Cold beer in bottles is a staple on the hot days and evenings of American summer barbecues. You can see where the beer in your bottle came from in any of the brewery tours detailed among the factory tours we write about in Watch It Made.
One of these tours is at Yuengling in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where the company started making beer in 1829. In fact, Yuengling, whose classic bottled lager has acquired kitschy retro-appeal, operates the oldest brewery in the U.S. Built in 1831, the historic brick building still stands near downtown Pottsville in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region.
Visitors gather in the bar area for a tour, which starts with an account of the brewery's history and the beer-making process. The next step takes you into the brewing plant itself alongside the workers. (The tour involves climbing 170 stairs, so be prepared for a workout.)
The tour focuses on the four giant metal tanks, called kettles, in which the brewers create all the Yuengling beers. The cereal cooker combines water, corn, and malt. In the vat called the mash tun, the brewers add more malt. The lauter separates the grain from the liquid, which by now is known as wort, the base of all beer. Hops join the wort in the brew kettle. Throughout, the aroma of cooking grain fills the nostrils.
The brew cools and then moves to the fermentation stage. Yeast, the universal catalyst of beer making, enters the process. Over time, it eats sugars in the mixture to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. After the brewers filter the liquor to give it a crisp and clear appearance, it goes to the bottling line. You go with it to watch the machinery fill the bottles with bright fresh lager beer.
Before the tour ends with a well-earned free tasting, you visit the historic cave underneath the building. Refrigeration, whether natural or mechanical, is essential for making lager. Lined with stone walls that workers built by hand in 1831, the perpetually cool cellar of the Yuengling brewery served the purposes of fermenting and aging Yuengling beer before modern refrigeration.
If you think that visiting a cool beer cellar sounds a nice way to get out of the heat, see Watch It Made for other factory tours that offer enticing summer escapes.
Posted By Karen Axelrod Jul 11, 2008