Not only am I lucky enough that somebody at work is originally from Pottsville PA but also that she makes frequent trips back home to visit friends & family and is gracious enough to stuff her trunk with cases of Yuengling Black & Tan for the ride back. I was first introduced to Yuengling via their lager back in my college days at the University of Scranton. Yuengling is so immensely popular in eastern PA that all you have to do is simply ask for a lager in most bars and they’ll automatically hand you a Yuengling.
Pronounced ying –ling, the name at first seems to have oriental origins but it’s really an Anglicized version of Jüngling, German for “young man”. Startlingly even longer-running than the Boston Brewing Company, Yuengling is America’s oldest operating brewery. Since 1829, production has taken place in a brick building listed on the National Register of Historic Places right on the corner of W. Mahantongo Street & 5th Street in Pottsville.
This kind of longevity doesn’t come without obstacles. There was of course Prohibition.
Then in the 1970’s, large commercial breweries were gobbling up smaller competitors. Yuengling was able to stay in business thanks to a loyal local following throughout Schuylkill County. A renewal in historical curiosity thanks to the 1976 Bicentennial didn’t hurt either. By the late 1980s – early 1990s, Yuengling experienced its biggest resurgence ever when they reintroduced their classic lager. A voracious appetite for heavier craft beers resulting from the microbrew craze mushrooming across the country pushed Yuengling’s lager production up to 80% of total brewery output.
My assessment of their Original Black and Tan is that it grows on you. It may not hit you hard with overwhelming first impressions (I got a metallic coppery taste) but after a few pulls realized that it’s extremely smooth making it a great session beer. A mixture of Yuengling Premium Beer (40%) and Dark-Brewed Porter (60%), neither overpowers the other. I think since most beer drinkers expect a deeper and more biting notes coming from a Black & Tan, Beer Advocate may been inclined to give it a B- rating. But if you keep an open mind and palate, this brew really balances the best of both worlds: hoppy standard American pilsner and bottom fermented porter with strong malt undertones. Perhaps since these extremes coexist without overpowering one another, folks aren’t quite sure how to size up the total picture. Try for yourself if it’s available in your area.
photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky and Yuengling Brewery