Firkin Around...Tampa, Florida.
|America's Oldest Brewery - Since 1829|
Tampa, Florida and the surrounding local area is home to some of the newest craft beer 'kids-on-the-block', with breweries such as Cigar City, Dunedin, Saint Somewhere, Peg's Cantina & Brew Pub and Tampa Bay Brewing Company to name a few. The list keeps growing, but hidden among these new and passionate breweries, stands not one of the oldest, but THE oldest brewer in America. Originally D. G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Yuengling brews their tasty beers and ales in the heart of Tampa at the old Stroh's brewery. I might add with equal passion to the brewing and beer enjoyment process, as well.
|Yuengling Brewery - Tampa, FL|
Our guide Maureen took us on a one hour (plus) excursion through the inner workings of the plant. As the tour began, we learned that the Tampa brewery has changed hands several times. Beginning as Schlitz, and then as Stroh's, then over to Pabst and back to Stroh's again, before being purchased in 1999 by president Dick Yuengling Jr. The 1999 Tampa facility purchase allowed Yuengling the ability to produce 1.5 million barrels a year. Do the math. At 31 gallons to a barrel, let's just say that is a lot of beer. Plans to further expand the factory are underway. As recent as 2009, Yuengling reached the 2 million barrel mark in overall annual production. And where does all the water come from to make that beer? There are four artesian wells on the fifty-four acre location that descend to depths of 277 feet.
|Active boil in mash tun|
The aromas of malts in the mash tun wafted through the air as we ascended the stairs to the brew kettle room. An active boil of wort was going on in one of the mashing units. Wort, also known as 'tea', is made from the malt and hot water addition. The splashing mixture in the tun was referred to as an 'angry boil'. That's the point at which the brew is actively bubbling as a stirring arm agitates the liquid. It takes 8 tons of grain and 241 barrels of water to mash a batch. I must say, the malt smell was very pleasing to the nose.
|Outer yard processing area|
Moving to the outer yard, we observed the area where trains haul in grain to the site. It is moved into storage hoppers and silos until needed for making the beer. Maureen pointed out that this area is also used to reclaim the natural CO2 that forms from the fermenting process of beer. The carbon dioxide is brought into the building, processed and reused later. Additionally, the spent malt grains are dried out and re-purposed to farmers as feed for cattle. Recycling at its best.
The bottling/canning line was next. There is a vast array of high speed moving conveyors that take glass bottles and metal cans through sanitizing, filling and capping/topping stations all around the plant.
We learned that the original bottles in Pennsylvania were filled by hand at the rate of five bottles per minute. The modern facility can produce 900 in that same minute. We were reminded that the folks back then bottled beer by hand and they were also likely to be enjoying a brew or two while doing so. Maureen figured that this may have attributed to the low bottling numbers! (wink)
|Government Room Holding Tanks|
|Yuengling Black & Tan|
The government room may be a great room, but in my opinion, the tap room is where it's at! We were treated to a couple samples of their finest on draught.
In conclusion, this brewery has been making a go at beer for nearly 200 years. That is quite a feat, but it is dwarfed by the fact that it has survived five generations of family run operations. All with a passion for their beer and brewing processes. A sixth generation is poised for a run at greatness. Dick Yuengling's four daughters are all interested in buying into the family business when it's their turn. Cheers to the Yuengling family and their great line of beers and ales!