Read an Excerpt
THE BEER STARTS HERE
D. G. Yuengling & Son Brewing in Pottsville, PA
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. —Charles Darwin
Some people inherit a ring or come into fine china bequeathed over generations. Not Dick Yuengling Jr. His family heirloom is a compound of buildings. Most people lock their birthrights away in safety-deposit boxes or on the top shelf of a cabinet. Dick Jr.’s legacy is beer.
The family jewel handed down over five generations is nestled in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Appalachian coal- mining territory. D. G. Yuengling & Son, established in 1829, is the oldest operating brewery in America.
There’s one thing about being descended from a lineage of brewers or brewery owners. Unless your name is Busch or Coors, you’re not coming into dynastic wealth. When I scheduled a meeting with Dick, he arranged it for 8 a.m. I arrived at the large, ivied brick building on the corner of Mahantango and Fifth streets, where I heard the playful shrieks of Dick’s one- year- old grandson, Nolan, but I didn’t see him. Nor did I see Dick. That’s because he was nowhere around. Or should I say, he was everywhere. The receptionist called over to every department of the brewery because starting first thing in the morning, Dick is apt to be in all places at once. No mere figurehead, he is a hands- on leader who is just as likely to be working with a brewer on the bottling line as riding a forklift in the ware house. Soon enough, he showed up in his office and asked me to join him at a rickety wooden table.
Dick lit the first of several cigarettes, his gray eyes made bluer by his silver hair and white, extra large YUENGLING LAGER polo shirt tucked into blue jeans. He was born in 1943, 114 years after the company’s founding.
Ever since emigrating from the German village of Aldingen in 1823, David Gottlieb Jüngling (he changed the spelling shortly after arriving in America) has had a branch of the family tree rooted in Pottsville. All four of Dick’s daughters—Jen, Debbie, Wendy, and Sheryl—work for him, and none of his six grandkids are even approaching the legal drinking age. Except for Wendy, the whole clan lives in Pottsville. If there’s one thing I gleaned from Dick and can postulate about the fruitful ancestors before him, it’s that the brewery was always their first baby.
Dick started working here at age fifteen. "It was a family business, that’s all," said Dick. "I grew up in a family business and I obtained a strong feeling for the company."
Business. Company. Family owned and operated. These are the points he reiterated to me as we sat beneath portraits of successive generations of Yuenglings: D.G., his son Frederick, grandson Frank, great-grandsons Richard Sr. and F. Dohrman, and one of Richard Jr., too. Dick helms a family business first and a brewery second. He’s a businessman before he’s a beer man. He’s not without charm, but his fixation is entirely on producing a quality product and keeping his distributors busy rather than being a beer ambassador. "My dad went to BAA [Brewers Association of America] meetings. I went when I first bought the company in 1985, but haven’t gone in a while. I’m just too busy."
"Yeah, you were ostensibly missing from the Great American Beer Festival. I was hoping to meet you there in Denver or maybe one of your daughters," I said. "I don’t have the time to get involved. A lot of small brewers do that and it’s good. I’m wrong in not doing it. The girls are all busy, too. We run a lean operation." His focus on being professional more than personable is encoded in his DNA. The nature of the beer business means always having to navigate rough waters. It’s not an industry you can coast through, and there is no rest, no autopilot.
"You gotta be careful how you manage your company," he said with a blend of objectivity and experience. "It’s great to grow, but you gotta be cautious how you do it."
Clearly he’s doing something right. His vigilant management has grown the company into the sixth- largest brewing concern in the country and second- largest independent. He began working here summers throughout high school and college, so I wondered how it felt being groomed for this role.
Exhaling a cloud of smoke, he said surprisingly, "No, there was pressure put on me to leave because my dad and uncle never felt there would be an opportunity for me to take over the company. They didn’t think we’d survive, quite honestly."
"Why is that?" I asked, seeing as the company was clearly no fly- by- night operation, and teetering on the brink of extinction seemed incomprehensible. Short of spinning a grandfatherly tale, he succinctly and squarely put the blame on two factors: tele vision and interstates. "It all started in the early fifties when Budweiser and Ballantine were on tele vision," he began. "People started drinking brands that they saw advertised on TV. Pabst sponsored the Friday- night fights. All these national and large regional breweries were taking all the small brewers’ business."
Additionally, those companies could more easily distribute their product in refrigerated trucks to every nook, where previously those crannies were the domain of local brewers. In 1956 when President Eisenhower’s Public Works Project created the interstate highway system, mass-produced beers swamped markets both big and small.
Funny how Yuengling is still in business but Ballantine isn’t. I clearly recall the airwaves being inundated with slogans and mascots: "Tastes great, less filling." "No slowing down with the Silver Bullet to night." And that bull terrier Spuds MacKenzie doing the conga with hot mamas fueled by Bud Light. Even my dad, a child of the fifties, still chants, "Whatchya gonna have? Pabst Blue Ribbon." Moreover, neither I nor anyone else can sing you a Yuengling jingle, and that’s just the way Big Beer wants it.
In 1973, heeding his dad’s and uncle’s advice, Dick quit.
He bought himself a beer distributorship and earned a living moving other people’s beers. Once, he met with Pete Coors as a colleague, not a competitor. He left his dad and uncle at the brewery high-and-seventy-thousand-barrels-short-of-dry. That’s when Yuengling’s stumbled upon a slogan that couldn’t be bought on Madison Avenue and triggered its comeback: "America’s Oldest Brewery."
AMERICA’S THEN-NEWEST BREWERY
What qualifies as America’s "first" brewery is partially debatable. Heck, even the Mayflower docked ahead of schedule on a chilly day in 1620 because the Pilgrims ran out of beer, and really, there’s no point in settling a new world if there’s no brew.† My guess is that the first three structures they built were a church, an out house, and a brewery, but not necessarily in that order. What ever they built no longer exists, which is why, as far as road trips go, Plymouth Rock is considered a most disappointing landmark.
A couple of centuries later, when Germans began outpacing Dutch as immigrants, young David G. Jüngling looked around his family’s Eagle Brewery and saw his father, Peter, and David’s four older brothers. That essentially meant that David had fifth crack at taking over the family business or making a decent living there (his four sisters would have been even lower on the totem pole), so he sailed to New York. From there, he struck out for the boomtown of Pottsville, where anthracite coal had been discovered. What with the industrial revolution and all, everyone knew that if you were into smelting iron, you wanted anthracite. In Schuylkill County, Pottsville boomers mined tons and tons of coal. Demand fueled the creation of the Schuylkill Canal, completed in 1828, the year before our son of a brewer set up shop. It transported "King Coal" to Philadelphia until the more highly developed, farther- reaching railroads took over, giving future Monopoly fans the Reading Railroad.
Coal flowed down the canal to Philadelphia. D.G. used it to float barley and other supplies up to Pottsville. While there is a current debate about questionable promotional tactics of mass market beer aimed at minors, D.G. made no qualms about his craft being targeted to miners.
Obviously not everyone in town worked the mines. I saw a late-nineteenth-century photo showing dozens of men working at the Yuengling brewery; it is a case study in mustaches.
D. G. Yuengling initially established his own Eagle Brewery. One statistic I’ll never find is how many breweries have caught ablaze, but I do know that fires seem to be about as common at breweries as big, bad wolves at pigs’ houses. Sure enough, two years later, the Eagle Brewery burned down.
Relocated a few blocks up the hill, D.G.’s rebuilt dream has remained in the same spot since 1831. One of the attractive features of the mountain setting was that miners could easily tunnel beneath the brewery. By the late 1800s, breweries helped pioneer modern refrigeration, but until such time, the tunnels were used to store the brews—Yuengling’s (now called Premium), Porter, and Lord Chester.eld Ale—chilled to a constant .ftyish degrees. The tunnels, now obsolete, are no more than ten feet high.
As D.G. saw his business and his fortune grow, so, too, did his family. As I sat with his great- great- grandson in his very same office, Dick talked about how D.G.’s first wife passed away without bearing any children, but his second wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to .ve boys and seven girls. His eldest son, D.G. Jr., moved down to Richmond, Virginia, after the Civil War, where he opened the James River Steam Brewery, only to have it washed away within a dozen years when the James flooded. If you’re willing to get your boots muddy, you can still see its ruins.
D.G. Jr. opened another brewery in modern- day Harlem. There’s an old photograph of beer wagons at 128th St. and Amsterdam Ave., where a new snapshot would show cars outside a cold- storage ware house. With Junior off doing his thing, D.G. Sr.’s son Frederick had come aboard in 1873, prompting the name change to D. G. Yuengling & Son. Other sons opened branches from Saratoga to British Columbia. I guess they did so for the same reason D.G. lit out for the Land of Opportunity: Firstborn gets first rights; everyone else fends for himself.
Brewing had grown into the nation’s fifth- largest industry with over forty- one hundred breweries in operation. Even including brewpubs, that’s still more than we have today. As another historical footnote from 1873, Anheuser- Busch began bottling for large- scale shipments, figuring the railroads could do for beer what they’d done for coal and other resources. The famous Clydesdales were being retired. Even if D.G. heard about it, it probably didn’t worry him. How could a giant brewery all the way in St. Louis possibly affect a father- son operation in Pottsville?
In 1877, forty- eight years after establishing the Eagle/Yuengling brewery, the founder passed away. In moving to America, David established roots for his company and his family. Not only is it the oldest brewery, it’s one the country’s oldest family businesses. When Frederick died in 1899, his only son Frank, at age twenty-one, took over as the third successive generation.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Whereas Yuengling is the thirty-seventh oldest, the doyen topping the list of American family- owned businesses is Zildjian. Avedis Zildjian began selling cymbals in Constantinople in 1623. Almost four hundred years later, after outfitting the likes of Mozart and Berlioz, the family trade is now headquartered in Norwell, Massachusetts, sponsoring legendary drummers from the seemingly four- handed jazz great Max Roach (RIP) to Def Leppard’s one- armed Rick Allen. Today it is a fifteenth- generation business employing young Turks Cady, Elizabeth, and Samantha Zildjian.
Number 41 on the list, compiled by Family Business Magazine, is C. F. Martin & Co. Christian Frederick Martin began handcrafting guitars in Vienna and relocated his family and business to New York in 1833 and then to Nazareth, Pennsylvania (not far from Pottsville), where it remains in the hands of the sixth generation.
The list consists mostly of small farms—mainly Pennsylvania Dutch. A decent share are funeral parlors, which is enough to inspire a cable TV series or two.
Four key points for longevity, according to the magazine, are to be based in a smaller city, don’t be publicly traded, keep it in the family rather than bring in hired guns, and don’t grow too large. The Yuenglings are holding four aces.
Farms, beer, and rock ’n’ roll. Each one a worthy legacy.
Dick lamented that the company’s history was never thoroughly documented. Books weren’t saved and for the most part, artifacts were haphazardly strewn about. As if to prove his point, he opened a couple of drawers in the table where we sat and black and white photos came popping out, like playing 52- pickup with the family history. He pulled out a picture at random and showed it to me. "It’s a depot from the 1870s or 1880s and what you did was take your beer maybe ten miles away on a wagon, threw ice in it, and serviced the taverns from there. It was all draught beer in those days. As time went on, we just got bigger and bigger. My grandfather added more buildings and the company grew. There’s something here from every generation and we’re still using it."
Dick’s grandpa Frank holds the record for being on the brewery’s clock the longest. As the brewery entered the twentieth century, everything was falling into place. Frank married a local girl named Augusta Roseberry, and they had their first of five children, Richard, in 1915. After Dick Sr. followed F. Dohrman, Frederick, David, and Augusta.
Since Pottsville’s founding in 1806 with two hundred settlers, the population had inflated to thirty thousand. "The mines employed a lot of people and they were beer drinkers," Dick said. "At the end of the day, they’d buy a bucket of beer and take it home. Or they’d sit at the barroom and have a couple of beers." They didn’t all drink Yuengling’s, but choices were limited.
On Frank’s clock, coal was no longer mined by hand but strip-mined by machines operated by only a few people. Pottsville’s population began to decline and, along with it, the local audience, which today stands closer to sixteen thousand.
Though every brewer, on a certain level, had to be wary of the other guy, they were all simultaneously felled by the one guy they or their forefathers had all moved to America for and were loyal to: Uncle Sam.
Temperance societies were nothing new, but by the turn of the century, they were on a tear. Several states and territories had gone dry, at least legislatively. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. Capitalizing on anti- German sentiment resulting from World War I (though beer was hardly just the realm of the Germans), the Anti-Saloon League, buoyed mostly by women and churches, led the charge for national prohibition. Two years later when Congress sent such a bill to Wilson, he vetoed it. Checks and balances being what they are, Congress overrode his veto, thus signing into law the Volstead Act, which, in tandem with the misguided Eighteenth Amendment, turned America dry.
Prohibition spelled ruin for thousands of breweries. Those tunnels beneath D. G. Yuengling & Son were sealed up, never to store Yuengling Premium again.
FROM NEAR BEER TO NEARLY CLOSED
Starting in January 1920, Frank did what most brewing companies did to survive—he made near beer. During the next fourteen years, he kept the brewing line going by producing three nonalcoholic drinks: Yuengling’s Special, Por-Tor, and Juvo. The o at the end was a popular marketing tool applied to the era’s brews. Anheuser-Busch made one called Bevo; there was Pablo by Pabst, Schlitz’s Famo, Stroh’s Lux- O, and Miller’s Vivo. A number of them, including Juvo, touted their healthiness as a liquid cereal. In 1929, Yuengling’s centennial, there wasn’t a drop of proper beer to be drunk.
Frank had a dairy constructed opposite the brewery, became the president of a local bank, and even opened up a dance hall. "He wasn’t solely dependent on the income from the brewery," Dick said as he clicked open his Zippo and lit up another cigarette. He leaned back in his creaky chair and slowly sprayed smoke up to the ceiling fan, awhirl as the day grew warmer. "Consequently, he kind of let the thing go."
Yet on April 7, 1933, a truck carrying Yuengling Winner Beer appeared at the White House. FDR had asked Congress to finagle the Volstead Act, which set the limit for nonintoxicating beverages at 0.5% alcohol, to allow for beer to pack 3.2% alcohol. In the brewhouse a mural depicts a gentleman in high spirits holding a refreshing glass of beer in one hand and a bottle of Winner in the other. By June, Yuengling was one of thirty-one breweries back in action. By the following year? Upward of seven hundred. "The noble experiment" finally ended in December as the Twenty-first Amendment repealed Prohibition. As a historical footnote, it is the only amendment to be ratified not by state legislatures, but by state conventions, thus allowing we, the people to speak louder than legislators.
The revitalization of the industry was ephemeral. The prevailing corporate culture in America voraciously cannibalized smaller, in de pen dent competitors via mergers and acquisitions, which permeated the brewing industry. Diminishing resources available to brewers during World War II exacerbated matters for the survivors. Dick Sr. served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and returned to find that the number of brewing concerns had dwindled to around four hundred, which, fortunately, still included his family’s.
Despite Frank’s stern reputation, Dick described him as someone who made sure his many grandkids got equal attention. Dick started working at the brewery shortly before his grandfather died in 1963, at which point his dad and uncle Dohrman bought it. Regarding Frank, Dick said, "He didn’t want to put the money into it. I go through that now. I don’t feel it’s a wise investment, and apparently he didn’t either. He didn’t think it was going to last."
Today it has become a standard, almost necessary, business practice to take out a loan, but family businesses running a tight ship such as Yuengling’s preferred to carry no debt. Frank’s banking career clearly reiterated for him that it’s better to be owed than to owe.
"So they bought the brewery from your grandpa?" I asked, curious as to whether money exchanged hands when it remained in the family or if it’s just a matter of handing over the keys.
"Yeah, just like I bought it from my dad and bought Patty’s share," Dick said, referring to his sister, who is married and lives near San Diego. "They had worked here like I did. My dad took care of the sales and my uncle was involved more in production, in the packaging end of the business. And I got my start in the bottle shop. We’d get returnable bottles back here and run them all for days."
Dick is aware of how much things have changed both in the industry and at his brewery just in the past couple of de cades compared to the over- 175- year history of the company.
That mentality of doing things as they’d been done in the past made Dick Sr. and Dohrman .ght Dick Jr.’s ideas to modernize the operation. Not only were the national beers cutting into Yuengling’s sales, but the high expense of doing everything by hand, from stocking the ware house to loading the delivery trucks, was cutting into their profits. A decade of locking horns with his father and uncle, combined with reading the writing on the wall, caused Dick Jr. to walk away.
During Dick’s twelve-year hiatus as an employee and a son, Yuengling & Son struggled, but never flatlined. As America celebrated its bicentennial, people began looking around for landmarks in its relatively short history. In 1976, D. G. Yuengling & Son entered the Pennsylvania Inventory of Historical Places. Dick returned in 1985 when company representatives approached him and broke the news that Dick Sr. suffered from Alzheimer’s and couldn’t continue, which is when Dick Jr. decided to buy it. The following year, the brewery made it into the National Register as well.
"How’d you weather it all?" I asked, believing there might have been some secret. "Fires and floods are one thing. Few others endured Prohibition and industry consolidation. But someone has to be the oldest. Why are you the one?"
"I never realized the marketing power behind ‘America’s Oldest Brewery.’ We always had good products, but in 1984–85, it was like a beer renaissance."
A slogan or trademark alone would hardly have done the trick of staving off bankruptcy, fatigue, or cannibalism. The real saving grace came when Dick repositioned the Yuengling brand. It used to be stocked on the bottom shelf with the "price" or "economy" brands to compete with the megabrands. That doesn’t seem fitting for a beer with a bigger flavor profile. He also introduced new styles such as lager and light. All of a sudden, Yuengling’s was a "premium domestic," selling for a few bucks over those mainstream ones instead of cheaper.
If California beers such as Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale could do it, and yuppies drank expensive, imported beer (when they weren’t drinking Evian or Perrier), why not the finest local brew? It worked like a charm.
Alas, no sooner had Dick returned than his cousins shut down the dairy across the street. Dick’s uncle Fred operated it after Prohibition, but the children weren’t that interested in keeping it going. The three- story, weathered brick building has sat vacant for two decades. When I later corresponded with Dick’s daughter Wendy, she recalled, "There was a little parlor within walking distance from our house growing up where you could make your own sundaes. And we always had Butter Brickle in the house because that was my dad’s favorite." Strolling through Pottsville later that day, I could still see an advertisement for YUENGLING’S ICE CREAM in fading paint high atop a brick building.
By 1991, Dick was scrambling to meet demand. He quadrupled production, but that still wasn’t enough. It was an excellent predicament. Dick and his wife, a retired teacher, had recently divorced, and the girls were living with her. Dick took his four daughters on vacation to Florida for a powwow.
Most kids know what it’s like to have a parent ask what careers they’re thinking about and have a few suggestions nudged their way, but this was way different.
"I said, ‘Look it. I’m committed to investment, but I’m getting old. I want to know that there’s somebody that wants to be involved. Because if not, what am I going to do with it?’ "
Jen had just started grad school in psychology, Debbie and Wendy were in college, and Sheryl was starting high school.
Spanning eight years in age, the girls share a strong resemblance, with shoulder- length, brown hair and blue-gray eyes.
They each had other aspirations, but it didn’t take them long to collectively commit to their dad and become the sixth generation to keep the family business going.
Dick had illustrated his case: "If I spend the money, then what? I don’t want to end up like the Stroh family."
The Strohs, it turns out, were a factor in Yuengling’s salvation. Increasing production at a brewing facility only works up to a point. You simply can’t function beyond capacity. That’s when Dick augmented the company by savvy leaps and fortunate bounds. His first step was to build a new brewery in Mill Creek just a couple of miles away. Around that time, Dick bought the Stroh’s brewery in Tampa, Florida, because, as he stated, "the Stroh family decided they didn’t want to make beer anymore. They’d gotten so big, so fast, it overwhelmed them."
"So you just went in and said, ‘Hey, Strohs, wanna sell me your brewery?’ "
"No, Stroh sold their brand to Pabst, which had already started producing nostalgia brands. They then closed all the other Stroh’s breweries except one in Allentown, which was sold to Pabst."
I asked if Dick tried to buy that facility, too, and he explained how his brewery contracted production to the Allentown location for a few years in the late 1990s as they were still trying to get the Mill Creek brewery opened. By building it so close to the original, they could take advantage of the administrative and distribution infrastructure. Yuengling’s barely pulled it off, as one month after Mill Creek went online, the Allentown plant was sold again. "Timing is everything," Dick said, grinning.
When all was said and done, he’d plunked around $100 million into the expanded company, now with three breweries, adding some three million barrels of brewing capacity. Now I got how they’d become the sixth largest in the country, despite only being sold in ten states.
During my visit, I met Debbie Ferhat Yuengling in her memorabilia-stuffed office, where I caught her dwarfed by a six-foot cutout of an icy cold bottle of lager. Her husband is a former classmate as well as a former brewer at Yuengling’s. It’s quite a small town. They have three little kids, Jake, Lauren, and Nolan— the one I’d heard as I entered the main office. Debbie is the "friendly one" and is director of tours and the gift shop.
Wendy Yuengling Baker lives in Baltimore with her husband, James, and baby daughter, Ashley. As the "upbeat, outgoing" one, she heads sales and marketing throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. She was the only one to work at an outside firm rather than go to work for their dad straight from school and thus has worked here the shortest.
Sheryl is the "laid- back, quiet" one, who, I heard, was in no rush to start a family. She moved back home after going to school in Alabama and is the shipping manager, working with the wholesaler network.
Which leaves Jen. She kept her maiden name, as did her two toddlers, Derrick and Morgan. A self- admitted introvert, she’s the daughter who most takes after Dick. She got her start at the brewery leading tours during college and is now the Mill Creek plant coordinator. "I’m not much of a people person," she copped, "so I knew sales was going to be out."
In addition to being a genetic beer lover, Jen became a professional when she took a ten-day course at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. It’s one of two brewmaster programs in the country where employees from the megabreweries as well as craft and international breweries go to train. "It works out well because I can be involved with the workers and I get to interact with my dad on a daily basis." She enjoys working with the brewmaster, Jim Buehler, whose father also worked for the company.
Sandwiched in this period of growth for the company, Dick lost both of his parents. His mother, Marge, passed away in 1996 at age seventy- five, and Dick Sr. succumbed to his extended illness at age eighty- three in 1999. They were married for fifty- six years.
The people, the dedication, the historical turn of events, all conspired to deliver D. G. Yuengling & Son to where it is today, approaching its own bicentennial.
And none of it—not its size, not its products, not its beloved place in the mouths and minds of beer drinkers up and down the Atlantic coast—assures its safety or longevity.
"You’re always under the threat of being steamrolled by the Big Guys," cautioned Dick.
I asked if he has received buyout offers and, if so, are they still coming in?
"I think they pretty much understand that we’re going to remain independent. But you always gotta be careful about the Big Guy in St. Louis. I respect what [Anheuser- Busch] has accomplished. They sell fifty percent of the beer sold in the U.S. Their products are good even if they’ve lightened their beers up to the point where there’s not a lot of character or taste to the domestic premium beers. I think that’s why the imports and craft brewers are doing so well. People don’t drink as much, but they’re drinking better."
Dick then put away his cigarettes and pulled out a piece of gum. He reflected on a trip he’d made to Aldingen, where the Jüngling family’s Eagle Brewery remains in structure only. Though it’s now a public notary, it is still adorned with an eagle set against a blue sky, the same that can be found far away in Pottsville.
"It’s eerie and unique at the same time," Debbie had ruminated. "Sitting up in that office, knowing that everyone sat there. It’s a nice feeling."
"They are still hanging out. On the wall," I said, referencing the portraits. Debbie responded, "Sometimes I wish they could talk and give you advice and tell you what’s going to happen."
Earlier, Dick concluded, "I would imagine they’d be awed by the fact that the company’s still going and to see what we’re doing today," noting that the only way to know what D.G. would think would be to ask him in heaven.
Forget resting in peace. Dick can’t even imagine resting.
"In my eyes," said Jen, "my dad’s awesome and one of the hardest-working guys you’ll ever find. Our relationship has become closer since we started working together. While he’s not really a loner, I wouldn’t say we work side by side. He’s the type of guy who wants to do things on his own.
"One reason Pop left the brewery was because he kind of butted heads with his dad, so there wasn’t a lot of interaction with Pop Pop," referring to Dick Sr., whom she remembered as being "a real jokey type, extremely affable." In contrast, she sees her dad being demanding, a perfectionist.
"Do you think that’s a generational difference, the difference between a father- son relationship and a grandfather- granddaughter one?" I asked, recalling how Dick said the same thing to me about his father and grandfather.
"Yeah, you’re right. My dad does come over and play with his grandkids. He’ll be very laid- back and roll around on the floor with them."
As for Dick’s interaction with his girls, Jen divulged, "I don’t ever see my pop getting away from the brewery. Having him here is security for me. He’ll be here forever."
"They’ll have to drag me kicking and yelling," Dick concurred, pondering the idea before saying earnestly, "When I’m ready to go, I’ll go. When the kids are old enough."
Then, of course, there’s the following generation. Dick and his daughters are all on the same page regarding getting Dick’s six grandkids involved, best summed up by Jen, who said, "There’s a fine line between forcing it on your children and giving them some exposure to it. That’s all I want to do, is to say, ‘This is where Pop Pop worked. This is where Mom works.’ "
"But would you be disappointed if they don’t show that interest?" She answered judiciously, "If we can continue this legacy, that’s wonderful." Dick was a gracious host, but I knew he must have been itching to get out of the office, get out of a chair, and get to work. "I hope I didn’t smoke your brains out," he said as he saw me over to the gift shop, which doubles as their museum, where I joined a group for the tour.
Oftentimes, the best part of a tour is watching hundreds of bottles of beer being filled before swarming into a rapid- fire packaging process. But here, the guide led us down into the tunnels. After spelunking the storage caves, the tour culminated in the brewery’s rathskeller bar. Our hostess poured us a couple of beers each to make for the perfect ending. Sitting, drinking, and looking at the array of containers from bygone eras, from squat "steinie" bottles to pull- tab steel cans, I realized how much things such as design and packaging change to reflect the times, but how the contents ultimately stay the same.
FROM BEER TO THERE
Off the Horse- Beaten Path
With one interview under my belt, I walked nine blocks uphill, banking right at Frank Yuengling’s large brick house behind iron gates, which is now a community arts center. From there I made my way to the cemetery, a twenty- seven- acre graveyard with joggers and kids on bikes taking advantage of a warm day, and immediately encountered the towering Yuengling monument where I paid my respects to the four generations buried beneath.
Pottsville is bisected by Highway 61, which connects Interstates 78 and 81. Because the larger thoroughfares do not pass through, it’s lightly trafficked, and the cars and big rigs that do stream down the road rarely pull off. Walking around, I’d built up an appetite. The thing about road trips is that they are completed, almost as much as the beer, by the local cuisine. Which is why, to be kind, I won’t go into detail about my late-night meal at the twenty-four-hour Pottsville Diner. To say I was the only person in there not smoking is not an exaggeration; I’m pretty sure the short-order cook ashed in the mashed potatoes.
Road trips aren’t about getting from Point A to Point B. For my beer odyssey that meant heading south instead of north from Pottsville on my way to Portland, Maine, in order to drive through Amish country. I cruised on a sunny day with thin clouds. A groundhog skittered across the road in front of me, then underneath a barn.
Pennsylvania is chock- full of cities named after regular people. There are - burgs, - villes, - towns, and - tons galore. Anybody could have a place named after him or her, and that’s exactly what Ed and Carol Stoudt have done in their hamlet of Adamstown. They created Stoudtburg Village, a little slice of Europe replete with antique stores, craft shops, a café, and a maypole. It’s where I found Ed Stoudt’s Black Angus steak house, which he opened in 1962. Next door is Stoudt’s Brewing, which Carol launched in 1987.
During my visit, I enjoyed one of the tastiest burgers ever; everything was so fresh, even the bun was baked in their on- site bread shop. What’s more, I got to meet Carol, who invited me back in the morning for a personal tasting.
When I reentered the next morning, I found Carol behind the low- lit, wooden bar. Tall and in her midfifties with shoulder- length, curly auburn hair and thick, black- framed glasses, she pulled us a few samples from among the ten tap handles between us, ranging from the pilsner to the triple abbey. First up were a few of the lagers—Pils, Oktoberfest, Gold Lager, and Maibock—and a basket of Hammond’s pretzels, made not far away in Lancaster County by fifth- generation pretzel bakers. Yes, they even serve microbaked pretzels.
Sipping and munching away at a small corner table in the restaurant, bedecked as a proper Prussian pub, she told me about getting started as a brewmaster and opening the first, but not only, exclusively female-founded brewery.
OF BEEF AND BEER
As Carol Texter, she went to Ed’s restaurant for the first time (despite being a local). The proprietor bought her a drink. Soon thereafter, he bought her a wedding ring.
Stoudt’s Black Angus aimed to offer not just the best meat, all hand- cut by Ed, but only the most .avorful beer. At the time, that called mostly for German imports.
Ed had his restaurant and Carol taught elementary school while raising their five kids, Elizabeth (37), Carry (30), Eddie Jr. (30), Laura (27), and Gretel (25). ("She was literally conceived in the Alps, so it was either Hansel or Gretel," Carol said.)
Once Gretel skipped off to kindergarten, the Stoudts moved forward on an idea that had hit them during a trip to the Pacific Northwest along with contemporaries such as Ken Allen (Anderson Valley Brewing) and David Geary (D. L. Geary Brewing). Inspired they brewed their own artisanal suds.
Banks wouldn’t finance Pennsylvania’s first microbrewery because they hadn’t heard of such a crazy venture and somewhat because—hello? She’s a woman. Unable to secure a loan, Ed and Carol divvied up their holdings and she sold her half to her husband.
"We had a board between us in our bed."
Though Carol poked fun about divesting, she used the money from selling Ed her half of their house to buy the part of his land that now houses her brewery.
Because existing state laws mandated a three-tiered system of manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, "a beer distributor came and took beer from my dock around the corner to the restaurant." This time, Carol wasn’t joking.
At first, skeptics deemed Carol’s Deutschland- style beers not German enough, or girlie. But those people tasted with their prejudices, not with their palates.
The supposed novelty of a female brewer wears off awfully quick. Besides, as Carol pointed out, "Years ago, women were the brewers because beer- making was considered domestic. A lot of times they made beer primitively with what they had. If they didn’t have hops, they used what ever was in the garden or any herbs and spices in the field. But they made a fermented beverage that we call beer." "Women taste better than men," said Jodi Andrews, Eddie Jr.’s .- ancée, who now works for her role model. (Carol introduced Jodi to her only son at a beer festival in Boston, not thinking she was setting them up.) Jodi laughed and I waited for her to put that statement in context. "It’s scientifically proven. Women’s palates are more sensitive.I believe there should be a woman in every brewery. We’re very clean, detail-oriented, and organized."
She told me this over a second round of tasting that Carol had set up for us as she bid me adieu.
With wavy, dark blond hair, a small nose, and big muscles, Jodi takes her brewing seriously and has a coat of tattoos to prove it. She is adorned with a beer tap, bottle cap, hop cone, gingerbread men, and more, all of which she designed.
She worked her way through the Art Institute of Boston by bartending at Boston Beer Works, where some of the more patient brewers took her under their wing "like a little sister." In 1997, she took a course at the Siebel Institute. "That's when I knew it would be my career."
Nodding to both schools, I asked her, "Is making beer more of an art or more of a science?"
"Art," she replied, before hesitating and changing her mind. She settled on "both," but leaned toward putting the artistic side, or nature, first. "Brewing is all education. A carpenter can take a rock and pound nails, but it'd be nice to have a hammer. I've tasted amazing beers made with pitiful systems, at best."
The Stoudts are sort of the Partridge Family of brewing, and Jodi makes a great addition to their merry band. Eddie Jr. handles sales and marketing. Elizabeth is the baker at Eddie's Breads, where, not surprisingly, beer is an ingredient in most of the recipes. Carry designs the brewery's logos and more. Her husband, John, is the head brewer.
The last thing I remembered Carol saying about Jodi was "She's getting a feel for what our family business is about. She has such a passion for beer. And her library of recipes is unbelievable." Those gingerbread- men tattoos? They commemorated her Gingerbread Ale.
Before I left, I put together a mixed six- pack including a bottle of Fat Dog Stout, named after an old family dog. Ferdinand was a black Lab who weighed 140 pounds so everyone thought he was a Newfoundland. "Ferdie loved beer. He preferred the Golden Lager and the Oktoberfest."
Taking a pretzel for the road, I followed out the door an elderly couple who dropped off some killer tomatoes from their garden. Fresher and more local you cannot get. Heading out of town, there were no eighteen- wheelers. Instead, I passed a couple of horse- drawn buggies. Now that'd be a helluva way to make this road trip.
Excerpted from Red, White and Brew by Brian Yaeger.
Copyright © 2008 by Brian Yaeger.
Published in October 2008 by St.Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.