The oldest brewery in America, Pottsville's D.G. Yuengling & Son, is planning to more than double its capacity with the purchase of a Memphis, Tennessee brewery.

D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. announced it has signed a letter of intent to buy Hardy Bottling Co., a subsidiary of Chism Hardy Enterprises LLC. Yuengling President Richard "Dick" Yuengling, Jr. placed the purchase price in "the $20 million range."

The brewery was built in 1971 by Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, and later operated by Coors Brewing Company. It was purchased by Hardy, an employee-led group, after it was closed by Coors in 2006. The Hardy Bottling subsidiary is a contract manufacturer of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages.

Yuengling is currently the seventh-largest beer supplier by sales volume. The Memphis facility would give the company its fourth brewery. It currently brews at: D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. – 5th & Mahantongo St. in Pottsville, Yuengling Beer Company – 310 Mill Creek Ave. in Pottsville, and Yuengling Beer Company of Tampa, Inc. - 11111 North 30th St. in Tampa.

Yuengling currently produces two million barrels annually-barely enough to keep up with its distribution over 13 states plus Washington D.C. on the eastern seaboard. Last year, the brand posted a 12 percent sales increase-the highest sales increase in the industry.

Once Yuengling completes the acquisition of the Memphis brewery, which will, after renovations potentially double its capacity, it will be poised to expand its brand further westward. Dick Yuengling, Jr. said in a press release the potential acquisition will help America's oldest brew break into new markets beyond the East Coast.

"Our sales and marketing system, together with our network of wholesalers, will help build the brands among a new set of customers who are eager to try Yuengling beers," said Chief Operating Officer David Casinelli.

Concurrently, Yuengling is expanding its 310 Mill Creek Ave. brewery. The company is adding four 1,500-barrel stainless steel fermenting tanks-it currently has seven tanks with a total of 16,600 barrels capacity; and nine 2,000-barrel stainless steel storage tanks-it currently has five with a total of 5,000 barrels capacity. The 10-year-old brewery is pouring foundations for buildings for the additional fermenting and storage equipment, which is scheduled for spring 2011 operation.

Yuengling currently distributes its products in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. It produces seven varieties: Lager, Light Lager, Black & Tan, Porter, Chesterfield Ale, Premium and Light. Yuengling also produces a Bock Beer on a seasonal basis.

Yuengling has been brewing beer since D. G. Yuengling came from Württemberg, Germany and founded the Eagle Brewery on Centre Street in Pottsville in1829. After the original brewery was destroyed by fire, a new brewery was built on a hillside location near a springhouse at Mahantongo Street. In 1873, the brewery was renamed, D. G. Yuengling when his son, Frederick, became a partner.

When many breweries closed during prohibition, Frank Yuengling chose to make near-beer-a beer with an alcohol content below 0.5 percent. This decision kept their brewing equipment in operation until Prohibition was repealed in 1935.

Dick Yuengling, the current owner and president, is the fifth generation of the Yuengling family to operate the brewery. He started working in the brewery when he was 15-years-old in 1958, and remembers working alongside men in their seventies who had worked at other breweries during Prohibition.