Dick Yuengling rewrites family history
Fifth-generation owner transforms Pottsville brewery into one of the fastest-growing
and most coveted brands in the industry, which is eyeing new markets.
June 25, 2011|By Spencer Soper, OF THE MORNING CALL
Dick Yuengling gives a personal tour around "America's Oldest brewery."
MONICA CABRERA, The Morning Call
When Richard "Dick" Yuengling Jr. first took a job at his family's brewery as a teenager, his grandfather's secretary discreetly gave him this advice:
"You ought to go out and do something else, because we're barely making payroll."
That was more than 50 years ago, long before he purchased America's oldest brewery from his father to become the fifth-generation owner of D.G. Yuengling and Son.
After 26 years at the helm, Dick Yuengling is doing a lot better than making payroll.
Yuengling is one of the fastest-growing and most coveted brands in the beer industry. And in one generation, Dick Yuengling has rewritten the family storyline from one of surviving to one of thriving.
Through four generations, it hadn't changed much from its origins in 1829 when founder David Yuengling, a German immigrant, made beer for thirsty coal miners in Pottsville. When Dick Yuengling took over in 1985, the company put out 137,000 barrels of beer each year from its historic Pottsville brewery. The beer was sold mostly in Pennsylvania with a little trickling in to neighboring states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
"That wasn't what I thought America's oldest brewery should be," said Yuengling, 68.
Today, Yuengling sells more than 15 times that amount, or nearly 2.2 million barrels annually. Even though it is only available in 13 states, its sales rival what Samuel Adams-maker Boston Beer, a $500 million annual business, does in 50 states. And Yuengling, which does not disclose revenue figures, does it with 250 employees compared with Boston Beer's 780.
Yuengling beers are sold in bars, supermarkets and convenience stores and through distributors from New York to Florida along the Eastern Seaboard plus West Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama. The company plans to enter Ohio later this year, and is fielding interest from Louisiana and Texas. Beer drinkers in New England are clamoring on the social networking site Facebook to bring Yuengling farther north.Yuengling sales now account for 1 percent of the country's beer business, and its market-share is between 2 percent and 4 percent in states where it is sold. That's tiny compared with mega-brands such as Budweiser and Miller. But Yuengling keeps growing while larger beers' sales keep shrinking.
Dick Yuengling, who walks through his breweries in dungarees, occasionally stopping to puff a Marlboro, is quick to shift credit elsewhere, including the company's first sales director, David Casinelli, whom Yuengling hired in 1990.