Yuengling is in a strange spot. On the East Coast, the historic brand is often regarded as a macro brew, in the same company as the Buds and Millers of the beer world. But it's smaller than many realize, shipping fewer than 6 million barrels of beer a year, making it not a small macro beer operation, but rather the largest craft brewer in the country, according to the Brewer's Association, whose rule change regarding the use of adjunct fermentables in 2015 propelled Yuengling to the top.
Rather than try and convince the craft audience that it's hip and current — no Yuengling Hard Root Beer has surfaced yet — the brewery has mostly stuck with the basics, producing dependable, iconic lager at its Pennsylvania and Tampa facilities, with only rare additions to the company's brand lineup.
A new seasonal offering is one of these rare additions. Yuengling IPL is a subtle nod to the company's recognition as a craft brewery.
IPL — India Pale Lager — is an emerging style that has picked up steam in recent years, brewed by nanobreweries and large producers like Magic Hat and Boston Beer Company alike. Compared to the American Pale Lager, an IPL is generally a bit stronger and is always more generously hopped. In this case, Yuengling is brewed with a blend of classic and new-school hop varieties — Bravo, Belma, Cascade and Citra — and is also dry-hopped, which adds a pronounced floral aroma to the beer.
As you might expect, the base lager is clean, crisp and simple. But at 60 International Bittering Units, the beer is surprisingly aggressive, containing a heck of a lot of hops. Most of this comes by way of sheer bitterness, but when poured into a glass, there are distinct floral and citrus aromas, similar to a classic IPA.
Yuengling IPL is not a fancy beer, but then again, Yuengling is not a fancy brewery. This move further into craft territory is a cautious, safe bet: Yuengling IPL is a respectable addition to the brewery's seasonal lineup, offering a beer that stylistically bridges the gap between what we perceive as "macro" and "craft." At $7 a six-pack, it's easily worth a try.
Justin Grant, Times correspondent