The Story Of Yuengling, America's Oldest Brewing Company, Predates Prohibition

It's a safe bet that Americans were brewing, distilling, or fermenting alcohol well before formal laws required registration. We may never know which moonshiner or home brewer was first in that regard, but we do know who's been doing it legally for the longest amount of time. At least when it comes to beer, it's the Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania, founded in 1829, almost 100 years before Prohibition shuttered many would-be competitors.

The brand bears the name of its founder, David G. Yuengling, a German immigrant who arrived in America from Wuerttemberg, a town in Southwestern Germany known today for its influential beer culture. His father had, Friedrich, been running a brewery there since 1816. As Friedrich's youngest child, David had little hope for inheriting the family business, so off he went to a new life in America.

Coal mining brought in new residents, and a natural soft-water spring was conducive to brewing German-style beer. Nearby caves dug by local coal miners provided a cool place for storing the fresh brews, allowing a long, slow aging process. The caves still exist, along with some of the original equipment and a whole lot of history. The brewery stands firm after nearly two centuries, with five generations of Yuengling descendants carrying on the legacy of America's oldest brewery.

Yuengling moves forward

Despite being destroyed by fire in 1831, just two years after opening, David Yuengling's brewery was rebuilt on Mahantonga Street in Pottsville, where it remains to this day. Surviving the Prohibition years of 1920 to 1933 took some creative thinking and planning, but Yuengling's descendants cunningly adapted the brews to near beer products with an alcohol content under 0.5%, and supplemented income by opening a dairy across from the brewery. To celebrate the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, the company cheekily delivered a truckload of "Winner Beer" to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. It arrived on the exact day the amendment was ratified.

The original Lord Chesterfield Ale and Dark Brewed Porters created by David Yuengling are still brewed today, but they have a lot of company. Another brewery opened about three miles away in 2001 following an earlier brewery purchase, creating greater potential for distribution. That was only the beginning, and by 2014, a sixth generation of four female descendants was laying plans for moving things forward. By 2020, the company cemented a joint venture with Molson Coors, and they now have a presence in 26 states.

In 2022, Yuengling released a trendier mango-flavored beer called Bongo Fizz, and there's a limited edition Hershey's Chocolate Porter. But its traditional brews still inform the rest of the crew, including the original amber lager and a collection ranging from porters, ales, pilsners, and a crisp light beer named Flight.