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Yuengling’s chief talks about beer
Pottsville brewery plans to remain family-owned

The fifth-generation president and owner of Pottsville-based Yuengling & Son Brewery said he wants the company to remain family-owned.

For Yuengling, 63, that would mean handing the nation’s sixth-largest brewery over to his four daughters, each of whom works for the 177-year-old company.

Speaking at a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry meeting Wednesday, Yuengling said he has no reservations about making such an unprecedented move.

"It could work very well. You might see a major brewery with four women owning it. I think that would be kind of neat."

Yuengling’s presentation, "It’s About the Beer," attracted a record 150 people to Wednesday’s Excellence Exchange program.

Yuengling spoke about the company’s past, his role in its management and what he expects in the future.

Yuengling discussed Anheuser-Busch’s acquisition of rival beer maker Rolling Rock, saying the brewing giant could grow the Latrobe-based brand significantly. He noted, however, that Anheuser-Busch is not known for making craft beers.

Yuengling explained how his great-grandfather, David G. Yuengling, founded the brewery in 1829, two years after he left Germany for America.

The beer maker prospered until the 1960s, when Dick Yuengling nearly left the family business. He said he grew frustrated with the company, which had struggled throughout the decade, and left for a job in the beer distribution business.

The decision disappointed Yuengling’s father, Richard L. Yuengling Sr., who managed the company with his brother, F. Dohrman Yuengling, at the time. Dick said his father told him, "You’ll be back in two weeks."

Eleven years in the beer distribution industry would pay off for Yuengling in 1985 when he returned to buy the brewery from his father, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. Yuengling said his experiences in distribution gave him a better understanding of the beer industry.

With that knowledge, Yuengling began turning things around.

He reintroduced the Yuengling Lager brand in 1987, and the beer soon became the company’s signature product.

The beer maker also raised its profile by promoting itself as "America’s oldest brewery," although Dick Yuengling initially didn’t think much of the slogan.

"I never really felt it was very important," he said, "but as time went on, you could see the value of what a marketing tool you had."

The marketing helped boost sales for Yuengling, which now produces more than 1.3 million barrels of beer a year. To meet increasing demand, the company purchased a plant in Florida in 1999 and opened a second Pottsville brewery the following year.

Asked about the challenges of leading a family-run company, Yuengling said it has been difficult to maintain his "small-business owner" managerial style now that the company is thriving.

"People are always asking me, ’Are you going to go public?’"ˆ" Yuengling said. "I can’t see myself standing in front of a board of directors or sitting in a shareholders meeting."

His company shows that businesses don’t have to be corporate to be successful, Yuengling said.

"You can do anything you want in a family business; you just have to be driven (and) hire the right people."

Tyson Mccloud

Lancaster Online - 20 June 2006
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