Yuengling Poised for Major Expansion…
October 15, 2010 3 Comments
America’s oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling and Son, has completed the purchase of a major bottling plant in Memphis, Tennessee.
The largest 100% domestically owned brewer (according to the Washington Post) is now poised to expand beyond its regional footprint, and maybe even go national.
This is great news for those who love Eastern PA’s finest lager beer, and for college students wherever Yuengling may be sold.
It’s ten times better than the other beers at its very modest price point.
The only question is, where will Yuengling expand?
German immigrant David Gottlob Jüngling founded the brewery in the early 19th century after coming to America and Anglicizing his name to Yuengling.
It’s the oldest brewery in America and remains family-owned.
Major props to the Yuengling clan for successfully steering their brewery for nearly two centuries. Most families would have put a real idiot in charge who’d run the place into the ground at some point along the way.
Instead, Yuengling is one of the better-known beers in America, despite the fact that it isn’t sold west of the Appalachians and north of New York.
Here’s an excerpt from Beer Business Daily’s analysis of a beer market study, as quoted in Jack Curtin’s Liquid Diet:
One thing that jumped out at me regarding national brand awareness was how high Yuengling scored, having only been distributed in a handful of states. In fact, Yuengling scored the highest of the top 30 brands on the percentage of drinkers who are aware of the brand, and who would consider drinking it. Nearly 90% of beer drinkers would try Yuengling who have heard of it, while only 11% would not (on the other end of the scale is Milwaukee’s Best, with 40% of drinkers saying they wouldn’t drink it). On unprompted awareness (or the percent of beer drinkers who [mention] brand/brand family first when asked to name a beer), Yuengling scored eight, which is higher than Busch, Michelob, Dos Equis, Natty, Blue Moon, and PBR.
Understandably, consumers don’t know Yuengling yet. When consumers were asked to select brands they were aware of from a list of 30 brands, Yuengling came in 27th, just shy of 50% awareness. Still, Yuengling is the only brand in the 30 brands listed that is not distributed nationally. And yet 60% of consumers who have tried Yuengling have become at least occasional consumers of the brand. Sixty percent!
As Curtin points out, Yuengling is so entrenched in the markets it serves that you can walk into a bar in eastern PA and call for a “lager,” and they will serve up a Yuengling.
Recent expansions into Appalachia have been massive successes for the brewer. Beer Marketer’s Insights reported in delightful trade paper-ese, “Yuengling off to eye-poppin’ start in WV. Grabbed unreal double-digit share in WV chains in recent 4-wk period. “
For those of you who have never sipped Yuengling, here’s a little information.
Most beer aficionados agree that Yuengling is a solid mass-market beer that rates a B/B+ on the grade scale — not as delicious as the special craft brews that blow minds, but certainly superior to its competition from the other large American breweries.
Beer Advocate gives it a solid B, and the Alström Bros note:
This is the oldest brewery in America and adored by college students all across the Atlantic, from Florida to New York. We are talking cult status, where the Northeast would be a viable market, yet there is still no interest from the brewery. Go figure.
Not much in the head department as it drops down to a very thin ring of lace. Clear and amber in color. Slight hop aroma of citrus and rough herb, malt is a little wet and vaguely toasted in the nose. Big on crispness with a moderate body and slick mouthfeel. Hop bitterness is a little rough around the edges, a trait of Cluster hops and the Cascade hops drop a quick kiss of citrus on the palate. Grainy but sweet and grassy throughout from the malt character. Finishes semi-dry with a pretty clean after taste.
Decent drinking, we look to this beer as a filler to switch things up. All in all, at least a step or two above most mass-produced lagers.
Now, with the purchase of the Hardy Bottling Facility in Memphis, Yuengling has opened the door to a major expansion into new markets.
The former Coors brewery will become the company’s largest, and will give it the capacity to expand its reach without sacrificing quality.
But where will they expand?
Lew Bryson at Seen Through a Glass expertly analyzes the move and sees another possibility:
Good news for the people who’ve been hankering for Yuengling. The release made no promises on timing: “We can not put a specific timeline on this yet, only to say our company is working very hard to manage our growth in our usual slow and methodical manner.”
Okay. What’s this mean? Well, first, it means New England should finally see Yuengling, along with other parts of the country that are jonesing for an American-made, American-owned light lager beer, a beer with a real history behind it, from America’s oldest brewery. Sounds hokey, but I think it’s real; it’s certainly worked for them in Pennsylvania.
Maybe more importantly, it puts Yuengling on the national radar. Up till now, the big boys could call it a regional brewery. Now they’re going national, in their “slow and methodical manner.” Will they continue to do things “the Yuengling way,” feet on the street, not a lot of reliance on marketing and laptops, leaning on the beer and the story? I believe that’s the way to bet.
The joker in the deck is Dick Yuengling. He’s getting older, his daughters are in the business, things are good…is it time to retire? My guess is no. I think Dick wants to take his shot at a national market, and judging from how he sounded when I interviewed him last November, I think he’s ready for it. I really wonder what will happen when the torch passes, and the daughters are, inevitably, offered a buyout deal from a much, much bigger brewer. Impossible to predict the result. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fingers crossed here in New England.
No finer beer at that price than frosty cold Yueng-dogs.