Yuengling daughters talk about future of family's brewery

 

As brightly-colored gold cans of Yuengling's newest product, Golden Pilsner, move forward through an assembly line in the brewery, down the hill at the gift shop in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, longtime owner Dick Yuengling is looking back.

"Well, when I took over in 1985 for my father, we were doing OK," recalled Dick, the brewery's fifth-generation owner. "He did a good job of keeping us alive and giving me a chance to take over, but as far as what I envisioned, I never envisioned anything like this."

He never envisioned a brewery in Tampa, Florida, a planned hotel, and an approaching 190th anniversary celebration expected to draw thousands to Pottsville on Saturday.

Dick attributes current success to a past working, for a time, in distribution.

"That was an avenue to get our brands into their market, when the time came, and I also met people in the industry," Dick said.

One of those people was Tony Casinelli, who, along with his son David, now Yuengling's chief operating officer, would help to take the brewery to new heights, starting in the Philadelphia area, where distribution exceeded expectations.

"He took our brand from 50 kegs a month to 10,000 in a matter of four or five years. I mean, our brand just absolutely exploded," Dick recalled. "It was the greatest experience anybody ever went through in the brewing industry."

That's coming from a brewery that has the most experience in the country -- surviving fire, prohibition, the evidence of which can still be seen in the form of a partially broken down brick wall in the caves below -- and other big brewers being bought out.

"It's a wonderful experience, and it's great for Pottsville," Dick said. "It's great for certainly our business and my children that are in it today, and we just kept growing."

Those children -- daughters Wendy, Debbie, Jennifer and Sheryl -- are poised as the sixth generation to purchase and take over the family tradition.

But, as a beer brew kettle churns a generations-old recipe of ingredients, it serves as a symbol of how the Yuengling brewery has thrived. Just as the generation before it, the next must mix up new ideas to keep moving forward.

"Same scenario. Well, what I wanted to do was make this brewery efficient," Dick said. "I always felt we had good beer. We're not around 190 years, because we don't make good beer."

Finally, as a big brewery birthday bash approaches, what's the best gift Dick said he's ever received from his daughters? It was their response to a modest invitation to an expansion announcement years ago.

"I got teary-eyed. Ya know, when they said, 'Yes, we all want to come in,' and they all are in, and that's a lifetime worth of birthday presents," Dick said.

All in and ready to celebrate 190 years.

Yuengling's 190th anniversary celebration is set for Saturday in Pottsville. Alternative rock band Better Than Ezra will headline the free concert, which will be followed by fireworks.

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