Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer on my Poncho: Yuengling Lager and the Musikfest

For those of you not in the know, Musikfest is a ten day long event in the city of Bethlehem, PA, where streets are closed and people are allowed to walk around with alcoholic beverages. There are vendors with great food, vendors with not so great food, bands like Styx that you pay a pretty penny to see, and lots of bands that play for free. Generally, your beer options are pretty limited in the beer tents - where you’ll pay the equivalent of 6 dollars in tickets for a mug filled with beer (I’m not even going to get into the whole tickets-as-currency thing). You do have some other options, like the Bethlehem Brew Works - who will fill your mug with their brews for cash, or at least they used to and I‘m assuming they still do. Personally, my favorite spot to fill the mug is Hotel Bethlehem, where they will fill my mug with Yuengling Lager for a mere 4 dollars cash!

Again, for those of you not in the know, Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery. They have been a family owned brewing operation since 1829. Located in Pottsville, PA, and now also in Tampa, FL, Yuengling makes several different varieties - Premium, Lager, Lord Chesterfield Ale, Porter, Black and Tan, Light, Light Lager, and a new winter seasonal Bock.

Unlike most of the beers discussed on this blog, Yuengling is not considered a craft beer by the Brewer’s Association because they do not have an all malt product. This means that they put adjuncts - Yuengling uses corn - in their beer to lighten flavor (not to enhance the flavor) and cut costs. Similarly, Budweiser and most other big name light American lagers use rice as an adjunct. Regardless, they are an independent brewer, i.e. not owned by some foreign conglomerate like 90% of the beers out there. And Pabst and Boston Brewing (Sam Adams) are the only independent breweries in America that sell more beer than Yuengling.

The Yuengling Lager is my favorite of their brews and it still blows my mind when I drink it out of an ice cold can. However, I do avoid drinking it in bottles because I don’t think it is the same Yuengling Lager I went to college with. My theory is that the lager in those bottles is no longer brewed at the Pottsville location. In fact, the lager brewed at the Pottsville location, according to my theory, is only put into kegs and cans. My theory goes even further to say that the can is really the only trusted source of good Yuengling Lager because who knows what location the keg came from - Tampa? St. Clair? Is their even a St. Clair location? According to my theory there is. According to my theory, the can is a guarantee that the lager inside came from Pottsville. What I’m saying is that if you used like the Lager and now you could take it or leave it - try it in an ice cold can. It will be like your first time all over again. You’ll probably want to drink at least eleven more.

Unfortunately, the Lager at the Hotel Bethlehem for Musikfest is not in a can. However, the keg of Lager I encountered this past Sunday at the fest must have come from Pottsville because it was delicious. Wife, myself, and Neighbor Steve arrived around 1:30 and we decided to immediately head to the Hotel to fill our mugs. Mother Nature decided to immediately start dumping buckets of water on Bethlehem. So there we were, the three of us, with mugs full of Lager, under an umbrella at a table outside of the Hotel Bethlehem. Oh, and it’s raining so hard that people are screaming their faces off.

So I throw the obvious question out to the group - “What do you want to do?” - as if there was some other option besides huddling under the umbrella of a café table.

“I brought an umbrella.” Wife says proudly. She proceeds to pull out a pastel lavender umbrella that when open has the same diameter as the head of a 4 year old. And not a freakishly large-headed 4 year old, either. Wife has had drinks with bigger umbrellas.

It is around this time that Neighbor Steve notices that the underside of the table umbrella is printed with the image of a lovely blue sky with a few nice fluffy clouds. “Well, it’s nice under here,” he says, “I guess we just stay here until it passes.”

So we did. Neighbor Steve ran the first mug filling mission after about ten minutes. I ran the next one about 15 minutes later, around the same time that we noticed that the shop across the street was selling plastic rain ponchos. Wife made that trip, and 18 dollars later we had three ponchos.

Now we are three people wearing white ponchos, standing under the umbrella of a café table, drinking Lager out of oversized plastic mugs, in the middle of Hurricane Musikfest. We looked like a trio of drunk ghosts on vacation. I felt like Alec Baldwin in Beetle Juice. I asked Wife if she felt like Geena Davis. She responded by drinking from her mug. I took that as a yes.

Why did we remain under the umbrella even now that we had ponchos, you ask? Because it was raining - cats, dogs, bison, giraffes - the only thing that would have kept us dry was an ark. That's why.

SIDENOTE: When it is pouring rain the sound is deafening. So even though we were standing within inches of one another, unless you were using what I like to call your “Katrina Voice”, no one was going to be able to hear a thing. Just a lot of shouting, a lot of “WHAT?”, and 600 million gallons of water crashing down all around us. So the scene to an outside observer was as follows:

Three people wearing white ponchos, standing under the umbrella of a café table, drinking Lager out of oversized plastic mugs, in the middle of Hurricane Musikfest, and one of them is shouting, “DO YOU FEEL LIKE GEENA DAVIS?”

By the time the downpour stopped, I had no idea what was going on. The Lager got me. It got me good. We filled the mugs again and went up the street to meet some friends and watch a band. It was around this time that the phrase “I need to eat something” kept popping into conversations.

“Hey, how you been?”

“I need to eat something.”

“Oh yeah, right, haven’t seen you in years…”

“I need to eat.”

“Did you here about so and so blah blah blah?”

“I need to eat something.”

“….well, they, they died…”

“I'm going to die too if I don't eat something.”

It was also right around this time that I started to document memorable moments from the day using my iPhone’s Notes App. I quickly realized that this was utterly inefficient after typing my first note, which read:

“Steve likes the one with beard. The beard and the camera.”


This is referring to the band we watched. The Parkington Sisters are a band of five sisters - none of which have beards. So when Neighbor Steve leaned over and said, “I like the one with the beard,” I was perplexed. However, when I realized that Neighbor Steve was referring to the guy standing on the corner of the stage taking pictures of the band, I found this to be the funniest thing I have ever heard. Hence the documentation.

From there I moved on the Voice Memo App of my iPhone. For some reason (I call this reason “Lager”) it never occurred to me to document any of the day using the Camera or Video Camera feature of my phone. I found exactly 2 voice memos waiting for me the next day:

4:10 PM:

“We should go sell ponchos.”
“But I don’t want to walk in the rain.”


The above was recorded after thinking about the pro’s and con’s of starting a poncho selling business (that second line was said in slightly different voice, kinda feminine, still my voice, but ridiculous).

5:43 PM:

“What if gangbangers volunteered to do face-painting at festivals?”


I have absolutely no idea. Remember, I got there at 1:30 and was drinking Yuengling Lager out of a 24 ounce mug.

Brother T-bone doing his very best Mary Poppins impersonation. 
The one photo from the day, taken by Wife.

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