A Year of Beer #1: Yuengling Lager

The thing about Yuengling is, it’s my desert island beer. I love the stuff. Not because it’s the most amazing, world-altering brew out there, but because it’s solid, consistent, and drinkable. And, it’s one of the first things out of my home state of Pennsylvania that I was legitimately proud of.

Side story: in my early days at Syracuse, I was a little bit of a fish out of water; being from the most rural part of a rural state, I didn’t think my home turf had much to offer my more sophisticated, worldly classmates. That all changed the time I brought a case of Lager to school after a break. I had to hold most of my friends strictly to a single bottle each, and the whole case still vanished in a flash. I think the appeal was that it wasn’t a highfalutin fancy beer like Guinness, but neither was it the Milwaukee’s Best to which we were accustomed. It was a good, inexpensive, no-frills beer that everyone loved, yet nobody had heard of. And it came from back home.

It’s a beer best served on the cold side. The first sip from the bottle is unquestionably funky, almost skunky. There’s fruit in there: dried apricots, something like what lemon would taste like if you could remove the citrus bite. Imbibe and savor like you were tasting wine and you’ll end up with a mouthful of foam that will take you back to your own college days, filled with damp basements and sophomores who couldn’t pour a pitcher that wasn’t at least three-quarters head.

Yuengling is German in origin, but as the oldest continuously operating American brewery, they’ve had 184 years and counting to get rid of that typical Beck’s/Heineken German/Dutch Lager flavor. It’s much, much milder, which you might take as a bad thing–after all, most people who criticize American beers usually point to the blandness of our mass-produced Pilsners as the smoking gun, and most who counter that argument do so by bringing up more exciting, flavorful craft brewed options.

They’re right, but that doesn’t change my opinion of Yuengling Lager. For me, the mildness makes it the ultimate session beer–a term used by hardcore beer aficionados to describe a beer that you can drink a bunch of without becoming either a) sick of the beer, or b) sick, period.

So, yeah, you can say that there are lot of more interesting beers out there. You can say that Yuengling is playing it safe, producing a mediocre beer that relies on word of mouth, limited availability, nostalgia, familiarity and/or a sort of “secret menu at the In-And-Out Burger” mystique to move cases and kegs. You’d be right. But then I’d tell you to shut up and open up a couple more bottles, and there is zero chance you’d argue. Whatever Yuengling Lager is not, what it is is a great beer for when you just want to drink, you know…a beer beer.

Nicely done, PA.

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