When you think of beer, which brand comes to mind as the biggest American brand? No doubt you thought of Bud or Bud Light. Maybe you thought of Miller or even Coors. If you did you would be wrong. Recent industry news concerning which brewery is the largest American brewer may come as a bit of a surprise to you. The largest American brewer is G. G. Yuengling and Son makers of Yuengling Lager available throughout Jacksonville and much of the southeast.
It is important to understand this distinction. Anheuser-Busch beers are brewed in the United States and provide Americans with jobs, but since 2008 A-B has been owned by InBev a Belgian/Brazilian conglomerate based in Belgium. And both Miller and Coors are owned by companies based in Britain and Canada. Truly American beer, brewed in the United States, and owned by an American company, is becoming increasingly hard to find.
A breakdown of the amounts of beer brewed by each brewer reveals that A-B is still king of the hill when it comes to beer sales in the U.S. with 99 million barrels of beer brewed in 2011 followed by Miller/Coors with 60 million barrels. The respective market share these to mega brewers own is 47% and 28%.
By comparison, Yuengling only commands 1% of the sales in this country with only two-and-a-half million barrels brewed in 2011. Close on Yeungling’s heels is the Boston Brewing Company makers of Sam Adams beers with less than a hundred thousand barrels less. An expansion into the Ohio market last year seemed to give the country the impetus needed to puch past Boston Brewing to grab the title for 2011.
Yuengling was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, PA by David G. Yuengling from Wurtenberg, Germany. The brewery was first established as the Eagle Brewery on Center Street in Pottsville, a sleepy coal-mining town with a thirst for great beer. After a fire destroyed the original brewery in 1831, David rebuilt his dream in a new brewery on Mahantongo Street. The company cruised along nicely and in 1873 Frederick, David’s son, renamed it to D.G. Yuengling & Son. In 1895 Yuengling began bottling its beers for better distribution and freshness. During prohibition the brewery ceased beer-making activities with the exception of near-beer and opens a dairy. After prohibition, the brewery returned to making beer and began building steam again as a brewing force.
The brewery was afforded a singular honor during the United States Bicentennial year of 1976. Yuengling was placed on both state and national registers as the oldest continually operating brewery in the United States.
The most familiar of the brewery’s beers, Yuengling Traditional Amber Lager is reintroduced in 1987 and becomes the flagship brand for the brewery. In the years since then, Yuengling has expended its offerings to 14 beers, but the Amber Lager remains its best-seller.
The remarkable thing about this brewery is how it achieved the distinction of becoming the largest American brewery even though it does not distribute nationally. Nor does it have plans to do so. In an article published on The Bottom Line on MSNBC’s website, David Casinelli, chief financial officer for Yuengling said, “We are a regional brewery. We will grow as we feel we can handle it. But we’re not going to run across the U.S. and become a national brand.”
As an American icon in the brewing industry, Yuengling – which means “young man” in German – has been going strong for 183 years. And with two breweries, one in Tampa that has daily tours, the brewery continues to grow. The strength of the company is not in question.
“We’re a fifth-generation business.” Casinelli said. “Most don’t make it past, what do they say, two.”