Craft beer is big business in Pennsylvania. The Brewers Association 2018 Annual Report found while the biggest numbers are in California, Pennsylvania is second with a $6.3 billion annual economic impact on the state’s economy and an average salary of $48,150.
“Pennsylvania has such a rich tradition in the brewers and in the brewer community,” said Jennifer Yuengling-Franquet, vice-president of operations of D.G. Yuengling & Son, America’s oldest craft brewery, part of the sixth generation of ownership of the Schuylkill County family business. “I just think it’s a great community and a great state to be brewing beer.”
Nearly 80% of their business is Yuengling Lager, which is sold in 22 states.
Their latest product is Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, a combination of two Pennsylvania companies and a fresh take on their 200 year-old dark porter combined with arguably America’s favorite chocolate.
“It’s created a lot of buzz,” she said. “We’ve embraced both brands. It’s different in terms of flavor profile than our core brands. It has that rich chocolatey flavor profile with smooth chocolate undertones and the smooth chocolate caramel and dark roasted malts.”
“We have that story that has been around for generations,” she said. “We’re in our 190th year and in our sixth generation of ownership. I think consumers really like to relate to that.”
Yuengling-Franquet and her three sisters all have leadership roles and their father Dick, still has a hand in the day-to-day operations of the family business.
For those brewing small batches of beer in former storefronts, old garages and on farms throughout small towns and cities in northeastern Pennsylvania, owners report good business.
“It’s amazing how many people travel to try different beers,” said Ben Yagle, co-owner of the Rock God Brewing Company in Danville. “I used to do that before I owned a brewery.”
The brewery opened in 2014 and Yagle brews about 12 barrel per month and serves it in a 1,200 square foot barroom that can fit about 70 people. They typically have 12 taps that include two or three IPAs and a hard cider from a local cidery.
“We have everything from a lager to a wheat ale to a stout,” he said. “I think for so long people just had one style of beer to drink,” he said. “I don’t think people really realized there were other styles out there. Finally people caught on because of the big craft brewing companies out there.”
Brent Humm, owner of Five Mountain Brewing Company on the outskirts of Shickshinny, said his adventure into the craft brewing business began in his garage.
“We have 8 beers on tap,” said Humm, who has a three-barrel system. He has five staples, with names like S’more Stout, Miffle Sipper IPA and DD Lawnmower and three others that he rotates. He said the most popular is a Hefeweizen.
Humm said he likens his beer recipe much like the recipe for the spaghetti sauce.
“There’s a bunch of different recipes and you just find a base recipe and kind of tweak it and add your own touches, come up with what you like and then you end up with a beer that falls within your style.”
Humm, who runs the business with his wife Melissa, works at the nuclear plant in nearby Salem Township, has the taproom on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
“Some people don’t want to drink the mainstream,” he said. “They want to drink something more local. I also don’t have to figure out what I’m going to do with a truckload of beer if it doesn’t sell. We can afford to try things and be experimental.”
Humm said he hopes to expand at some point, but said the business is doing well.
Where the business will go is anyone’s guess – last year the brewing industry created more than a half-million jobs nationwide, according to the Brewers Association. Some experts argue the business can survive with many smaller breweries pumping out small amounts of beer.
“We’ve survived just about everything,” said Yuengling-Franquet. “World wars, depression and the worst of all – prohibition. We survived through innovation and diversification. Frank Yuengling sold a beer in those days which had less than 1% alcohol and then they built the dairy, which is right across the street from our historic brewery.”