CLEVELAND - The bootlegging runs over the Pennsylvania border for Yuengling beer have finally come to an end. America's oldest brewery is set to begin sales of its Yuengling beers in Northeast Ohio Monday.
Fans of the beer celebrated the long-awaited arrival of the beverage that has cult-like following, and some residents around the state even camped out Sunday night and beverage stores prepared for an influx of customers.
Yuengling in June said it would be entering the Ohio market -- and in July named the Anheuser-Busch InBev network to handle the distribution.
"We're tremendously excited both as a beer consumer and a beer distributor," said Jim LaRose, president of House of LaRose, which will be handling the distribution in the eight-county Cleveland, Akron, Canton market.
"The products have probably the highest anticipation we've seen in decades in Ohio for a brand that hasn't entered the market yet," he said. "We're going to get on the floor and people I think are going to snap it up pretty quickly here just because of the huge anticipation."
Three brands will be involved in the initial rollout: Yuengling Lager, Light Lager and the company's Black & Tan beers.
"Those are their three biggest sellers," said LaRose. "You should be able to find it anywhere you buy beer."
Yuengling, a family-owned brewery, started in 1829 in the coal mining town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania -- located between Scranton and Philadelphia.
The original brewery, still in use today, is built literally into the side of a mountain where two hand dug caves stretching hundreds of feet underneath were once used to keep the beer cool.
Over the last two decades, it has grown to become 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 now in 14 including Ohio.
"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," Owner Dick Yuengling recalled during a recent visit.
"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."