“Regional Breweries” that survive – those in the traditional sense, old breweries that had a certain geographical following, such as Rheingold, Schaeffer, Goebel, Pfeiffer, Fox Deluxe, Blatz, Strohs, Hudepohl, Lone Star, Schlitz, Hamm’s, Olympia, Iron City/Pittsburgh Brewing among many others as examples – are in a tough spot and they have been for several decades.
From 1947 to 1958, 185 breweries shut down or sold out to larger companies. This period has been called the “Great Shakeout” of the brewing industry. Nearly all regionals have disappeared or have been absorbed by others – almost all of them that survive in “name only” fall under the Pabst ownership umbrella today, which are largely contract brewed by SABMiller/Coors, if at all. Many of them have disappeared entirely. By the end of the 1950’s, there were only 85 or so brewers still in business in the U.S.
Regardless, if they survived the shakeouts and pressure from their macro competitors, they have often been punished “from the bottom up” by the new wave of craft brewers beginning in the late 1980’s. They were often seen as “old” low quality products and the new craft brewers were seen as the local, quality choice by consumers looking for something different or more flavorful.
A precious few, Yuengling and Schell, have survived as family owned independents. They’ve done so by guile, luck and innovation. Whatever your feelings on their products, theirs is truly an American story. We thought you might enjoy this little autobiographical film from the folks in Pottsville. Some of it is “fluff,” to be sure, but it’s still a great story – and their Traditional Lager is still a darn fine session beer: