Over the weekend, Mare of Easttown, the long-awaited-by-people-in-Philly crime drama miniseries starring Kate Winslet, premiered on HBO. Winslet plays Mare, a detective in a small Pennsylvania town who is consumed by a murder investigation and a separate cold case while she privately grieves the loss of someone close to her. The show is full of mystery and suspense, but no mystery is more consuming than the one of why Mare, a hardscrabble detective from Southeastern Pennsylvania, doesn’t drink Yuengling.
Mare of Easttown is Winslet’s first scripted TV appearance since playing the titular role in the 2011 miniseries Mildred Pierce, and despite the great cast and moody drama, the o’s in Winslet’s authentic Delaware County accent have been stealing the spotlight. Mare is technically from Easttown in Chester County, but the show’s creator and executive producer Brad Ingelsby told the Inquirer that the town in the show is meant to be something of an amalgam of Coatesville, Aston, and Drexel Hill. Whether the shows’ actors pull off the notoriously complicated and occasionally severe Delco accent is of national interest, but discussions around the idiosyncratic vocal tics of Southeastern Pennsylvanians overlook an even more important point of regional interest: Why does Mare consistently and deliberately choose Rolling Rock over the more locally obvious choice, a Yuengling lager?
“A Rolling Rock and a shot of Jameson,” Mare says when a bartender at the pub asks what she’d like to drink. (If she were closer to Philly, she would have ordered a Citywide, but that’s probably splitting hairs.) In a scene at her home, she pulls a Rolling Rock from the fridge while icing her ankle with a bag of frozen french fries. At a friend’s house, a whole fridge shelf is dedicated to Rolling Rock, and the friend passes one to Mare to eat with her pizza. And this is all only in the first episode.
Rolling Rock was founded in 1939 in Latrobe, a town in Western Pennsylvania roughly 40 miles from Pittsburgh, so it’s not to say that Rolling Rock wouldn’t be a more likely choice than, say, a Sapporo. For 67 years, the beer in the distinctive green bottles was brewed at the Latrobe facility before it was purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 2006. At that point, Rolling Rock was moved to a brewing facility in Newark, New Jersey, a fact that was met with massive outcry from people in the Latrobe area. Many said that they would boycott Rolling Rock beer once it moved to Newark, and since, reviews of the beer have declined, as its original glass-lined tanks were reserved for aluminum cans only in 2015.
Yuengling, on the other hand, holds the title as the oldest brewery in America. Founded in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in 1829, the brewery sells a recognizably classic traditional lager, the kind that you could go into almost any bar in the Philadelphia area — Easttown included — and order by just saying, “I’ll take a lager, please.” Given the cultural dominance of Yuengling lager in the region, it would make sense for any Mare of Easttown, Westtown, Northtown, or Southtown to declare Yuengling her beer of choice.
As you can see here, Easttown is located approximately 80 miles from Pottsville, where most Yuengling is still brewed at two breweries in the area. (It has a third in Tampa, Florida.)
Barring any unforeseen traffic, Mare could make it inside the Yuengling brewery, have a few lagers, and get home to solve a murder in the same time she could drive to Latrobe, which is a neat 240 miles away from Easttown, where Mare (from Mare of Easttown) is from. Rolling Rock isn’t brewed there anymore, though, so perhaps it’s Easttown’s proximity to Newark that influenced Mare’s preference?
It’s also possible that Mare’s predilection for Rolling Rock is motivated by her commitment to drinking responsibly. According to Beer Advocate, Yuengling’s traditional lager is 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. On the other hand, Rolling Rock’s classic extra pale lager is only 4.4 percent alcohol by volume. Due to the stressful nature of her detective job, Mare’s judgment could be impeded by the extra .1 percent of alcohol found in a Yuengling lager.
But then again, Pennsylvania ranks third in the country for the number of craft brewers in the state — we have 444 of them — and Yuengling, despite being the largest, is still considered a craft brewer. Mare doesn’t appear to be the kind of woman to shun local business in favor of a multinational corporation where beer is brewed in another state entirely. Is it possible that Mare was one of many Philly locals to turn on Yuengling in 2016 when owner Dick Yuengling announced his support for Donald Trump? Is Mare’s preference a subtle political protest?
Maybe Mare’s allegiance to Rolling Rock is just a reflection of a national trend overall: According to the Brewers Association, sales of craft beer in America declined by 9.3 percent in 2020, making it possible that Mare of Easttown was joining the masses in a turn away from craft brewing. After all, domestic beer brought in 68.2 percent of all beer sales in 2020, compared to craft brewing’s 12.3 percent. Rolling Rock’s most memorable characteristic is that it is a domestic beer.
Strangely enough, though, Mare is seen drinking a Wawa coffee within the first 10 minutes of the first episode of the series. This would indicate that — in addition to getting the accent right — the show runners were interested in nailing regional beverage choices as well. Winslet told the Inquirer that she drank her Wawa coffee black with a splash of milk, and on her press tour for Mare of Easttown she said, “I didn’t go to the King of Prussia Mall, but Wawa is a big part of my life.”
And it’s not like Yuengling didn’t make it into the first episode of the show to begin with: Kenny McMenamin (played by Patrick Murney) is seen drinking a Yuengling lager with a plate of mac and cheese in one early scene. Is the distinction between Yuengling drinkers and Rolling Rock drinkers meant to be a clue in the murder mystery whose message is yet to become clear? Is this setting up a tension between Mare (of Easttown) and people (likely also of Easttown) around her?
There are six more episodes in the Mare of Easttown miniseries, which airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. Eastern time, meaning there are six more episodes in which to unravel the greatest regional mystery of our time. We’ve reached out to both Rolling Rock and Yuengling for comment and will update this story with more information as it comes in.
As with most murder mysteries, though, it’s possible that the answer to why Mare chooses Rolling Rock over Yuengling has been right in front of us all along: Maybe she just likes it better.