10 Craft Beers That Aren't
8. D. G. Yuengling & Son
Why it's not craft: Uses adjunct ingredients in its beer, not "traditional"
Man, it takes a huge pair of stones for an organization that came into existence in 2005 to call a brewery that's been in existence since 1829, survived through prohibition and is still family owned "non-traditional."
There are many other ways the craft kids could knock Yuengling. Last year, it brewed more than 2.5 million barrels of beer to become the largest American-owned brewery in the country, which makes it huge by craft standards. It still brews in its hometown of Pottsville, Pa., but has other brewing facilities in Tampa, Fla.
The problem is that if you're going to keep Yuengling off the list for getting too big, you'd have to do the same for Boston Beer. That would take all of Boston Beer's growth out of the equation, too, which is disastrous when craft beer's mouthpiece hitches so much of small brewing's success to numbers. In 2011, small and independent craft brewers as defined by the Brewers Association saw their industry grow 13% by volume, driven by big gains for Boston Beer. In the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12%. A lot of Sam Adams went into those numbers as well.
To avoid some messiness, the Brewers Association points to the fact that Yuengling uses corn in its mix and accuses it of cutting corners and trimming costs. The problem is, as fellow blacklisted brewery August Schell Brewing in Minnesota pointed out, older breweries founded by German immigrants tend to use a bit of corn in their recipes because they didn't have access to two-row barley from home and had to cut into the higher protein found in the native six-row barley.
Given how much craft beer snobs shriek and howl when it's even suggested that a brewery might change recipes when it expands, one would think they'd welcome a brewery such as Yuengling sticking to its original formula for all these years. Oh, and if they think Yuengling's cheaping out, check the price of corn after the biofuel push of the 2000s and compare it with the price of malt. Nobody's getting a break by subbing in corn.
P.S. You know who doesn't have a problem with Yuengling mingling among the craft brewers? Pennsylvania craft breweries. Not only does Yuengling take part in craft events such as Philly Beer Week these days, but it's also teamed up with craft brewers such as Victory Brewing to address issues including self distribution that affect craft and regional brewers alike.
As much as the Brewers Association singles out Yuengling for being "non-craft," it doesn't have a problem using it to pad its membership numbers, either.