D.G. Yuengling & Sons brewery, Pottsville, Pa.
Pottsville had two major industries besides brewing: Textiles and coal mining. Brewing was the only one to not only survive -- through prohibition, no less -- but thrive as D.L. Yuengling & Sons' brewery produced more than 2.2 billion barrels of its lagers, porters and black and tans last year.
Though production in Pottsville has been largely offset by that at Yuengling's bigger plants in Mill Creek, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., Yuengling still produces beer at the Pottsville plant it's been using since 1831 -- the oldest working brewery in America. As such, the
Pottsville brewery tour
is somewhat of a lesson in beer history. Tourists get a look at the fermentation caves dug to keep beer cool in the days before refrigeration, but also get to hear how Yuenging survived prohibition by producing near beer and building a now-defunct dairy across the street from the brewery. The company sent a truckload of "Winner Beer" to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 after prohibition was repealed.
The rathskeller where visitors taste beer today is the same bar the brewery built back in 1936. Brewery President Richard L. Yuengling Jr. is not only still keeping the name alive, but Chief Operating Officer Dave Casinelli says he still roams the grounds in jeans and work boots and takes pictures with tourists.
"You're not going to go to Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis and find a Busch family member walking around," Casinelli says. "We're still nothing more than a big regional brewery, but Dick Yuengling is a throwback to the old regional brewers and the brewing families who cares about the little guys."
The little guys tend to benefit quite a bit from the brewery's pull. The tours draw about 50,000 people to Pottsville each year, giving them access to local restaurants, museums such as the Schuykill County Historical Society, Jewish Museum of Eastern Pennsylvania and the various coal mine and railroad museums throughout the county. That 50,000 may not sound like much, but it's roughly quadruple Pottsville's entire population.