D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc — Book Review

Pop quiz smarty-pants: What’s the oldest operating brewery in the USA?  It must be those makers of Budweiser, Anhueser-Busch, right? Founded in 1852, they are definitely old, but not the oldest.  Okay, then it’s Miller, right? Nope, 1855.  At this point, given the title of this post, you can probably guess who we’re talking about.  Way back in 1829 David Gottlieb Yuengling opened his brewery in Pottsville Pennsylvania.  184 years later, not only are they America’s oldest brewery, but they are also the largest American-owned brewery.


D. G. Yuengling & Son Inc, by R. A. Munson, MD — Arcadia Publishing.

D. G. Yuengling & Son Inc, by R. A. Munson, MD — Arcadia Publishing.

Robert A. Munson, MD, has just released his pictorial history of Yuengling (D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc, published by Arcadia Publishing), and it is a wonderful history of the company, from it’s earliest days to the massive brewing operation now run by the sixth generation of Yuenglings.

Dr Munson’s first experiences with Yuengling are detailed in a story from 1979. As a 16 year old on a trip with his family, they stopped by the brewery, not knowing what to expect.  Well pre-dating breweries who offered retail shops and well-polished tours, they were delighted to be taken on an hour long tour with then president of the brewery, Richard Yuengling Sr (who’s son Dick is now president and author to the foreword to the book).  They were given a truly behind-the-scenes look at the brewery, by a man who’s passion and care for the beer was second to none.

And in a way, Dr Munson returns the favour, coming alongside the reader, and giving them, not just a knowledgeable and caring tour of the brewery, but of the brewery’s history, using access to a remarkable archive of images dating back to the 1840s.  With informative and captivating captions to each picture, the experience of reading the book is akin to looking through a family photo album, with an elder uncle sitting next to you, explaining the context of each image.  Who married whom, when that expansion was built, how this law impacted life and work at the brewery, etc.

For me, some of the most poignant images are those of the earliest workers. Gentlemen wearing caps and well-groomed moustaches, posing proudly in front of the brewery, or else excavating the lagering caves into the hill below the brewery. True gentlemen, doing difficult taxing work in dangerous conditions, with dignity and pride.  In a slightly later staff photo, most of the caps are gone, but many of the men are resting a hand on a co-worker’s shoulder; a caring embrace among hard-working men. Unashamedly a team.

But the images run the gamut, from these amazing images of early American brewing, to marketing materials including some stunning lithographed posters, fascinating prohibition-era advertisements for the products that helped them weather those hard years (producing non-alcoholic beers like “Por-Tor” NA porter, as well as ice-cream, interestingly enough), and amazing images showing the growth of the actual brewery, displaying both how much things change and also how they stay the same.  The pages are riveting, whether you are a beer geek, brewerania collector, or amateur historian.

This is truly a remarkable book, as both a historical reference and a stunning visual account of a true American success story.  Available now at local and national retailers, online merchants, or directly from Arcadia Publishing (http://www.arcadiapublishing.com).

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