Operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company from 1911 to 1931, the Pioneer Colliery was reopened as a museum in 1962. It is drilled straight into the side of Mahanoy Mountain and you get a rather jolting ride on a mine car that travels about 1800 feet. The guides were all retired miners who had a good line of patter. One of them was quite a bit younger and had only worked underground in 2001, when he had left and become a teacher. He was also a good singer and took out his guitar and performed a song about bootleg miners in Shamokin, something quite unexpected 400 feet underground.
|Replica of a bootleg mine|
|Strip mine tailings|
After this very interesting visit, and turning in our poker hands (which were not very good now!), the formal part of the morning's program was over. A recommendation was to drive to Pottsville and visit the Yuengling Brewery, the oldest brewery still operating in the United States. The drive was only half an hour, taking us through Frackville, where we have stopped for gas on I-81 without ever exploring anything off the main highway. US 61 South was a terrific drive through Fall colours as we headed into Pottsville.
Pottsville was a bustling place but we found the brewery pretty easily. It had been established in 1829 and by virtue of continuing to exist (even managing to survive Prohibition by switching to dairy products) it has now come to be seen in the same fashionable light as modern craft breweries. When David Gottlieb Yuengling came to Pottsville it was because of the thriving coal mines and an ideal place to start a brewery.
The building, which was built in 1831 to replace the original Eagle Brewery that was opened in 1829 but burned down, is located on a steep street which actually has a spring further up the hill, although it is now too small to meet the demands of the brewery. The 1831 facility is not the only Yuengling brewery as the company purchased a former Stroh's Brewery in Tampa, Florida in 1999, and also opened a modern brewery not far from Pottsville in nearby Port Carbon in 2000 to meet demand. Yuengling is ranked as the 6th largest brewery in the United States, with production of around 3 million barrels per year.
|An obvious advantage of building a brewery in Pottsville was that there were plenty of miners to dig out your lagering tunnels.|
|Where the brewery workers used to have their breaks...looks like a German Kneipe (pub)!|
|The machine shop, which made us think Yuengling never threw anything away since 1831|
|The bottling/canning line allows for 910 cans per minute to be filled|
After an enjoyable tour we had the chance to sample some beers, including the latest, a collaboration between Hershey and Yuengling: a Chocolate Porter that will be sold for a limited time. After our tour, we went to one of the recommended restaurants in the town, Roma Pizza, and enjoyed some excellent Neapolitan-style pizza from their wood-burning oven.