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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Responding to Steve's Fat Tire & Yeungling post

Below are two responses (not objections) to Steve's post "The Mystique of Fat Tire & Yeungling", which appeared on The Buzz on July 28, 2011. A section of the original post is excerpted here. To read the post in its entirety, please follow this link.


"It is a mystery, however, as to why we get so many people [at Siciliano's] looking for two beers that are not distributed in our state, that are not from exotic or foreign lands and that, relatively speaking, are not that highly regarded in the craft beer community—Fat Tire and Yuengling. While these are both solid products from established and successful breweries, they are, in my humble and subjective opinion, no better and perhaps even worse than the beers in the same style that can easily be found on the shelves of any Michigan beer store."

~Steve Siciliano, The Mystique of Fat Tire & Yeungling

A reader responds
(via email, since the comments feature wasn't working)

Yuengling is nothing special beer-wise, just a decent American amber lager. What makes it special is that it's America's oldest brewery, still family owned and making beer in its original Pottsville, PA brewery, six generations after it was founded in 1829 (they also have a brewery in Florida these days). Yuengling has gone through some rough times in the past, but the good people of Pennsylvania have continued to support their regional brew. Since you can get it for about the same price as Bud Light, who can blame them? It's so ubiquitous in PA that you can can walk into any bar and get a Yuengling simply by asking for "a lager." I'm in PA a lot for work and I always have a Yuengling, just to support a historic, regional, and still American-owned brewery.

~Charles Grantier, Kalamazoo

An editor responds

The three years I spent in grad school in Columbia, SC were often marked by nights awash in Yuengling. Back then (and perhaps still) there was no state- or city-mandated last call, and it happened sometimes that my friends and I stopped into a bar around 10 or 11pm, only to emerge hours later, at five or six in the morning, having lost track of time, and having consumed as many Yeunglings as our small teaching stipends would allow.

Why Yeungling?  On some level, it was for those same reasons Charles Grantier expressed above--it's an independent, regional brewery with an impressive history, all of which appealed to us. But we drank it too for more pragmatic reasons: we were poor grad students, Yeungling was a good, relatively inexpensive beer, and you could drink several in a sitting without losing all control.

These days more and more breweries are developing low-alcohol "session" beers, a trend I can get behind. However, as much as I love Founders All Day IPA and beers like it, they are often locked in at the same or comparable price points as other craft beers. While I am both willing and happy to plunk down good money for the quality I get, I believe there still exists an unfilled niche in the Michigan craft beer market: micro-ideology, macro-styles & pricing. It's this niche that Yeungling fills so well in Columbia, SC and probably wherever else Yeungling is sold.

Say what you will, but just as I sometimes hanker for an old ale or flemish red, there are times when an Old Style or PBR is the kind of beer I'm in the mood for--cheap, easy drinking, perfect for a BBQ or Tigers game. But offer me a decent-tasting, low-alcohol, locally or regionally produced alternative at a similar price point, and I will gladly purchase it instead. Whether a beer like this is economically feasible given the financial constraints of running an independent craft brewery, that I don't know. One thing I do know: Yeungling, the oldest operating brewery in the country, seems to be managing just fine.

~Chris Siciliano, The Buzz

The Buzz staff invites all readers to contribute to the conversation. Please feel free to leave your comment below (providing of course we fixed the issue with the comments feature). 


  1. I would love to see Michigan have its own go-to beer—not necessarily a great beer, but a standard. Order “a pint” in Dublin and you’re getting a Guinness, likewise for Yeungling in parts of the eastern United States. Oberon is as close as Michigan has to that one ubiquitous beer. But Oberon won't work because it’s seasonal, and the average beer drinker might still find it undrinkable. What we need is a pilsner with the perfect combination of taste, price, and branding (a one-word name). Not a “session” beer (whatever that means), but an “afternoon” beer (as in, all afternoon). The day I can walk into any bar in Michigan, order a pint, and get that one local beer that tastes something like Lager of the Lakes or Pick Axe Blonde for around $3—only then will we have earned the name “Great Beer State.”

  2. Tim,

    My bad. I should have included a link to the/a definition of "session beer." Similar to what you term an "afternoon" beer, a session beer is one you can drink several of over an extended period of time (an afternoon, for example) without overwhelming the senses. Here's a longer definition:

    Thanks for posting.


  3. Chris,

    This "session beer" trend strikes me as the new gimmick, similar to "triple-hops-explosion-mouths" and other absurd brews. There are plenty of beers that are "session" by their very nature—pilsners, for example. Am I an old curmudgeon? Probably. But I'd prefer my beer get back to basics.