Don Russell, a.k.a. Joe Sixpack, had a startling piece of news in his latest Philadelphia Daily News column, my hometown beer is making a comeback! Reading (that’s pronounced “red-ding“) Beer’s advertising and merchandising stuff were about as ubiquitous as it gets for me growing up because I spent a lot of my youth in bars with my alcoholic stepfather (there, now you know). My memory of the beer is that it wasn’t any better or worse than most of what was available at that time. And by the time I was paying attention, it was already being brewed outside Reading, in Fogelsville, which at that time was still a Schaefer brewery, if memory serves.
The Reading Brewery opened in 1886 on South 9th and Little Laurel Streets and closed ninety years later in 1976, when I was a junior in high school. As Don points out, it had a very loyal following in the area. As recently as the late 1990s, I was home for a visit around the winter holidays and went bar-hopping with some old friends who were also in town. Most of the bars we went to not only still had quite a bit of Reading Beer breweriana on their walls but several still used Reading Beer and other local brewery coasters. I must confess I even pocketed a couple of them for myself, I was so taken aback that they were still using them and wanted proof.
So the new Legacy Brewing Co. (who are the same folks that previously owned Pretzel City Brewery) have announced that they will be bringing back Reading Beer in all its adjunct glory. (I confess I’d prefer if it was all-malt, but I won’t quibble.) They’ve even set up a new company just to handle the Reading Beer and keep it separate from the Legacy craft beers. Initially it will be draft only but if it proves popular — and quite frankly I can’t see how it won’t be — then bottles (or better still, cans) will follow in wider distribution. According to Russell’s article, since it was first announced in the local paper, The Reading Eagle, last week, the brewery has been inundated with inquiries.
And I must agree with Jack Curtin when he writes “I definitely like the way these guys think” about brewer Scott Baver’s rationale for bringing back Reading Beer.
“Look, we’re brewers. For me, I just love making beer and being part of the beer industry. But we’re business people, so why not make a product that covers every end of the spectrum?
“If my customer wants it, what am I, an idiot for not doing it?”
I know this was just a regional beer even in its heyday, and that very few people are likely to get worked up about it. But since I’m one of them, you’re reading about Reading here.
The can of Reading Beer that sits on a shelf next to where I typed these very words.