However you say it, Yuengling’s growing

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Today’s beer lesson is the correct pronunciation of “Yuengling.”

It rhymes with “mingling” – not “bungling” or “penguin.”

I mention this because, sometime in the next two years, about twice as many people – many who don’t known Pottsville from Pottstown – will be bellying up to their favorite bar and ordering a pint of the brewery’s Traditional Lager or Dark Brewed Porter. If these beer drinkers don’t learn how to say “Yuengling” properly, bartenders won’t know what to slop into their glasses.

Either that, or Yuengling’s current corps of loyal fans – all of whom can ably pronounce their favorite beer even after emptying a sixpack – will have to double up on their weekend beer runs.

Why the grammatical urgency?

Yuengling (rhymes with “jingling”) broke ground this week for its new million-barrel brewery. When it’s fully operational sometime in 2000, America’s oldest brewery will be pumping out more than twice as much beer as it does today.

It’s already brewing about three times as much as it did in the early ’90s, a spectacular rate of growth that makes Yuengling – a regional brewer that sells all of its beer within Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware – one of the success stories of the great beer renaissance. While many smaller craft brewers – faced with flat demand and excess capacity – are now on the auction block, Yuengling is bucking the trend with an expansion that will make it larger than every micro in the Philadelphia area combined.

David Casinelli, Yuengling’s executive vice president, attributes some of the growth to the craft brew explosion. Though Yuengling has been around since 1829, many beer drinkers only recently “discovered” the brand, he said, after Boston Brewing prez Jim Koch encouraged them to try his Samuel Adams. “He deserves a lot of credit,” Casinelli said. “Jim Koch helped develop a consciousness among consumers to try alternative products. People are trending off the national bandwagon, the large companies like Bud, Coors and Miller, and they’re developing loyalty to their local product.”

Brewed up in Pottsville’s coal country, Yuengling (rhymes with “tingling”) has long been favored for its dark porter. Though other brewers – especially the Brits – produce a richer, heavier porter, no one brews as much of the dark beer as Yuengling. Beer bars that proudly offer a dozen or so exotic draft micros often find their Yuengling porter tap is the busiest.

Lager is still its No. 1 seller, Casinelli said, “But the porter drinker is probably our most loyal customer.”

That loyalty has helped Yuengling win valuable shelf space, even as the big guys continue to squeeze out the competition. It’s also one of the reasons the brewery pulled back from outlying regions a couple of years ago. No matter how much New York and D.C. wants Yuengling, the brewer can’t afford to grow if it means abandoning its core markets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In fact, local demand has grown so strong that Yuengling is now forced to brew its Original Black and Tan at Stroh’s Lehigh Valley plant in Allentown. With development of its new brewery, Yuengling (rhymes with “singling”) hopes to once again venture beyond our region.

That’s a lot of people who need Joe Sixpack’s pronunciation primer.

Or is it?

Owner Dick Yuengling says, “It’s no big deal – I’m happy as long as they’re close. And as long as the bartender understands what they’re talking about.”

Beer Radar

Speaking of porter, the judges at the American Homebrewing Association favored the dark stuff when they named Ichiri Fujiura of Japan the 1998 Homebrewer of the Year. Fujiura, the first non-American to be so honored, won for his Toasted Coconut Porter. Sounds like a candy bar . . . Meanwhile, congrats to local brew dude Mark Deorio of Bridgeport, Montgomery County, who took a silver medal for his stout . . . Best new beer name goes to Jim Cancro, head brewer at Red Bell. His Ahopalypse Now, which hits the street next week, is an India Pale Ale with an extremely dangerous dose of Cascades hops. It’s available on tap and in bottles.

You drink beer, she likes art – what’s a guy to do? Next Sunday (9/13), take her to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (it’s free); then, when you get tired of mixing with the beret crowd, head over to Cuvee Notredame (17th & Green streets, Spring Garden) for the Belgian bar’s Breughel Fest and Block Party. The event, which runs from 2 to 10 p.m., features a huge buffet where grazers can eat all they want for 50 cents a minute, then wash it down with a bottle or two from chef Michel Notredame’s swell Belgian beer fridge. (Hint for the art-impaired: Pieter Breughel was a 16th-century painter known for intensely colorful scenes of lavish festivals and landscapes. Hint for the brew-impaired: Belgian beer is like Breughel for the tongue.)

Joe Sixpack (written this week with a bottle of Smuttynose Shoal’s Pale Ale) appears every other Friday.

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