For the love of beer

It isn’t every day you get handed a free, delicious beer. But at the Yuengling brewery right down the street, that’s exactly what they do twice a day.

Many college students are strapped for cash, and the common assumption is that brewery tours will charge for admission. However, upon arrival, Elizabeth Maroney – the person in charge of the tours – greeted patrons with some welcome news.

“The tours are free to anybody over the age of 21,” she said.

The first stop on the tour was the bar, where bartender/tour guide Joel Schroeder had some more good news: “Everybody gets two free samples.”

The only difficulty was in deciding which beers to try – there were five varieties of Yuengling on tap. The Yuengling Black & Tan was smooth and lightly carbonated – it was a lot like the porter but with a flavor that was more mellow and less stout-like.

Behind the bar played a video full of interesting facts about the history of Yuengling Lager. For instance, the first Yuengling brewery opened 178 years ago in Pottsville, Penn. Yuengling has been family-owned since the brewery opened and is now on its fifth generation.

Schroeder offered additional facts after the video, such as the difference between lager and beer.

“Lager just means ‘to age’,” Schroeder said. Basically, a lager is a beer that undergoes additional aging at a certain point in the brewing process.

After the two dozen or so of us embarking on the tour had had our history lesson, the journey began with the brew kettles. The tanks hold 20,000 gallons of water, hops, barley and other ingredients. People would be able to drink as much as they want out of these kettles because the beer has not fermented at this point and, therefore, is not alcoholic. However, considering that the beer is at 211 degrees Fahrenheit, most people tend to pass on the offer.

The tour also taught us about the way different beers are made.

“All of the beers are made with the same core ingredients,” Schroeder said. “The differences in color and flavor come from cooking the barley at different temperatures.” Thus the difference between light beers and dark beers.

From there we were taken to the packaging area, where beers are canned or bottled. Machines were zipping bottles around the packaging area almost too fast for my eyes to follow. The beers were filled and capped, and the bottles were cleaned and labeled in a matter of minutes. After that, the tour went through the laboratory with the machines used to test the product for pH levels.

After the tour of the chemistry lab, we saw what ended up being everybody’s favorite room. In a giant cooler there were four tanks, each holding the equivalent of roughly 400,800 bottles of beer. The room was a crisp 32 degrees, and the flavorful aroma of Yuengling lager was in the air. In all honesty, the room smelled delicious, and it induced the desire for a second sample.

At the completion of the tour, guests are invited to have another sample of any Yuengling variety they choose. There, people can mingle and recount their memories of the tour.

The Yuengling brewery is on 30th Street between Busch Boulevard and Fowler Avenue The tour, which runs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Monday through Friday, lasted a little longer than an hour. The tour is free, and of-age guests are treated to free beer. Just don’t forget to tip the bartender.