The first known brewery
Is built in Reading, PA in 1763 by Henry Eckert on what is now 4th Street. It was a two-story residence with a two-story stone brew house. While torn down in the 1850’s, Mr. Eckert’s dedication to quality reflected a proud heritage evident in Reading today.
Over 100 years
After the first known brewery was started in Reading, Pennsylvania, the Reading Brewing Company was founded by Philip Bissinger. Located in the middle of downtown Reading, the building’s home on 9th and Laurel was originally occupied by another brewery, in 1853. In order to save money, the brewery employed the use of newly developed machinery for their brewing process. This enabled them to spend more money on obtaining nothing but the best malts and hops to be put into Old Reading Beer.
The first product of the brewery came out in May of 1887 and gained a quiet praise among malt liquor experts in Reading as well as Philadelphia. The pure porter compared favorably with the best foreign beers and many testers believed it to be their equal. Reading Brewing Co. never put beer on the market before it hit the 3-month aging mark to ensure only the best of their product to be released to the public. Reading was about a year old at this point and already producing 100 barrels a month.
Over the next few years
The orders for Old Reading were continually increasing. Between September of 1890 and April of 1891 the brewery increased its monthly production by 400 barrels.
Reading could now produce 40,000 to 50,000 barrels of beer per year! The porter was building the brewery into an extremely successful business.
the old reading Brewery
Found itself in hot water in October of 1928. A court order was given to break into and dismantle the plant. With a smile on his face, Deputy Sheriff Oliver Focht, who had been previously hired to make sure nothing happened to the building, watched as Deputy U.S. Marshal William Duhi attempted to remove the padlock on the brewery. Proving to be unsuccessful, the plant remained locked up and untouched.
Brought on yet Another name For old reading
1929 brought on yet another name for Old Reading, now referred to as the “Health Beverage Company”, and was acquired by Samuel Lunine, president of the brewery. Under his control, violations ceased to be filed. The government believed that Lunine was being used as a “front” so that Hassel may remain the true owner of the brewery. Hassel’s alleged ownership fueled the Pennsylvania Alcohol Permit Board’s decision to revoke the plant’s permit to operate. The government introduced evidence from Peter Shodron, who claimed to have sold brewery equipment to Hassel, and other witnesses who had seen Lunine in conference with Hassel at his hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The moment the permit was revoked Lunine’s attorney, Charles W. Matten, filed an appeal in the Berks court. A judge had granted the company temporary permission to operate as the outcome of the proceedings in Berks court were being decided.
On April 7th, 1933, Lunine became the first brewer to deliver beer in Philadelphia, when it was officially legal to do so. The orders for the beer had been taken weeks in advance and were delivered straight from the brewery. The plant was once again renamed the “Old Reading Brewery Inc.” and the workers who made Reading before prohibition returned to their posts to begin brewing again. However, the end of prohibition proved to be bitter sweet for Hassel’s death followed a mere 5 days after the law was removed.
Lunine waged a bitter fight to retain and officially regain his permit. Twenty-five Reading and Berks citizens testified on behalf of Lunine’s good character; which included political leaders, public officials, veterans, and military commanders. The Federal Board review recommended the 3.2 beer permit to be restored and after a thorough investigation, it was.
For the next few Decades
Reading continued to be advertised as traditional Pennsylvania Dutch beer. These ads featured typical Dutch home life with the illustrations being hospitality based. They reflected the cultural character of the area while reminding people of the “good ol’days” that were slowly being forgotten.
The brewery’s core message was that even though times were changing, Reading was still the same beer they had grown to love. This campaigned proved to be extremely popular in the Reading area; so much so that a book was published containing all of the ads the company produced. As for the type of beer in production, Reading was offering the public a pilsner and pale reserve.
For the first time
Reading could be bought in “no deposit and no return” bottles. These allowed customers to drink from refillable glass bottles to be reused over and over until they decided to discard them. This increased the sales of Old Reading and made it more accessible to its biggest drinkers. From this point on, Old Reading sales were on a steady incline. It was reported that 173,500 barrels of beer were produced in 1951 leaving Yuengling Brewery in the dust with only 115,000 barrels.
A few modificartions
In the character and flavor of the beer appeared in 1952. The brew was changed to combine the Dutch flavor with a lighter, dryer, tastier product. The name was introduced as Old Reading Premium and a new slogan went along with it- “The Friendly Beer for Friendly People”. The brewers used an aerating process, scientific method for removing all of the impurities by spraying purified, circulating air at a high speed through the brew, to create Old Reading Premium. In addition, fermentation was left to run its full, natural course to remove all fermentable sugars and a new blend of premium ingredients were integrated. The brewers still used the crystal-pure water from within the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania, but this new beer was now less filling for its drinkers due to the dryer taste.