AMERICA’S OLDEST BREWERY - POTTSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

The Stamp Act, passed in March 1765, was met by the…resolve to eat no English food, to wear no English clothes, to drink no English beer.

Pennsylvania, A Guide To the Keystone State (WPA, 1940)

It is a bit ironic that America’s oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling & Son, founded in 1829, will soon be owned by the sixth generation—all daughters. Heightening the incongruity is the fact that Yuengling is an Anglicized version of the German name Jüngling, meaning “young man.” It has been a company and family tradition that each succeeding owner has purchased the business from his father at full market value. Considering that Yuengling is now also America’s largest brewer it’s probably helpful that there are four daughters who could possibly team up for that purchase.

If you were to read the Wikipedia article on Yuengling you would be painted a general story of American success, which it certainly is, but it has not been the constant onward and upward road that the article depicts. The brewery’s own version is a far better one, checkered with ups and downs, and struggles to stay relevant in a competitive and ever-changing American landscape.

I met the current owner, Dick Yuengling, over 20 years ago when I was going to college about an hour away from Pottsville. I was majoring in business and one semester we had to pick a local business to analyze for our marketing class. My team chose Yuengling (probably we were hoping for some free beer), and not long after we made the drive to Pottsville. Back then regular civilians didn’t visit the brewery so there really wasn’t a proper reception area to the place. We sat with Mr. Yuengling on the wooden floor outside his office area and leaned up against the wall while he told us his story.

He was wearing something like overalls and looked like he’d just come off the plant floor, having worked a long shift himself. As big and hulking a facility as the Pottsville brewery is, what I’ve always remembered from that meeting, along with his story of fighting to stay in business, is how relatively small his brewery was at the time in comparison to the other “big” brewers. For perspective he told us that Budweiser throws out more beer in a year than his Yuengling brewery could produce.

After offering up our own college-brained ideas on how to help his business grow, he kindly didn’t roll his eyes and proceeded to lead us on a personal tour through his brewery, eventually leaving us with a bar maid at the company pub, the Rathskeller, for some tastes of his various beers. Our hopes for free beer had come true.

Today things are a little different: the brewery is now open daily to the public for tours, only Dick Yuengling is too busy to be your guide. And while we had the run of the place back then, you will now be advised to stay inside the lines and avoid the roped-off areas of the plant. There is a bit of a Willy Wonka aspect to the factory considering how old it is, and its location on the side of a fairly steep hill in town. It is a massive structure full of quirks and oddities that likely exist in any building still standing from the early 1800s.

Today, shortly before you are offered up some free beer, the tour will take you through a part of the facility only recently made available to visitors: the basement. When you see how the foundation of this landmark was hand-carved out of bedrock it makes an impact and forces the realization of how primitive the process must have been to sustain this business. How it has survived despite Prohibition and everything that came before and after is a testament to D.H. Yuengling & Son. And daughters.

* * *

Guide to the Northeast Brett Klein lives in Connecticut and works in New York, but prefers small town life and his home state of Maine. Any chance to get rural is a mental vacation. He curated The American Guide’s first zine, Rural Life. Follow Klein on Tumblr at The Coast is Clear. His curatorial collection of Americana, rural life, other artists and ephemera can be seen on Tumblr at Tons of Land 

THIRTY-SIXTH ANNUAL SNOWDOWN - DURANGO, COLORADO

As the nation worries about the effects of Colorado’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana, it can rest assured that a Coloradan’s first love is booze. And when it comes to booze, Colorado’s premier winter celebration, Snowdown, delivers.

Back in 1979, Snowdown was created as a town-sized party to brighten the long Southwest Colorado winter — when the sun can duck behind the mountains at 2:30 pm.

With more than 100 events spread over dozens of locations for five days, it seems like the entire town turns out at some point. Though there are a few events aimed at families, the majority of them are for adults, and those adults are just as likely to be day-drunk 70 year olds as they are to be students from Fort Lewis College. 

Across the city, bars are packed for days on end with people in costume.  This year’s theme was “Safari So Good" — so lots of animal prints and pith helmets. Locals took part in events such as beer pong, the Bar Olympics, thumb wars, trivia contests, keg lid golf, outhouse stuffing, racy fashion shows and general heavy drinking, all leading up to the Snowdown fireworks and the wild light parade down Main Avenue.

Guide Notes

* * *

At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.

IT’S ALWAYS CHRISTMAS AT SANTA’S PUB - NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 

When you pass by Santa’s Pub off Highway 81 and Brandsford Avenue in Nashville, you might think it’s just an average seedy motorcycle bar. But I’ve yet to see a motorcycle bar with a Santa Claus riding a Harley painted on the outside. This double wide trailer—or maybe even triple wide, if you believe the bar bathroom graffiti—serves up some of the coldest beer in town. And if that’s not exactly true, they still have beer which is why I like to frequent this dive. The price list goes from $2.00 to $4.00 which is perfect for a drinker’s budget. Beer, wine coolers and a couple special daiquiris are all you’re going to get at Santa’s.

Unless you like to sing.

Santa’s is also one of the best karaoke bars in town. Nashville is known as Music City, so there are likely to be some very talented singers in the audience each night. Santa himself (yes, he looks like ol’ Saint Nick) entertains patrons on a regular basis. Don’t look for a song list book or a strategic system for this karaoke program. Simply write your name and song on a post-it and hand it to the guy with the computer. The best part: you can do this until 3am every night of the week.

* * *

Tennessee State Guide Lindsay Scott is an East Nashville-based photographer, writer, drinker and ponderer. You can find her on any random night, porch sitting with a side of story telling and a camera in hand. Follow her on Tumblr at lindsayscottphotography.tumblr.com or on her website, lindsayscottphoto.com.

Maypole Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn

FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

A German settlement known throughout the State for its chicken dinners, served harvester style, and its Frankenmuth beer. It was settled in 1845 by a group of Franconians from Bavaria and, later, by refugees from the unsuccessful German revolution of 1848.

The neat village, spread out for some distance, has retained its German flavor; most of the inhabitants are descendants of the original settlers and speak the German language.

—Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State (WPA,1941)

Postcard Key:

1. Maypole 2-4. Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn 5. The Fischer Opera Haus 6. Schnitzelbank Shop 7. Bavarian Festival 8. Bodenbender’s Apfel Haus 9. Bronner’s 10. The Edelweiss Trio

* * *

Jordan Smith is the guide to ephemeral America for The American Guide. He currently works for the University of Notre Dame during the day and scans at night. He lives in South Bend, Indiana and you can find him on Flickr, his blog, or one of several Tumblr sites.

Looking north towards downtown Milwaukee from Cupertino Pier, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI True Skool Block Party, Milwaukee, WI Chill on the Hill, Humboldt Park, Milwaukee, WI Farmers Market, South Shore Park, Milwaukee, WI

Aptly named Wisconsinite Evelyn Brewer’s #AmericanGuideWeek dispatch on what’s made Milwaukee famous.

Evelyn says:

As we head into the season we’re known for, the dreaded dreary winter, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon the real gem of Wisconsin: Milwaukee in summertime. A time of never ending festivals celebrating the music and culture of all walks of life, when the beer flows freely, and the shores of Lake Michigan come alive with sports competitions, kite flying, and general beach bummery. Those three precious and vibrant months feel like one big celebration of life, and I’m pretty sure that’s what gets us Wisconsinites through our long, harsh winters. That and more beer.

(Source: beautifulgood)

Follow your guide to a church basement bowling alley in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s the St. Francis Bowling Center, where players are asked to “be courteous and respectful to other players by using appropriate, Christian behavior.” 

Once common across the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, there are less than 200 church bowling lanes left in America today. German immigrants started building these holy alleys in the 1860s as meeting places and moral refuges for wholesome, after quitting time get togethers (i.e. to keep family breadwinners from blowing their paychecks at the bar).

Most started closing down in the 1980s and 90s. Though, you’ll be glad to know, some of the church lanes that are left now sell beer.

This is one of those times you say to yourself: “Only in America.”

Photo Credit: Katie Howie and Marianne McNamara