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100 Years Later: How Yuengling Survived Prohibition

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — A group of friends having a cold one, legally, in a public place is a scene that was hard to come by on a late January day 100 years ago...

POTTSVILLE, Pa. -- A group of friends having a cold one, legally, in a public place is a scene that was hard to come by on a late January day 100 years ago - except for at one place: Yuengling Brewery.

"We were still legally pumping out beer," said Jen Yuengling.

Yuengling Brewery was already almost 100 years old at the time prohibition began; it just celebrated its 190th birthday in July, making it the oldest continuously operating brewery in the U.S.

But how did Yuengling survive the 13 years in which making and selling beer was illegal?

It was all thanks to third-generation owner Frank Yuengling.

"Not only did he make near-beer which is one half of 1% alcohol, which was legal in those days, but he also started this dairy, the ice cream business, and the ice cream business stayed here until 1985," Jen Yuengling explained.

The old creamery now serves as the brewery's tasting room, but don't expect to taste any near-beer here; it is all real beer.

But during prohibition, you took what you could get.

Yuengling was still able to find a way to make beer, but when it came to storing it, they ran into a brick wall, literally.

The federal government put up brick walls, blocking them off from the caves where the beer was usually stored.

"So when prohibition was finished in 1933, we blew a hole in that brick wall," Jen Yuengling said. "We delivered a truckload of winter beer. We figured we won the fight against prohibition down to the White House and FDR."

One part of that wall remains is a piece of history to remind visitors never to take your growler or glass for granted.

Newswatch 16 found a group who had just completed a tour of the brewery, including Mark Haluszka of New Jersey. They were feeling very grateful for their legal, 4.4 % alcohol by volume beverage.

"We're supposed to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,"  Haluska said. "If a couple of beers is your pursuit, why not?"

When it comes to the pursuit of beer, Yuengling has never given up.