Molson Coors Is Bringing a Beloved East Coast Beer National

If you haven’t heard of Yuengling beer, you’re about to.

The highly popular Yuengling beer brand, which is produced at the country’s oldest brewery, will become available outside of the eastern portion of the United States under a newly formed joint venture with Molson Coors, but those calling the shots aren’t yet saying when the brew will be available to consumers in Wisconsin.. 

Chicago-based Molson Coors Beverage Co., which operates a major brewery on Milwaukee’s West Side, and Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. have launched a long-term brewing partnership that will expand the geographic distribution footprint of Yuengling’s beers.

The joint venture will oversee new market expansion beyond the existing 22-state footprint of Yuengling, which has been in operation since 1829.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Seiders (Yuengling)
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The partnership is expected to launch in the second half of 2021 and will be governed by a board of directors, consisting evenly of Yuengling and Molson Coors family members and executives. D.G. Yuengling & Son will remain a family-owned business and the existing company will operate separately from the joint venture and focus on its existing markets.

“We have fans all over the country, many of whom regularly ask when they’ll be able to enjoy Yuengling beer without having to hop on an airplane or smuggling it across state lines,” Yuengling Chief Administrative Officer Wendy Yuengling said at a press conference at the Pennsylvania brewery on Tuesday. 

“Together our team of brewers will work hand in hand at Molson Coors’ world-class breweries and tap into their expertise in brewing and distribution to make the Yuengling brand more accessible to consumers by opening markets we can’t currently reach.”

Molson Coors Beverage Co. CEO Gavin Hattersley said the Yuengling family has “built a powerhouse here on the East Coast.”

Photo courtesy of Jessica Seiders/Yuengling

“Their iconic beers are beloved by those who live in a state fortunate enough to have their brands and sought after by those who are visiting,” he said.

The joint venture will lead new market expansion separate from Yuengling’s existing distribution area, Hattersley said. 

Yuengling will be introduced to new markets through a rollout of its flagship Traditional Lager, Black & Tan, Light Lager and Flight brands. Over time, offerings such as Yuengling Golden Pilsner, Hershey Chocolate Porter and Oktoberfest could be added to the portfolio. Traditional Lager, a light amber Vienna-style lager, is a staple in bars, restaurants and bottle shops across the East.

Company officials batted away questions about whether Yuengling would be brewed in Milwaukee and how soon Wisconsin and other markets might be added.  

“We’ll start off with one brewery and as the joint venture expands further out, we’ll expand it to more of our breweries,” Hattersley said.

Molson Coors spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez added: “We don’t want to tip our hand to our competitors.  We plan to share those specifics at a later time. We’re going to spend the next few weeks finalizing our plans.”

The newly formed relationship will be “as simple as it is significant,” Hattersley added.

“This joint venture will follow the same steady pace and discipline that has brought Yuengling success for 190 years. It’s not going to go national out of the gates,” he said. “But there are 25 states open for expansion under this partnership, with tens of millions of drinkers, all with zero Yuengling distribution today. This is a huge growth opportunity for Yuengling. It’s a huge growth opportunity for Molson Coors.”

The partnership comes at a time when Molson Coors, Yuengling and other brewers are dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and that devastating effect the coronavirus outbreak has had on bars and restaurants.

“From a financial perspective, this is all about growth,” Hattersley said. “It’s a 50-50 joint venture and we’re taking Yuengling to folks who have never had the opportunity to try it.”

The largest cost will stem from capital needed to get Molson Coors breweries set up to brew Yuengling beers, he said. 

Photo courtesy of Jessica Seiders/Yuengling

Wendy Yuengling said her family’s company had been “kicking this around for a couple of years now.”

“The timing was finally right,” she said.

Yuengling’s current distribution extends into the Midwest, but Indiana is the closest state to Wisconsin where consumers can purchase the brand.

Consumer demand for Yuengling beers stretches far beyond the brewer’s current distribution area, Wendy Yuengling said.

“We get people in here to our museum and gift shop every day from all over the country and all over the world,” she said. “There is a lot of demand out there, and we are very fortunate that we have such loyal consumers.”

Specific details of the expansion will be announced over the next several months.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.