Hands-on Heritage from D. G. Yuengling

Once in a while, an example of “Hands-On Heritage” comes along that takes on storybook proportions. Consider the stories and items shared with me by John Callahan, the brewing manager at D.G. Yuengling & Son, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Yuengling is, of course, the oldest continuously operating brewery in the United States, its roots dating back to 1829. No other brewery can make such an amazing heritage claim. And it sets the stage for what you are about to read.

John Callahan shared with me genuine heartfelt heritage when he inherited the brewmaster office of the venerable Ray Norbert:

"I recently had the opportunity to inherit Ray Norbert’s old office. It was quite an honor, and I decided to let everything as is, even the old file cabinets with everything from 100 years ago stored in them. Old MBAA magazines, hydrometers, scales from 1920, and bi-focals from 1930..."

Yuengling1.jpgFor those of you who don't know, Ray Norbert was one of the historical heavy-hitters that have served Yuengling well over the past 186 years. According to Robert A. Musson in his book, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Ray worked for Yuengling for an incredible 57 years, 40 of those years (1960–1999) as brewmaster. Under his watch, the company launched many of its iconic brands.

John sent the digital image on the left to me, depicting several of the items he mentions that were in Norbert's office. In addition, there are two Yuengling bottles dating from the 1860s: Yuengling Porter and Chesterfield Ale, the combination precursor to Norbert's "Original Black and Tan" beer. John continued to celebrate his findings, pointing out that the filing cabinet included some items of personal correspondence: "I found a letter from Charlie Lieberman to name a few..."

Charlie Lieberman was another venerable Pennsylvania brewmaster with a career spanning several decades. He was awarded MBAA's Award Of Merit in 1989. Interestingly enough, the last MBAA meeting that Charlie reportedly attended was a District Philadelphia meeting in the fall of 2005 hosted by... Yuengling, right there in Pottsville. Charlie was 96 years of age. The event was billed as “America's Oldest Brewmaster visits America's Oldest Brewery!”

Yuengling2.jpgJohn next shared with me the fruits of his excursion into “a back room off [his] office...” His findings there were every bit as remarkable and included a hand-painted placard promoting MBAA's 33rd National Convention held in Philadelphia in 1936. That placard is shown as shown on the right.

MBAA's 33rd National Convention was hosted by District Philadelphia and was held October 4–7, 1936, at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The convention was quite memorable as it was dedicated to none other than Louis Pasteur. A volume entitled The Life of Pasteur, written by French writer René Vallery-Radot, who was also the son-in-law of Louis Pasteur, was translated from the French and published by Garden City Publishing Co. specifically for that convention. It was bound in an MBAA cover, complete with a gold embossed MBAA emblem and title page. The handsome biography was available to all convention attendees. I came into possession of a copy, and I wrote more extensively about it back in 2013. Now, to possess an image of the hand-painted placard promoting that historic convention is equally invaluable.

Yuengling3.jpgBut wait... there's more. An alert eye will notice that affixed to the hand-painted 1936 convention placard are two smaller posters. They announced MBAA's national convention from the previous year, 1932. That convention was hosted by then District Cincinnati (now District Midwest) and held in that city. The more discernible poster is enlarged, and appears on the left.

John Callahan has since been kind enough to share other digital images of MBAA items of interest. Many were provided to him from members of Ray Norbert's family and reflect a lifetime in our industry. I am working to properly archive them with our other historic items currently housed at Iowa State University's Special Collections Department. I want to ensure that they are secure and available and meet Iowa State's own mission of providing research accessibility. They represent a very small sampling of a very rich heritage from an iconic brewery dating back to 1829. Like John Callahan himself, the folks at Yuengling are well aware of their multi-generational gifts and are working hard to preserve them. Later this year, Yuengling will open an expanded on-site museum to share its 186-year heritage with everyone. Hands-On Heritage just doesn't get any better than that!

A big thank you goes out to John Callahan for sharing his historical workday world and allowing some remarkable images to be made available to all MBAA members.

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