POTTSVILLE, Pa. - When word got out this week that Pennsylvania based Yuengling beer would be expanding west into the Ohio market, the news spread immediately on Facebook and Twitter.
The news was welcomed by an army of individuals who had for years been making cross border trips, returning with a bootleg trunk full of Yuengling’s trademark Lager or Black & Tan.
With such a groundswell of support expansion would seem a no brainer but while many in business subscribe to a strike while the iron’s hot philosophy, Yuengling has for 182 years taken a slow and steady wins the race approach.
The brewery began in 1829 in the coal mining town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania located about an hour south of Scranton. The brewery, still in use today is built literally into the side of a mountain. What would be an obstacle today was in the early 1800’s was a competitive advantage.
Underneath the brewery, it’s founder D.G. Yuengling had hand dug into the mountain two caves stretching back several hundred feet.
“That’s because there was no electricity when this thing was built so they had to dig underground tunnels into the mountain to keep the beer refrigerated," said Dick Yuengling, current owner and great, great grandson of the brewery’s founder.
Each generation of Yuengling has purchased the brewery outright from the previous, a tradition that saw transitions through the Civil War, two World Wars and Prohibition. Dick’s time came in 1985 when he bought the family business from his father.
“Dick took it over at a very tough time,” said Yuengling’s Chief Operating Officer David Casinelli. “The company was struggling, small regional breweries were on the downslide, they were going out of business and I think there was a severe threat that Yuengling was going to join them.”
Yuengling took a look at what they were producing and what was happening in the beer industry at the time. “My dad had a lot of low priced beers that he was selling,” recalled Yuengling he knew his future was not going to be a success selling $4 cases of beer.
At the same time the craft beer segment of the industry started to grow as brands like Samuel Adams and others started to spring up. “I felt if we could have a brand, similar to craft beers like an amber colored beer which is today’s lager, we could join in on that but I didn’t want to charge $30 a case for our beer.
“I thought if we could do it at domestic premium pricing we’d get more volume out of it and give the brewery the opportunity to run 100 percent to capacity,” he said.
It was the turning point. “It took a foothold and has been growing ever since we haven’t had a down year with the Lager brand since we introduced it.”
“It’s been a brand that’s affordable to the consumer and it certainly not only filled up the old brewery in Pottsville with capacity but we ended up building a brewery and buying another brewery in Tampa, Florida.”
They are the second largest brewer in the United States just slightly behind Sam Adams which is available in all 50 states while Yuengling can only be found in 13.
Even still Yuengling isn’t putting it’s beer cart before the horse. “We don’t move on something unless we know we’re ready and we’ve done our homework,” said Casinelli who joined Yuengling in 1990. “Now that doesn’t mean we’re experts at it but you know we’ve done it enough, we’ve been around it enough, we’ve made mistakes along the way and we try to learn from them.”
That’s Dick Yuengling’s approach part of celebrating the company’s lengthy history is not forgetting any of it. “I started in the brewery in 1958 when I was a kid and I saw the rough days of the business, I've also seen many regional brands come and go."
"Our goal more so than how well can you do today is survival and continue this on through the family for generations to come."
As they look towards Ohio it's no surprise Yuengling is taking a slow and steady approach in entering the state, when they're ready though watch out.
"We want to go into Ohio aggressively I mean we've learned a lot as we've expanded our markets," said Yuengling. "We want to get into as many accounts as possible, we're looking for a good effort for whichever wholesaler network we choose.
"We're interviewing people who own these wholesalerships, we hope we pick the best one and we're counting on them to do a good job for us because we're basically partners," he said.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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