Having lived in Philadelphia for a year and a half now, it's about time I blogged Philadelphia's signature beer (though it's actually brewed in Pottsville, which is a little ways away). May I present Yeungling Lager.
Before there was Bud, before there was Coors, hell, before there was most of the Untied States, there was Yuengling. The Yuengling brewery was opened in 1829 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It survived during prohibition by brewing "near beer," which has an ABV under 1%. The day Prohibition was officially repealed, a truckload of the original full-strength stuff arrived at FDR's White House, a somewhat dubious feat since Yeungling takes at least three weeks to brew and age.
Those of us that came of age in most of the U.S., and certainly on the West Coast, are used to dividing domestic breweries into two categories: more exepensive craft brews and cheap megabrewed American-style lagers (the official name for the watery stuff that Coors, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller brew). But Yuengling defies these categories. Yuengling is cheap, retailing at the same price as megabrews, but it is a legitimate amber lager. It's not all that different from Sam Adams, but has a little bit lighter mouthfeel, which lends it a little bit more drinkability.
Yuengling's chief virtue is its versatility. It's served both at dive bars and fine restaurants. It shows up at college-style house parties, and white-tablecloth receptions. It's an acceptable beer to sip politely, guzzle shamelessly, and everything in between. It's definitely the "Philadelphia" to Boston's Sam Adams: It's cheaper, less well-known, and not as flashy. But I've grown to develop a real appreciation for the stuff.
So keep a lookout for Yuengling next time you're out to try something new. I guarantee you it won't set you back much, and you just might find you've found your new favorite standby.