By Lew Bryson
That’s not exactly what Ben Franklin said, but if he was alive to drink this outstanding collaboration beer – a first for both Pennsylvania institutions – he certainly would have.
There’s a new taste at Yuengling: it’s chocolate!
It’s not the familiar chocolatey notes imparted by the dark malt that has always flavored the Porter from Pottsville, the one that America’s oldest brewery has made since it opened in 1829. No, this is full-on, full-bore chocolate, rich-smelling chocolate… Hershey’s chocolate.
It’s a new taste from a new generation. The four Yuengling sisters – Jennifer, Wendy, Debbie and Sheryl – endeavored to bring together these two Pennsylvania icons to create a truly unique beer. In an age where brewery collaborations are released every week, this one really is special. It’s the first one Yuengling has done in all its 190 years. And it’s also the first time Hershey’s chocolate has – officially – been an ingredient in a beer. The candy maker’s slogan says it “Brings Goodness to the World”, but who knew it would come with an ABV… and a very moderate 4.7%, at that.
Once they have assumed the mantle, each new generation at the helm of the Yuengling brewery is entrusted with honoring, and enhancing, the family’s legacy. If you can forgive the pun, these well-grounded brewing professionals have spread their wings. They launched Yuengling Golden Pilsner in 2018. This all-malt beer brewed with Hallertau and Saaz hops is the sister’s interpretation of a refreshing pilsner, Yuengling style. Available year-round, it’s been very well received. Yuengling Golden Pilsner is the nation’s seventh largest growing brand, right up there with products made by Corona and White Claw. But Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter was a successful creative leap outside their comfort zone. And following on the heels of Golden Pilsner’s success, it’s another feather in their caps. From the moment the beer was announced, Porter chatter exploded all over social media. The impressions on Twitter alone were north of one billion. Men and women (in equal numbers) went into celebration overdrive. The posts are fun to read.
“We had been kicking around the idea for some time,” said Jennifer Yuengling, “and we’re excited to bring it to life. We know America loves beer and America loves chocolate. What better way to celebrate 190 years of brewing than to combine these beloved products into something our fans can enjoy.”
A family endeavor
Each sister had a hand in making the beer. And each sister made a difference by utilizing her individual strength. Jennifer, who runs brewing operations, led the charge to make the beer, along with Yuengling’s talented team of brewers. Wendy is sales oriented; she runs the sales and marketing departments. Debbie and her team set up the pricing and promotional schedules. And Sheryl, with her culinary training, worked up a bunch of delicious food pairings, some of which will surprise you; this is not just a dessert beer! How about a nice Hershey’s Chocolate Porter with some beef chili empanadas?
Were any other chocolate companies considered? “Not at all,” Jennifer said firmly. “Hershey’s is a natural partner, given their deep Pennsylvania roots and iconic American company status. Both the Yuengling and Hershey’s teams wanted to make a world-class beer, that would have that distinctive Hershey’s chocolate taste and aroma. Our brewers and their food scientists worked closely on the recipe (and that’s all the process details the brewery’s releasing for now), and they nailed it!”
They surely did. When you get a glass of this dark beer, with its buckskin-colored foam, you’ll catch whiffs of chocolate, while it’s still on the bar. Come closer and you’ll catch the rich, velvety smell that lays over the town of Hershey when the factory’s in production mode. It’s the smell of cocoa nibs being crushed, the lush, textured smell of cocoa, and chocolate bar, and deep, dark ripe fruit. The taste blends porter and chocolate so evenly: not shy and faint or cloying and sticky. You could definitely drink pints of this and trust us, you probably will.
You probably will be at a bar, too, because Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter is only available on draught, at least for now.
It’s also a limited edition, and while they thought they brewed enough to last through the holidays and up through Valentine’s Day, early sales and social media buzz seem to indicate that it’s not going to last that long.
No one let the cat out of the bag
There was quite a buzz at the brewery (and at Hershey’s) all year as the project progressed, but not a word was said. “Keeping the project a secret was tough!” Jennifer said. “We are so excited about this beer and this partnership, that keeping it under wraps was probably the hardest part.”
“We know America loves beer and America loves chocolate. What better way to celebrate 190 years of brewing…” – Jennifer Yuengling
A shared family success
The partnership that the four Yuengling sisters have formed with each other and with the men and women who work at the brewery, is another study in cooperation. Everyone has an area of expertise, decisions are shared, and it has worked out that no one’s focus overlapped too closely.
“We each took different paths,” Jennifer said. None of them were told they had to work at the brewery, and like their father, some of them worked somewhere else first. “’Will you go with this [work in the family business]?’ he asked,” she said about her father, Dick Yuengling. “We were exposed to the business, always, but he never pushed it.”
They’re not just involved in the business. They get involved in how the brewery supports their local community. “We do a lot of things in Pottsville,” Jennifer said. “We had a big block party this summer, with ‘90s band (Better Than Ezra), crafts… a big party.”
The sisters honor their grandfather’s military service by supporting T.A.P.S. (a program offering healing support for families who lost a loved one in military service) and Team Red, White, and Blue, which connects returning veterans with their communities through sports and social activities. “We’re proud of our freedoms,” Wendy said. “We’re small town people, it’s what we do.”
The sixth generation of the Yuengling family is poised to fully take over the reins. And it’s a great story, but right now, the focus is a bit more immediate: is there going to be enough Chocolate Porter to get us through to Christmas? Will it be back next year… or will we see some new treat?
“You never know,” Jen said. “We have some great ideas up our sleeves. You will have to wait and see what comes next.” And that’s the Yuengling story right now: wait and see what comes next!