Alright, I’m not gonna try and tell you that Yuengling Lager is the greatest beer in the world. But for what it is, it's pretty damn good! As a Pennsylvania boy born-and-raised, I consider Yuengling an integral part of my cultural heritage. Lord knows I’ve drunk hundreds of pints of the stuff over the years, so it can’t be that bad. Hell, it’s the President’s favorite beer!
Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, is one of the last standing of the pre-Prohibition old guard. Most of the others either went under or got bought out by one of the corporate beer powers. During the prohibition years, Yuengling survived by opening a dairy and also producing “near beer”. In the later part of the 20th Century, when Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors were conspiring (successfully, for the most part) to wipe out all the smaller, regional breweries, Yuengling somehow pulled through – largely on the strength of the Lager. Reintroduced in 1987, this amber lager was brought back as sort of a working class version of the upstart Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Its combination of blue collar simplicity and rich flavor made it a hit from the start – probably saving Yuengling from extinction. It has become a barroom fixture not just in the state of Pennsylvania but across the entire mid-Atlantic. Demand became so great that Yuengling had to buy an old Stroh’s plant in Tampa in 1999 and build a third brewery in Port Carbon, PA in 2000. Today Yuengling is the second-largest American-owned brewery in existence - trailing only Boston Beer Company. Its influence can be measured not just in sales but also in its effect on regional beer lingo. If you walk into any bar in eastern PA and ask for a “lager”, they’ll pour you a Yuengling.
Although apparently I loved to drink from my dad’s mug when I was 4, I was never really a beer drinker until my early 30s. I had given up Coca-Cola as a protest against Jim Rice’s exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame. I turned to beer, and it was love at first sip. And when I got into beer, Yuengling Lager was what I drank. It was what most people in these parts drank. It was my birthright as a citizen of this commonwealth. Perhaps if I’d started out with Bud or Miller or (God forbid!) Coor’s Light, things would have turned out very, very differently. Maybe I would have ended up a wine aficionado or a Dr. Pepper freak. But the lager hit the spot, and it was beer for me from thereon out. I would eventually move on to other beers, but even nowadays I won’t object to a pint of Yuengling. It really is a perfectly decent beer – at the very least a few steps up from a standard macro. While the ubiquitous corn adjunct funkiness of all cheap American lagers is there for sure, it quickly gives way to a sweet malt presence, nice yeasty notes, and just a touch of hops. It is what it is – a “beer drinker’s beer” with more taste than most. And while I find it a little baffling that Barack Obama wouldn’t prefer a Goose Island IPA, it could be worse. At least he’s not touting Michelob Ultra.