Episode 115 – The Yuengling sisters; running the oldest brewery in America

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Jen and Debbie are 2 of the 4 Yuengling sisters that are part of the 6th generation of a family that is running the longest continuously family-owned and operated brewery in America – the Yuengling Brewing Company, which has been open since 1829. Team RWB has recently kicked off a partnership with Yuengling, and several members of the team joined them there to kick it off – afterwards, JJ Pinter sat down with two of the Yuengling sisters and recorded a fantastic podcast.  

In this week’s podcast, we discuss:

• Lagers for Heroes (Team RWB & Yuengling partnership)

• Jen’s participation in Old Glory Relay

• Dynamics of working in family business

• What it’s like to be females in the brewing industry

• The balance between growth and culture in a business

• Their 1st new beer in 17 years – Golden Pilsner!

 

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Transcription:

Intro: 00:01 This is the Eagle Nation podcast where we talk about building richer lives and stronger communities. We have inspiring guests to have real conversations about things that you care about.

JJ Pinter: 00:13 All right everyone. Welcome back to the Eagle Nation podcast. My name is J.J. Pinter and I’m going to be your host for today’s podcast.This is unlike ones that I’ve ever done before and I’m really, really excited about it. I am sitting at the headquarters of the Juengling Brewing Company in Pottsville, Pennsylvania with two amazing people and I will let them introduce themselves and I’m going to tell the story of why I’m here in a second, but I just, I want to kick this thing off because I’m so excited to be sitting here having this podcast. So ladies, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself.

Jennifer: I’m Jennifer Yuengling  with Yuengling brewery.

Debbie: Hi everyone. I’m Debbie Yuengling , one of the sixth generation.

JJ Pinter: 00:59 Awesome. So I have two of the four correct dangling sisters who are involved in, in running the business, six generation oldest brewery in America and I’m going to have them tell us about the brewery in a second, but I have to see if it’s okay. I’d like to share a story first. So I grew up on a farm in southern Michigan and didn’t really know my dad was in the army, but I didn’t really know a whole lot about it and somehow through a series of events I ended up getting accepted and going to West Point. So if you think about geographically, Michigan and West Point New York, what is directly in the middle of this Pennsylvania and I had never really left the state of Michigan much before I grew up on a farm and just hadn’t left the state much and so went away to New York, which was a culture shock. I’d never been there before. And you meet these kids from all around the country. And so growing up in Michigan, my dad was always my dad and all of my uncles, they were big drinkers and I got to, a really good friend of mine was from Lehigh when I showed it to west point, he would just talk about this, this local beer Yuengling and I’d never heard of it before.

JJ Pinter: 01:48 And so I, I used to drive home to save money and I would take the bus down and get on it and take it all the way across Pennsylvania and then go home. And I stopped once and stopped at his house and we had, I was obviously of age, I was 21 but I stopped and we had a couple beers and it was the first time I’d ever had Yuengling and I fell in love with it. So this is probably 20 years ago, maybe close to 20 years ago. And I thought, well my dad would like this so I’ll, you know, I’ll buy a case or he, I think he maybe had a case or something and I took it home and everyone loved it so much that the next time I went back to school and the next time I came home my dad called me and said, hey, will you bring me a case or to have that Yuengling when I come back.

JJ Pinter: 02:26 But what I didn’t know is that Pennsylvania has these crazy laws that you can’t buy beer at grocery stores and this is before Google and so you, you can’t just look on your phone and find where beer distributorships are. So you know, I’m driving home and you’re like, you know, like pull off the highway and you’re asking someone like, where’s the closest beer distributor that you know, you’re writing down directions. And it just kept going bigger and bigger. It almost turned into like interstate commerce because I had a jimmy at the time and I would put case every time I drove home, all of my uncles would want me to bring it on home. And I would like fill it up with cases of Yuengling  and drive it back to Michigan and handed out to all of my friends and it’s now you can now buy it. I, you know, in other places, but at the time you could only get in Pennsylvania. And so I just thought Yuengling has a warm spot in my heart from that story just because that happened when I was in college and, and I think that’s a great way to kind of dive into what we’re talking about today and why I’m so excited to be here talking to you guys about this partnership. So anyways, I just wanted to share that story because it was a,

Yuengling: 03:21 We take a lot of pride in we are only in 22 states across the country and we do take a lot of pride in hearing about consumers who are in other states and markets where our products aren’t available. And so we call them emailing smugglers. So that’s essentially what you were at that.

JJ Pinter: 03:36 Exactly. There’s probably some interstate commerce laws that I was violating their in terms of statute of limitations of fast. If anyone’s listening to this before we start, so this podcast is national, so, so there might be some people who who might not be familiar with link dangling. So what would one of you maybe just tell us a little bit about the brewery and why it’s so special?

Yuengling: 03:56 Sure. So we are America’s oldest brewery. We were founded in 1829. It was our great, great, great grandfather. David who came over from Germany and he started the brewery here in Pottsville, specifically for the springwater started at 1829. That brewery burned down in 1830 once it was right down the street, so he relocated to the current location. When you come to the brewery for a tour of the gift shop, the brewery that you walk through is the one that was built in 1831. It was originally called the eagle brewery. That is the reference for the Eagle and all of our labels and packaging. We’re big supporters of the Eagle. I mean that’s what we were originally called back in 1831. It started that in the late 18 hundreds when David’s son started with him. It transitioned to Yuengling  and son, so it’s kind of gone forward from that ever since and we’ve been fortunate that we have slowly evolved, slowly grown. We now have three plants and next year’s going to be our 190th year.

JJ Pinter: 04:51 That is amazing. And so your, your most well known for your traditional lager. Right? That’s the beer that everybody loves. But you know, there’s other, and we’ll talk about this in a second. You have your first new offering in a while, but that’s the one that I certainly know and love. And you know, there it is. I’m not just saying this because I’m here. There’s some in my fridge right now at my home, back in, back in Indiana. Well, so I think what I wanted to start with in, and I’ll just kind of go back and forth maybe with a little bit here. One of the things that I’m really interested in, I grew up very close to a family farm, kind of a family business and you know, obviously much smaller than this, but I got to see some of the dynamics of brothers running a business together. That was it. It was also kind of watching them try to separate their life and the business from their life outside of the business and all of those types of things. And I wanted to start because I think this is really interesting to just hear about what it’s like to work in a family business, you know, with your siblings and I guess specifically like at what point did both of you realized that this is what you wanted to do professionally? I

Yuengling: 05:55 think if, if you go. If we go back even further, so as we were growing up in the seventies, eighties, our brewery didn’t have the notoriety that it has today. I’ve ever really known as a small local coal region. Brewery. Didn’t sell much outside of our local county. When our father took over the company in 1985, we were teenagers and you know, of course being a teenager and I was going into high school. I had my own interest and it didn’t mean a lot to me at the time, so I did not have a lot of involvement. And prior to that, my dad had a beer distributor, so as we started to grow and we started to outgrow this brewery, the demand far exceeded our capacity in the early nineties. That’s when our dad came to us and he said, look, I, I just, I don’t need your help, but I want to know what, where your heads are, what’s, what kind of direction are you going, are you interested in coming to work for the family business?

Yuengling: 06:43 And I was fortunate at that time I was finishing up my grad school work and didn’t have any future plans lined up. So I kind of been on that hook and I said, yeah, well you know, I’ll come back and give it a try. Not having had any experience in the beverage industry or the beer industry was sort of a being thrown to the wolves and figure it out. What do I want to do? But I think all four of us, as we made our way into the family business, we were fortunate in that we had the ability to look at all the different departments, experience each of the departments, figure out where we would find our niche, where our interests were, and in the end it’s given us a great opportunity because we’ve all found a different department, different, a different role and our skill sets pertained to those areas.

Yuengling: 07:24 So I think it works really well and the fact that we can collaborate, we can come together on ideas when there is friction, we each have different opinions on things and we work it out. But I think as a whole it makes us better because we each have different interests in skill skillsets. Okay. What about you? When did you kind of realized that this was where you wanted to spend some year, adult time? So for me it was a lot. Stemmed back to that conversation in the nineties that we had with my dad growing up, as Jen said, he had the beer distributor ships so we would spend some time there. So we were run the beer cases and but didn’t quite grasp the concept of the brewery. Then after. Did you realize how cool it was to be associated with this at that point in life?

Yuengling: 08:02 No. No, there it also, because we weren’t quite as big then it wasn’t the beer is beer was still popular, I’m sure in high school it was like, yeah, but it wasn’t. Yeah, it was you. You don’t have to say anything incriminating. Right, right. Exactly. So then when we had that conversation in the nineties, I was in the middle of finishing up my college years with an accounting degree. So it worked out for me as well that, okay, that would be my job when I come out, I would love to come back, work in the family business, get some experience with the industry. So I came back right after college and dove into more of the office accounting side of things. That was my background and my degree. So I stayed in that for many years. So that’s where I think, as Jen said, we all kind of dove into our own expertise and what we knew so that when we do have to collaborate on something, she has much more knowledge of the Brew House as opposed to what somebody else might have out in marketing are. So it works well for us altogether when we have to work

JJ Pinter: 09:05 some, I think, you know, growing up in a rural area like I did, you know, this isn’t certainly isn’t like the country, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s somewhat rural out here. Did you ever think growing up that you would want to come back to Pottsville, that you saw yourself living here kind of later in life?

Yuengling: 09:21 I personally did not have those aspirations. I, I wouldn’t say I’m a city girl at all. I went to a, this is funny because it relates a little bit to your original story. So I went to Bucknell University, which is rural area and we’re in the Patriot league, his army. So we were pretty fierce competitors. I played softball in college, so I still like you, but there’s a little bit of competition now. But no, I, I truly, I didn’t come in out of high school and college. I wasn’t sure where my career path would lead me to, but um, there’s something to be said about living in a small town.

JJ Pinter: 09:54 No, I 100 percent agree. I, you know, you don’t appreciate it when you’re growing up in that environment, but I, I know, you know, I have three kids and I just like, we live in an area that’s kind of, you know, it feels a little country, but it’s not super country and I just watching them navigate the world. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s uh, being a kid now as much different than when we were kids. But there’s something about living in a small town for sure.

Yuengling: 10:18 I think one of the things that’s nice about Pottsville too is it’s the small town, you know, a lot of the people, the schools are great for us with kids, things like that. But we can get anywhere we want to go. If we need to go to Philadelphia for want to go to New York, we’re going to go down to Washington DC. It’s easy to do that. You can do a day trip, you can get anywhere. So we’re very fortunate with that.

JJ Pinter: 10:36 Well, I mean I’m a perfect example. I left my house at 5:00 this morning and we were here at 10, 10, 30, something like that and that’s flying to flying to philly and got picked up at the airport and drove out here. It was a beautiful drive. Um, I mean if you can’t, no one can can see this right now, but we’re in the hills and it is the prime time fall colors right now and it is absolutely gorgeous around here. Our seasons are wonderful. We’re very lucky with that too. Yeah. So growing up in Michigan, similar latitudes where we’re getting close to the, the knife fight of winter before too long, but we enjoy it right now.

Yuengling: 11:11 So being. So being in the Indiana we opened up our Indiana market about a year and a half ago and then we opened Kentucky this past year. So I’m just curious as to what you’ve seen as far as, you know, being a consumer of our products, how the response has been in those areas of the country.

JJ Pinter: 11:26 Yes. I think. I think this response has been good and you have a personal cheerleader and me in that. I tell everybody about Yuengling  because like I said, I really like it and we have some history there, but I think the response has been really good. When you think about Indiana and even though Louisville is like, you know, it’s right on the Ohio river, you know, two thirds in Kentucky and a third of it is in Indiana. There’s like two different cultures there. You have kind of the midwestern culture in Indiana. Then you have the more southern culture on Kentucky side and Indiana doesn’t have any good like native beer. Right? If you think about that, there’s, there’s no. When you think about the state of Maine,

Yuengling: 12:02 you have some small like local pop up craft breweries that are starting to happen. But I think if you’re looking from an historical person,

JJ Pinter: 12:09 and so I think that’s a place where you. England can come in and, and like there’s so much history and like how can you not like the oldest brewery in America with the Eagle is the, you know, is the, is the logo symbolic? Yeah, I, I just think it’s awesome. And then on the Kentucky side it’s interesting because there is kind of this like bourbon renaissance that’s going on and like beer at the same time and they just have changed some laws and you can now buy beer on Sundays when you never weren’t able to before. So I, I think the response has been has been really good. Everywhere I go I see it on the shelves which is, which is awesome.

Yuengling: 12:40 That’s great. That’s great. And we do tend to be very slow and methodical in our growth and business model. So if you look at our footprint, we’re pretty much east coast and we’re starting to spread out into the western states and we’d like to, we’d like to go to contiguous states. We don’t have huge advertising and marketing budgets, so we rely on a lot of word of mouth, a lot of social media and great fans like yourself.

JJ Pinter: 13:01 So that’s actually, I think that leads into something I wanted to ask you guys about in some of this is actually kind of similar to what’s happening at, at team red, white and blue right now where, you know, we’re now you officially we were founded in 2010 but we really started in 2012 and so we’ve been around five or six years growing, growing, growing every year and we’re in that spotted and as an organization where we are professionalizing and putting systems in place and trying to, to, you know, we, we’ve done a lot of research on our programs and we know it works and we’re trying to think about how we can get to more veterans in more places. But we’re trying to do that in a way that where we don’t lose our soul, if that makes sense. We’re trying [inaudible] like the culture of the organization is really important to us and so being smart about how we grow and truly trying to stay focused on what the culture and what made us who we are. I’m interested because I see kind of maybe the same thing on the English side where you were a smaller business like family business culture seems really important. Seems like you have a really strong culture, like how do you think about growing and like all the benefit that can come from sharing that with everybody in the country versus kind of, you know, what’s keeping what’s special about Yuengling  special if, if that makes sense.

Yuengling: 14:13 It does make a lot of sense and that might be one of the most difficult things you encounter as a successful growing company is maintaining that sense of what we call culture and still wanting to hold onto the good traits of being a small business. But you’re becoming a bigger business and the more people you bring on, which you have to do as you grow, the more people you have to get ingrained in your culture. And they all have lives beyond where they’re currently, where they’re now working with us. So, so try and acclimate them to. That is probably one of the most difficult things. And you know, we, we try and put more of an emphasis on it now with our hr department and new hire training and things like that. But that’s a huge obstacle.

JJ Pinter: 14:54 What would you say, I guess maybe Debbie, you probably have this written down in a document I’m sure, but like what are the, what would you say are the strongest parts of the culture here?

Yuengling: 15:02 Family is number one. I mean obviously we’re a family originated company. We have a lot of our employees that are generations of families but hard work and integrity. We want people to enjoy coming to work, to be excited. But it is a challenge with three breweries. You have salesmen up and down the east coast, you have the brewery workers at the three locations. So it is trying to make sure that everybody follows those rules. We want simplicity at the same time we’re growing, but in ours we’re still a small company and we are hoping that employees say it that way.

JJ Pinter: 15:38 Yeah, I was telling w earlier, so I was. The second employee at team are to be in the first employee was in Tampa and so we used to, we’re a virtual organization so everybody works out of their homes and that’s, you know, if you want to be community based, we just, you know, being in the community we think is important. So I used to go to Tampa, you know, once a month or once every two months to work and I didn’t know that you had a facility down there, but I, you know, I got the Tampa, I start seeing ganglia everywhere. I’m like, I feel like this is serendipity. It’s like everywhere I go I, I’m, I’m around New England which was, which was pretty interesting. But yeah, it’s, I tell you for us like on the, on the distributed organization are a lot of. Our staff only sees each other maybe twice a year at best once a year we get it. It’s expensive to get everyone together. So we try to, we try to be very good stewards of our resources. So once a year we get the whole team together. So building culture when you have people in four time zones all across the country who don’t see each other is, is tough. It takes a lot of time and effort. For sure. Probably. I’m sure it’s something that you guys have to.

Yuengling: 16:41 Can you talk about. We have sales representatives in all 22 of our, of our footprint in the states and we have our Tampa brewery, which has been under our umbrella now for 18 years, so we’ve got 1100 miles separating. I said it’s, you know, we do. We try and do what we call cross pollination, so we’ll bring some of our managers from Pottsville or Millcreek our operational folks down to Tampa and then vice versa. So there’s, there’s benefits from both brewery so that we try and incorporate and get, get the learnings from each of them back to the other one. So we, we do as much as we can, but there’s certainly always more to be done.

JJ Pinter: 17:18 Did your dad or someone in the family still kind of like the beer craftsmanship, if that makes sense. When you were, when you were kids? I think about people who who, who, who I know who work kind of in the beer industry like they love beer and they know, you know everything about the brewing process and that. Is that something that by Osmosis as as children that you just were always around it and just had a love for like all things beer and beer related or was it more like, okay, I’m back in the family business and like I need to learn. I need to learn. My.

Yuengling: 17:49 Her Dad was a little bit different. He’s not so much a hands on brewer and he recognizes that fact, but coming from the distributor level where he started out having the wholesalership here locally in his mind goes more towards having that relationship with the wholesaler and and he recognizes his strengths are packaging, warehousing, logistics and working those relationships with the wholesalers. So he recognizes that, but he knows in his mind what he wants. So he knew in 1985 he knew he wanted a black and Tan. He knew he wanted to come out with the lager brand. Something that had a little more character and flavor but still would appeal to beer drinkers of the, you know, the mass produced beers. So the fact that he understood that and he let the brewers do their job and brew and he focused a lot on packaging and, and increase the efficiencies in our departments, put equipment in what after he had the money to do that was able to install equipment and we’re probably one of the most efficient breweries that you’ll find across the country. So yeah,

JJ Pinter: 18:47 I guess he, you just alluded to the fact that you know, you have a, a new, a new offering in your beer line, right? A golden lager, first new offering in new first new product in 17 years. Do I have that right? Golden Pilsner

Yuengling: 19:00 this year? Yes. The first new brew that we’ve had 17 years. It’s a very refreshing, very smooth beer outdoors-y. It’s for the active lifestyle. It’s very crisp. Think Jen had a lot of involvement in it. It took about 18 months till they created it, developed everything, got the taste exactly where they wanted it to be, the packaging, but it’s, they saw the opportunity and the refreshment category for us. We have our lager, which is fantastic and we have very loyal customers and we have the black and Tan and porter on the darker ends with a light lager. But that refreshment beer we saw that was something that consumers nowadays are craving and we didn’t quite have that. So the brew team went together, created this golden pilsner and it’s fantastic.

JJ Pinter: 19:44 Yeah. I gotta think when you have a small product line it like this. I gotta imagine this was a big decision to say, hey, we’re going to introduce something new and you know, first time in a generation really that we’re gonna we’re gonna have a new beer and now that you say that, I kind of think in my own consumption habits, like I love Darker Beers but I love one like, you know what I mean, like one and then you know, it kind of makes me feel full but it’s, it is nice and I love just like your regular lager, but it is nice to like on a kind of a nice warm summer day to be able to have like a nice light kind of crisp, you know, beer and I can’t wait to try it. And that’s what’s great about golden pills.

Yuengling: 20:21 Sessionable you can have more than one. You can take a cooler were tailgating or if you’re going skiing or if you’re on the beach you can have more than one. It’s a light beer. That’s awesome. We don’t necessarily define ourselves through innovation. You know, we have our core portfolio, lager, light, lager, black and 10. So you can imagine when we spoke a moment ago about our brewing team and our brewers, that’s why they get into the craft because they’re, they’re creative, they want to make new brands. So when they were tasked with creating this new brand, the excitement that started bubbling up was really tremendous and it was, it was really fun for them and it was great for us to be a part of that because it wasn’t just our brewing team. We, we obviously had our, our marketing team, our sales team, you know, finding out what the consumer trends were in this refreshment category and what’s the consumer looking for and what are the brand attributes and the flavor flavor profile that we need to hit. And um, you know, we did some samplings, um, and that went on for a good 18 months until we hit what we wanted to hit. And graphics did the design work and had that, the yellow graphics that really matched the color and the liquid that was inside the glass.

JJ Pinter: 21:26 Yeah. No, it looks fantastic. I wanted to ask to change the subject a little bit. You know, one of the things that I think is so cool about the store, and you probably talk about this a lot, but the fact that there’s, you know, there’s four sisters running running this business and not only do you have the family dynamic, but like, I don’t want to cast stereotypes, but it seems like this is largely a, uh, uh, you know, males that work in this field. And I think as I think this is absolutely awesome. My, I have a little sister who’s a Black Hawk pilot in the army and so she has been, you know, she’s kind of navigated this. It’s the same type of thing. It’s mainly mainly male, you know, and so I have watched her kind of navigate this throughout her career and just kind of seen the ups and downs and challenges of that. And so this is something that I find interesting and I and I care about. And so I wanted to ask and see kind of what your experiences have been like as you’ve got to have worked your way through that.

Yuengling: 22:21 I think first and foremost it’s great for us that our dad is still very heavily involved, so he’s in the plan every day I’m coming back again and then he in the evenings and he’s, he’s very instrumental in the decision making and you know, for me personally being able to work side by side with him from the operational end of it has been great to know his perspective and try and gain some of the knowledge that he has and I think one of the important things that he’s instilled in us is the hard work ethic. So I think once you can prove that you have that and if you have the talents and you have the skill sets, I don’t know, the gender in my mind really comes into play. Like it’s just if you have the ability to do the job, like that’s really be the bottom line.

JJ Pinter: 23:00 Yeah, I mean that’s. You would hope it would be like for everything, right? If you, if you prove that you have the technical knowledge and the and you have the hard work and that people know that you care about them are going to take care of, you know, when they come to you with a problem that you’re going to take care of it and all of those kinds of, you know, I guess like intangibles of leadership that people talk about that it doesn’t really matter who you are to what does it mean to get the job done? Yeah. As long as you get the job done. Has that been your experience as well? There’ll be,

Yuengling: 23:24 yeah. I agree with you. It is primarily male dominated industry. I mean it is the beer industry and the breweries, but I think when we had the opportunity it wasn’t. I know for me it wasn’t a thought of, Oh, I can’t do it because I’m female. It’s our family. It’s an industry that we can, we have to learn. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothing or if it’s beer. We’re going to learn about it. We’re going to educated and do the best we can and run a brewery.

JJ Pinter: 23:48 I think back know my dad was a was a contractor growing up and so he would always like kind of when I was a kid we would get drug out on construction sites with them always and then that turned into doing small jobs when I was in high school and then that turned into like, you know, doing, you know, things like different like roofs and stuff that, you know, he would be working on other things you after working with him. Just like in high school I imagined it would be great in one sense, but it would probably would probably drive each other crazy if we had to work together professionally on a professional basis because part of it is the way I think we probably know how to push each other’s buttons.

Yuengling: 24:24 I think we have days like that too, but also going back to a Jensen, I think we’re very fortunate to have my dad here because what he’s done with the company the last 30 some years that he’s been here is phenomenal. I’m coming out with the lager brand and the ways expanded in his knowledge of the industry and the brewery, the brewery’s that we have and are very fortunate to still be able to work with him and to soak that up each day.

JJ Pinter: 24:50 What is the worst pronunciation you’ve ever heard of your last name?

Yuengling: 24:53 It’s not so much the pronunciation being poor. It’s that people mistakenly think were Asian or Chinese beer. I guess I never would have thought about that, but we do hear like young lady or young living. It’s just a good talking point

JJ Pinter: 25:13 that one of the things that’s. So I love the fact that like the family name is. It is still, you know, front and first and foremost on, on the brewery. I think, you know, there’s so many. This is a different discussion, but like there’s so many businesses that are being gobbled up, you know, and family owned businesses and I, I’m, I’m super, super proud that. Not that I had anything to do with it, but I just, I love the fact that like it’s still a family owned business and you’re able to continually grow and be successful.

Yuengling: 25:41 That’s extremely important to us to like maintaining our independence and you know, even having the title from the Brewers Association is the largest craft brewery in the United States like that. That means a lot to us because being family owned and operated and still only being in 22 states, it’s a testament to what we’ve been able to do and the opportunities that are still ahead of us.

JJ Pinter: 26:01 You know, I wrote a book called let my people go surfing. Have you heard of this? Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and there was just, there was a section in that that just makes me think of this conversation, but he was just talking about making, making decisions in the business and making decisions that are good for right now or this year versus making decisions that are going to be good in 30 years. Right. And so if you want to be part of a business that you want to leave to your kids and you want to leave to your kids kids, you know, making decisions that are gonna, you know, he would use that 30 year Lens. But it really changed the way I think about a lot of things because for us, like two generations of veterans from now, like I want team or to be, to be there for him. And so when we think about the decisions we’re making, it’s like, you know, it’s a different lens to think through and I got to imagine that if you’re in a family owned business that it is even more important to, to think what that really kind of longterm lens.

Yuengling: 26:55 I think it’s very special. Knowing the generations before us, how hard they worked, what they did, and it was not easy times. There was so many other breweries locally that they had to compete with and they went through the depression. They went through prohibition. So the fact that they survived and made it through for my dad to take over in the 19 eighties, but they persevered. They worked here and we are given this opportunity, so as we’re coming up on 190th anniversary, I think a lot of the decisions and a lot of what we do are, we’re taking into account of the next generation, you know, we’re not just doing it necessarily day to day, but we want to still be here many, many years down the road. So it, it, it does come into play each day. Would when you’re working, have you started thinking about 200 years?

Yuengling: 27:43 Not yet. We’re trying to get through $190, but you talked to about, you know, moving into each generation and the younger beer consumers coming up through the ranks to. So we focus a lot more today on our marketing and our advertising than we did 20 years ago. So we’ve know another exciting thing we have going on leading up to a hundred 90th is the first year coming up on our, our new marketing campaign, which is called spread your wings. Um, so that’s been exciting for us. It’s, you know, us as fourth gender or sixth generation also is the fact that, you know, we’re given this opportunity to now assume leadership roles and really spread our wings so it resonates with us and we’d like to see that, that, that campaign resonates with consumers to taking risks, going out on a ledge and doing things you didn’t think were maybe possible.

JJ Pinter: 28:29 How is the beer ecosystem, if you want to call it that changing? I mean you were talking about kind of being focused on younger consumers and the dynamic is changing. There’s like, you know, I, I, you probably know the numbers far more than I do, but there’s seems like there’s a move towards craft beers in terms of what people are liking. I personally can’t stand them, but everyone likes these are like super hoppy. Ipa Is, which I think are, but it’s changing. Like how, how do from, how do you see kind of

Yuengling: 28:57 this does a couple things there. It’s the beer landscape as a whole has changed drastically in the last 25 years. So when our dad in 1985 assumed control of the brewery, there were maybe 100 breweries in the country today there’s upwards of 7,000. So the competition has become that much more fierce. Beer is losing share with consumers because many are going to spirit’s mind’s alternatives. So it’s become more competitive, not just amongst other brewers but with the consumer too and trying to maintain that, that share of mind and you know, drinkers made, they may have lost some, the loyalty to their, we refer to them as being very promiscuous so they, they may have a lager and then they’ll go to something and something else. So yeah, it’s, it’s definitely affected how you go to market and how you think about your business.

JJ Pinter: 29:49 Where do you, you know, when you think about the future, I know these are hard questions to ask, but when you think about the, you know, the future, if you think about the 200 years, like where, where do you see the business going? Where would you like it to be in, in 10 years? If you’re kind of reflecting back on your $200,

Yuengling: 30:05 for me it’s still like to see us just being successful, whether the ownership is us or the next generation that they’re enjoying what they’re doing and that we’re providing a good quality product for the consumer. Don’t want to get too big for our Britches type of thing. That the quality of the liquid is what’s still counts. That’s what the consumer’s going to drink. That’s why they come to us in the first place and that’s why we do have the loyal drinkers. They keep coming back and we make good beer. So whether we grow or we don’t, I feel like. I hope that that’s still a priority.

JJ Pinter: 30:35 It’s interesting when you say, you know, think about the next generation. I mean what we’re talking about is everyone’s children, right? I mean that’s gotta be an interesting thing to think about. I look at my kids who were pretty young at this point and you know, the thought of if we had a family business at some day, they would, could potentially be. Part of it was, I dunno. I guess that’s. I still have trouble trusting them to take the trash out, so I guess you know, it’s got to be a challenging thing to, to think about

Yuengling: 31:08 when you have a multigenerational family business you, there’s that fine line of exposing your child to the business and making them feel like it’s an obligation. And I think we were really lucky in that our dad exposed us to it but didn’t put pressure on. It’s like the opportunities here for you, you’re not entitled to anything. You, you’d have to work, you know, we all worked from the bottom up and that’s key I think to a successful family business is making sure they understand that the opportunity’s there, but the work that’s involved with it too,

JJ Pinter: 31:37 I think they always. The thing that you learned about in like these case studies in college and everything is like the third generation is generally when family businesses fail, right? It’s, you know, it’s like these are huge generalizations, but you know, like how do you properly. I have no idea the answers, these questions like expose your kids but you know, still make them work in the business and and earn it and have the same passion that the previous generations had. I don’t know the answers to any of those, but yeah,

Yuengling: 32:02 because I think it’s exposure and when you get to a company of our age, 190 years, I didn’t think having your kids understand the history that’s there and appreciate because I know the more, the longer I’m here, the more I appreciate what, you know, what our ancestors went through.

JJ Pinter: 32:20 Well, I could keep firing questions about beer and England forever, but I wanted to to talk a little bit about why I’m sitting here at the table with, with youtube and you know, we’re, we’re here for a, a huge reason in that there’s a fantastic partnership between England and t Marta, be that we just kicked off in the brewery here and they made a exceptionally generous donation to our country’s veterans. And I. So from our perspective, I wanted to talk about that. I just wanted to say a huge thanks on behalf of us on behalf of all of our members, on behalf of our country’s veterans. I mean we’re, we’re so incredibly thankful and then I, you know, I just, I couldn’t be, I couldn’t think of a better company for us to be aligned with. I mean the nation’s oldest brewery, the Eagle, like the longterm support for the military people, the military love beer.

JJ Pinter: 33:14 I mean there’s just so many reasons that this is exciting to me. So I wanted to just say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to do both you and to the business in general. I mean we’re, we couldn’t be more, more thankful and that’s why we’re here and I wanted to make sure that we publicly acknowledge it. And then I also wanted to just ask the. I know that there’s a long and rich history between gambling and supportive of the military and maybe I’d love to hear maybe how that came to be.

Yuengling: 33:40 We’ve been involved with the military for many, many years. My grandfather was an air force pilot, so it’s been close to. I think I saw some pictures on the wall, maybe out there. They’re out there. I’m not sure the name of the plane that he flew. I don’t know. I used to, I don’t remember what it is, but so the military and the veterans that put their lives and their families out there and fight for us and go overseas and thank you and thank all the men and women that are fighting for our independence and for us to be here. So it’s been an involvement that we’ve had for many years. We’ve had the lagers for heroes program. We’re working into our fourth year with that and that’s helped us be able to support the families and the veterans and give back to them. So partnering with you all and with your collaboration with veterans and putting the partnership together will be really beneficial.

JJ Pinter: 34:27 People don’t realize. So we are now in our 17th year of being at war. It’s the longest war that our country has ever been involved in and there’s still people in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, but it’s faded from the public’s consciousness a little bit just because it’s not so much in the news. There’s other stuff going on right now and you know, it doesn’t appear like there’s any clear and insight anytime soon. That’s a. that’s a different discussion for a different day. But the reality is that there’s been millions of, of veterans who have deployed and are now back and you know, dealing with all of the challenges that come, that come along from that and what we know from things like Vietnam is that there’s a latency with some of those and sometimes it takes years. And so what’s especially what I think is meaningful is that companies like, like you are still standing by and supporting the military community and veterans even though it’s, you know, not as visible of a topic as it was, you know, five years ago or eight years ago when it was a little bit more, more in the news cycle.

JJ Pinter: 35:27 But a lot of people don’t realize that. Which I think is, is sad and you know, something that makes me feel incredibly old but also maybe a little bit sad that I think about trying to do some quick math in my head, you know, if you’re, if you’re probably under the age of what, 15 or 20, you have no remembrance of September 11th, you know, whatsoever, which is crazy to me. But I think this is an important. It’s important and I’m really appreciative of, of everything that that feeling does.

Yuengling: 35:58 Thank you. And this partnership is important to us personally. It really touched me and hit home when I was asked to participate in your old glory relay and it was very humbling and inspirational and I was fortunate enough to have run a portion of the leg between Allentown in Philadelphia and you know, the support network that you had there at 5:30 in the, on a rainy morning there in downtown allentown. And you know, there was a Vietnam veteran there and the captain of the Lehigh Valley, he, he asked him to, to walk the first quarter mile and you know, he got emotional and it really, it really hit home for me and I’m just, we’re really proud to be part of this partnership with you.

JJ Pinter: 36:38 Yeah. The Oakland relay, we talked about this at the ceremony earlier, but if you know you’re listening, you don’t know what it is. It’s an event that we do every year and we move a single American frag across the countries and it starts September 11th and it ends Veterans Day this year. It started in Boston at September 11th at Fenway Park of all places and it ends on the midway and San Diego on Veterans Day. So 4,300 miles, 62 days straight and we don’t know for sure, but we think, you know, between 10 and 20,000 sets of hands, we’ll touch it as it moves across the country. For me, what I think is so special about it is that it’s like when you think about connecting people, connecting Americans together, connecting veterans to their community, but like if you watch the news, you get the sense that there’s so much divisiveness in our country right now and there is, but like at the local level, like, you know, I just think me hitting the fight to you, you hitting the fight next, like that’s actually connecting someone local and that’s what’s so special about this event to me and people can work together to do something big and difficult and hard and it’s just, it’s just really special and it’s one of the reasons why I love this event so much.

JJ Pinter: 37:48 It also gives me a bit of an ulcer because it’s 62 days that a lot of stuff needs to happen on time, but it’s a. This year was also special for me because it, it came through my little hometown of Litchfield, Michigan, which is like population 800. And so the community really came out and we did a ceremony and it was. It was really special. So it was a great place for me to grow up and so it was a cool way for me to be able to say thank you back to my hometown, which was, which was really special. Tell me about lawyers for heroes, just so everyone can can hear about it. Sure.

Yuengling: 38:17 Lawyers for heroes is a program that we run that the consumers can actually help donate. So when they buy, whether it’s a case six pack, they can make a donation, sometimes it’s text to win, it could be something right through the retail store and then that donation we provide that going back to the veterans and their families. So it can go through an organization such as yourself with team red, white and blue. But ultimately it’s going back to help the veterans and their families in the military.

JJ Pinter: 38:44 Awesome. It’s a. it’s a win win supporting veterans and drinking great beer. I don’t know how anyone could could go wrong there. Well, I want to be. I want to be super respectful of both of your time. We’ve been. We’ve been talking for 45 minutes or 50 minutes already. It’s crazy. The time flies, but I guess what I would like to, to do is to just end by asking you both, uh, a quick question and I would love to hear your fondest memory of your time growing up around here or you know, your time is spent working in the brewery, in the family business. Is there something that stands out to you as a, as a moment that is, that is really special.

Yuengling: 39:19 I think, you know, there’s obviously a lot of memories but they do range back all the way to the time when, when my dad had his beer distributor ship, but it wasn’t exactly right here in town. It was, yeah, it was maybe nine miles north of here and you know, he would, he would go to work early in the morning and come home and nap and eat supper and then go back in the evenings and there’d be times when, you know, I’m not sure if we all wrote along with them, but I can remember riding along and it was one of the older like beer box trucks. So you know, we’d be bouncing up and down up the highway going up there and

JJ Pinter: 39:47 I’m sure you had a five point harness seat belt,

Yuengling: 39:54 but it’s one of those like trivial memories, but something that sticks in my mind and you know, we’d get to the distributor ship and you know, I helped push the hand cart with the cases of beer and stack them and you know, things like that maybe operate the cash register, but like those were the early, the early weavings of my involvement with the beer industry and you know, you step back and 40 years later here you are.

JJ Pinter: 40:17 Yeah. I mean that kind of stuff is really special because it’s like, you know, you think about the kids hanging out at a, in a, you know, a warehouse full of beer, you know. But when you think about everything that you probably learned from that experience and helping and hard work and just being around it, it’s pretty cool. What about you debbie?

Yuengling: 40:33 Yeah, I do have a lot of the memories of the beer distributor. We would roller skate up and down the aisles between the bar cases. Push each other around on the dollies. We have fallen and lost teeth in there. I remember that, so kind of it’s surreal. It goes from that to coming back with him in the evenings, walking up and down by the engineer room and the brewery and that smells still brings back my youth and doing all of that, so it’s very special that we’re all here now. We’re working with him and to see where the brewery has come and it was one brewery back when we were little and how it’s grown and the experience that we’ve all gained and the way the industry has evolved, so it’s very special. It’s still be here as a family.

JJ Pinter: 41:13 That’s pretty amazing. Anything that I didn’t hit that you guys wanted to make sure we covered?

Yuengling: 41:18 You’ve touched on all the high points. I do want to stress that where we’re sitting right now is our museum and our gift shop and this actually is a newly renovated building. It used to be the dairy where we made ice cream during prohibition. Yeah, so we are open for tours daily, Monday through Saturday. Tours are free and they’re samples at the end and during the month of November, 20 percent of proceeds on any military apparel and items will go back to the Team Red, White & Blue as well.

JJ Pinter: 41:34 Awesome. Well I can personally vouch that this gift shop is awesome and I was saying this earlier, I don’t know who is picking out the products in there, but they are really cool. It, it’s a, it’s a good sense. Like I was just, I was texting my wife as I was walking through. I was like, this is going to be ugly because I want to get everything that’s in here. It’s all awesome. If you are ever in central Pennsylvania come visit because this is a really special place. There’s a lot of history. I mean just think about that, you know, during prohibition, you know, we’re sitting in a dairy that they used to make ice cream and I mean I just think there’s so much history that’s invested in just, just like, just that sentence. I think it’s really special. So. Well anyways, I’m gonna wrap it up here. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And we couldn’t be more appreciative and I am. I’m really excited to go on the tour and have some beer at the end of it. So thank you so much.

Comments on Episode 115 – The Yuengling sisters; running the oldest brewery in America