In an increasingly bubbling craft beer market where a new brewery seems to be popping up in the United States just about every day, Yuengling Brewery is perhaps unique in its slow and cautious expansion. Even the “big three” breweries (Budweiser, Miller and Coors) have attempted to cash in on the burgeoning craft beer frenzy. But in a competitive and rapidly evolving beer industry, Yuengling has always done its own thing and hasn’t strayed much from its steady course.
The evidence would suggest that their cautious strategy has served them well — after all, they are the nation’s oldest brewery. Despite their lack of flashy marketing campaigns and 24-syllable beer names, Yuengling has consistently held a sizable and growing chunk of the beer market. In fact, it is the largest brewery that is both American-owned and produces all its beer in the U.S. (Anhueser-Busch and MillerCoors are both owned by foreign companies, and Pabst outsources much of its brewing.) Yuengling, a private company, is also narrowly ahead of the publicly held Boston Beer Co., makers of the Sam Adams line.
So when I heard that Yuengling would be releasing a new seasonal beer this year, I knew it was a well-calculated and certainly not a hastily made decision by the brewery. It’s no surprise that Yuengling values tradition, and so it is with their take on summer wheat ale, aptly named Yuengling Summer Wheat. It is brewed in the traditional German Weizen beer style, which encompasses a grain bill of mostly wheat and unique spicy flavors from the special yeast strains used.
I grabbed a bottle of the Summer Wheat from the Craft Beer Outlet, and it was styled similarly to the usual Yuengling Lager bottle. I’ve always liked the eagle depicted on Yuengling bottles, and this time he appears to have landed on a pile of wheat and hops and is exuberantly cawing to his brethren of this most glorious discovery.
From the bottle, the beer pours a very cloudy golden yellow with a lasting white foam stand. The color is slightly darker than a typical Weizen. On the nose, there abound wonderful phenolic banana and clove aromatics and grainy, sweet malt notes.
The flavor is dominated by bubblegum notes backed up by grainy, sweet malts and complex yeast flavors, making for a well-rounded brew. The beer goes down very smoothly and is notably easy drinking for a style not typically so.
Yuengling Summer Wheat is less aggressive than some examples of the Weizen style and perhaps leans more toward mellow rather than intense. Overall, this is a simple, traditional Weizen beer that is refreshing and notably smooth. I could drink several of these easily and enjoy each one, which is harder to say for some of the more canonical examples of this style.
There’s really not much bad to say about this beer, and it’s a great first Weizen if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of sampling this great style. I should also mention the price of this beer. At roughly $7 for a six pack, it’s priced far below other craft hefeweizens such as Troegs Dreamweaver and imports such as Franziskaner. When compared to the rest of the available Weizens of similar quality, there’s no doubt this beer is a steal at this price, and it tastes delicious. Cheers!