In the ever-evolving world of craft beer, where innovation and creativity often take center stage, it’s important not to forget the brewing pioneers that laid the foundation for America’s rich beer culture. These venerable institutions have weathered the storms of Prohibition, changing tastes, and economic challenges to emerge as icons of American brewing history that are an integral part of our nation’s beer heritage–and they deserve well-earned praise for doing so.
D.G. Yuengling and Son
Yuengling, America’s oldest and largest craft brewery, is a name that resonates with both beer aficionados and history buffs alike. Founded in 1829 by David G. Yuengling in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, this iconic brewery boasts an impressive heritage spanning nearly two centuries. What began as a modest operation has evolved into a nationally recognized brand, cherished for its time-honored brewing traditions and a steadfast commitment to quality. Yuengling’s rich legacy is a testament to its resilience through Prohibition and various industry challenges, making it a true stalwart in the American brewing scene. With its heritage-laden lagers and ales, Yuengling continues to captivate beer enthusiasts with a taste of history in every sip, earning its rightful place as a venerable institution in the world of American beer.
Minhas Craft Brewery
Nestled in the heart of Monroe, Wisconsin, Minhas Craft Brewery stands as a living testament to the enduring spirit of American brewing. Established in 1845 by the visionary Swiss immigrant, Casper and his wife, Joosse Minhas, this historic brewery predates even some of the most celebrated names in the industry. The brewery’s changed names, owners, and families many, many times through its existance but it’s been independent the whole time. You can follow the whole breakdown of who owned them, when, and what they were doing with the brewery on their website. It’s admirably transparent, especially in an era that prioritizes local production and ownership. With a remarkable history spanning well over a century and a half, Minhas Craft Brewery has continually reinvented itself, adapting to changing times while staying true to its time-honored craft.
Stevens Point Brewery
Not a lot of breweries are up front with what they did to survive Prohibition. Honestly, it feels a bit like when one of your parents won’t tell you what they did to survive college. But Stevens Point Brewery seems proud of its time making near beer and sodas during Prohibition, kind of like the vineyards that gave everyone bricks of grapes and then said you should absolutely not do the exact things it would take to turn them into wine. Stevens Point Brewery is known for producing a variety of beer styles, ranging from traditional lagers and ales to craft and specialty brews. It sold only in Wisconsin until 1990, when consumer demand led to expanding to provide its beers to beer enthusiasts outside the state lines.
Schell’s located in New Ulm, Minnesota. It is one of the oldest family-owned breweries in the United States and has a rich brewing tradition dating back to 1860 when it was founded by German immigrant August Schell. Schell’s Brewery is known for its commitment to producing German-style beers, particularly lagers. It preserves its heritage to this day by brewing traditional German beer styles and maintaining a strong emphasis on quality and craftsmanship. Some of those popular beers include German-style pilsners, bocks, wheat beers, and specialty seasonal brews.
Drinking the beer is one way to experience the historic brewery’s wares, the other is to visit the historic brewing site itself. August Schell Brewing Co. has made the original production facility part of the larger experience by maintaining the original owner’s mansion along with a few other eccentric indulgences, not least of which is a deer enclosure.
Located in Frankenmuth, Michigan, this is one of the oldest microbreweries in the state and has a history dating back to 1862 when it was originally established. (There was a brief closure when Frankenmuth was wiped out by a tornado in the mid ’90s, but those sorts of acts-of-god closures don’t really count as interruptions in my mind.) Frankenmuth exists now as a place for Minnesota to celebrate its brewing history. The place has gone through a number of different owners and operators, but it eventually came back to its roots, in that it’s Frankenmuth Brewery once again and is serving a crazy amount of beers on tap. Frankenmuth Brewery is notable for its commitment to crafting traditional German-style lagers and ales, staying true to the region’s Bavarian heritage–Frankenmuth, often referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” due to its German-inspired architecture and culture. Frankenmuth Brewery offer a range of beers, including pilsners, bocks, lagers, and specialty brews.
It seems like a lot of the longest standing breweries in the United States were started by German immigrants who realized no one around them was brewing properly. Or, if there were immigrants brewing around them, it seems the ones who survived were guys who kept their heads down and made business decisions that were sound in the light of the upheaval of the 1800s and early 1900s. Straub’s like that. There were other immigrant run breweries, marriages to contend with, and stock buyouts to try and understand. Through all of it, Straub maintained the family name, the general business plan, independence, and regionally loyalty. It remains a family owned business that can be harder to find, even in it native PA.
Straub Brewery, located in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1872 by German immigrant Peter Straub. It is one of the oldest family-owned breweries in the United States, with a remarkable brewing history spanning over a century. The brewery has a reputation for its consistency and adherence to time-honored brewing methods, led by its flagship beer, “Straub American Lager.” It also produces a variety of other beers, including craft brews, seasonal offerings, and specialty beers. What sets Straub Brewery apart is its dedication to remaining an independent, family-owned operation throughout its history. The brewery has survived economic challenges, Prohibition, and changing beer trends to maintain its place as an integral part of Pennsylvania’s brewing heritage.
Faubourg Brewing Company
Faubourg was forced to close its New Orleans brewery after Hurricane Katrina, but kept on through contract brewing. Production came back to New Orleans in 2019, and when considering the beer these days, it’s clear that Faubourg is a homegrown name that’s recognizable to the people of New Orleans because it survived the same stuff as them. The flagship beer is a premium lager, with others in the lineup including a satsuma orange IPA and the Velvet Voodoo IPA.
Located in Shiner, Texas, Spoetzl is often associated with its flagship beer, Shiner Bock, which has gained popularity both within Texas and across the United States. The brewery was founded in 1909 by German and Czech immigrants in the small town of Shiner. It has a rich brewing tradition rooted in German and Czech beer styles, reflecting the heritage of its founders. While Shiner Bock is its most well-known offering, Spoetzl Brewery produces a variety of other beer styles, including seasonal and limited-edition brews. Spoetzl also recently upgraded its facilities to include a distillery. All told, it was a good move.