Q&A: David Yuengling of Yuengling's Ice Cream
The name Yuengling is so common around these parts that it’s nearly generic - ask for a “lager” in most Philadelphia bars and a Yuengling is what you’ll get. The newest Yuengling to show up on shelves, however, won’t be a beer. It will be ice cream.
During Prohibition, the Yuengling family turned to ice cream production to help stay in business. The venture was so successful that the company was spun off as a separate entity, and Yuengling Dairy Products continued in business for the next 65 years.
Since then, Yuengling's ice cream has not existed, but in 2014, it will be back after a 29-year hiatus. That’s thanks to David Yuengling, who, with business partner Rob Bohorad, is picking up the tradition with the goal of returning the family name to dairy sections of supermarkets around the region.
Production has just started at a state-of-the-art facility in Tamaqua (around 20 minutes northeast of Pottsville), and ice cream will likely hit shelves at Acme and several independent markets within the month. We spoke with David Yuengling to get the full story.
Zagat: What inspired you to revive Yuengling as an ice cream brand?
David Yuengling: I got tired of traveling. I was working as an independent business consultant and most of the work was in other states. I was in an airplane every week. So me and my buddy Rob decided to explore the idea of re-launching the ice cream company - people had never stopped asking me about it. We put out feelers and there was a huge response. More than we even though there would be.
Zagat: Did you work at the original ice cream factory when your dad was running it?
DY: Absolutely. I worked there summers throughout high school and college. I think I held every position, except driving the delivery truck.
Zagat: Are you using the original recipes for your new product line?
DY: Parts of them... we went back to what we were making 30 years ago and improved upon it. Back then, there were artificial stabilizers and flavorings, but now we’re going all-natural, as much as is humanly possibly.
Zagat: Does that make the product more expensive?
DY: It increases our costs a little bit, but we think it’s worthwhile. A lot of what people see on ice cream shelves today isn’t actually ice cream - if you look at the labels, you’ll see “frozen dairy dessert.” As they chase profits, a lot of the big manufacturers have left quality behind.
Zagat: Your website and marketing materials make the strong point your company is separate from the brewery. Did you speak with your beer-making relatives before launching the ice cream business?
DY: The first thing I did was go speak with Dick [Yuengling, president of the D. G. Yuengling & Son brewery]. He said he didn’t mind at all, as long as we followed two rules: one, make sure people know the businesses are separate, and, two, make sure the ice cream we produce is really, really good. He’s spent a lot of time and effort building the reputation of the family name, and the last thing I want to do is damage that. It’s one reason we’re putting so much effort into quality.
Zagat: Did you get your relatives’ ok on the final product?
DY: My cousins at the brewery, Jennifer and Wendy [Yuengling], were two of the very first people to taste the ice cream, and yes, we got their stamp of approval before moving forward. They’ve all known about this from day one, and been very supportive.
Zagat: Although there's no beer-flavored ice cream in your line (sigh), you are starting out with 10 different flavors. Which one is your favorite?
DY: Espresso chocolate chip, definitely. I like chocolate marshmallow a lot, too.
Zagat: When can we expect to be able to buy pints of Yuengling's ice cream in grocery stores?
DY: We actually already shipped the first batches out this week. We originally weren’t going to start production until March, but a lot of the supermarkets begged us to step up the schedule. They said, “We want it on shelves as soon as possible.” You should definitely be able to find it before March. There’s a location finder on our website that just went live, and we’ll be updating it constantly. If you don’t see Yuengling in your local store, ask for it!