and coffee notes. This is an excellent beer to drink in the fall or winter months: many people find the thickness and richness of stout beer bracing in the cool weather.
Speaking of stouts, Yuengling also brews a fabulous porter, which is appropriately called Dark Brewed Porter. Porter beers are brewed from dark-roasted malts, which give the beer its characteristically dark color and rich flavor profile. The Dark Brewed Stout is one of Yuengling’s oldest beers; it’s been made with the same recipe for more than 150 years.
Many people detect chocolate in the flavor profile of a porter or a stout. With that in mind, Yuengling and Hershey’s collaborated to create Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, which you should definitely try if you can find it.
Traditional, Yet Modern
Brewing is acutely dependent on environmental factors. To make a good beer, you need high-quality grain, clean water, fresh hops, and yeast. Since their entire business depends on the continued availability of these ingredients, Yuengling is very forward-thinking in its brewing processes.
In fact, Yuengling is embracing sustainability. The company has implemented water conservation measures and strives to keep its supply chain as local as possible. In addition, they’ve upgraded to energy-efficient transportation and equipment and recycle as many of their brewing byproducts (think spent grain and yeast) as possible.
The company’s advancement into modern times is now entering an expansion phase. Once a relatively local beer, Yuengling is now widely available across the eastern United States. In addition, the company’s joint venture with Molson-Coors has enabled them to expand westward. Soon, America’s oldest beer will be available all across the land.
Today, the brand operates three breweries. The original Yuengling plant was opened in Pottsville in 1829. There is now a second Pottsville brewery, and Yuengling has opened a new location in Tampa, Florida. The Tampa location features a restaurant and plenty of outdoor lounging space to enjoy a frosty Yuengling on a hot Florida day.
Most recently, Yuengling beer is also being brewed in Fort Worth, Texas. However, the Fort Worth facility is owned and operated by Molson-Coors.
Is Yuengling Beer Chinese?
Yuengling is not Chinese. The brand is American, based out of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and still owned and operated by descendants of David G. Yuengling. While there is a long and storied history of beer in China, Yuengling’s brewing tradition is German in origin.
Why do so many people think Yuengling is a Chinese brand? The fact that Yuengling is not a household name in the same sense as Coors or Miller provides a “blank space” that people fill in by making assumptions. And since the individual syllables Yueng and Ling – look and sound vaguely Chinese to the average American, many people make a logical leap and assume (incorrectly) that the brand is Chinese.
Is Yuengling Family Owned?
Yuengling is a family-owned brewery. Today, it is run by Dick Yuengling, who is training the next generation of Yuenglings to run the company. However, there may be some confusion because of the company’s recent joint venture with Molson Coors.
To be clear, the joint venture is not an acquisition. Yuengling remains a proudly family-owned brewery. The joint venture merely allows Yuengling and Molson Coors to work together. This agreement opens a much broader market for Yuengling without sacrificing the Yuengling family’s ownership or control of their brand.
What is Yuengling’s Oldest Beer?
Many people assume that Yuengling’s Traditional Lager, which is perhaps their best-known beer, is the oldest Yuengling beer. However, the Traditional Lager is not the oldest beer made by Yuengling. It didn’t become a flagship beer until 1987.
The oldest beers brewed by Yuengling are the Dark Brewed Porter and the Lord Chesterfield Ale. Both of these fine brews have been made using the exact same ingredients and techniques for more than 150 years. While Porters and Ales may not enjoy the same fame as Pilsners and IPAs, both of these interesting beer styles are well worth drinking.
A Toast to David Yuengling
While many might assume that a brewery like Anheuser-Busch or Coors was the oldest in America, that honor goes to Yuengling. The Eagle Brewery, later renamed D.G. Yuengling & Son Brewery, opened in 1829 and has been operating continuously for almost 200 years now. The brand has retained its independent spirit and unbeatable craftsmanship over the years, and today, many beer drinkers across the land are discovering this historic American brand. Here’s to 200 more years of delicious Yuengling beer!