Old Reading Beer - Reading PA

Reading Brewing Company

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Reading Brewing Company was founded by Philip Bessinger in 1886 in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was located at 9th & Laurel Streets. It brewed and canned various beers during its existence. Old Reading Beer and Reading Premium Beer were amongst the most popular.

Reading Brewing company
Posed with a glass of Reading beer, Adolph G. Uhrig, assistant brewmaster at Reading Brewery Co., Ninth and Laurel streets, on the last day of operation April 15, 1976. Source [Reading Eagle]

Reading produced a Pennsylvania Dutch Lager at a volume of 1,200 barrels a year. The brewery raised its production to approximately 50,000 barrels a year by 1891.

Reading Brewing Company
1940s can

When Congress signed prohibition into law effective July 1919, many local brewers had to shift operations to lower percentage alcohol or different forms of beverages. Reading Brewing’s truck that was leaving with a shipment was raided on June 19th, 1922 and beer testing above the alcohol limit was found. More was found in a vat inside the plant. Through court ruling the company lost its license to brew on New Years Day, 1924. This led to a complete shutdown of the Reading Brewing Co. operations until after prohibition was lifted.

Reading Brewing Company

After considerable litigation, dealing with discrepancies between federal and state laws in the matter, Reading brewery reopened in 1934.

Reading Brewing Company
1957 can

In 1958 Reading re-branded using the tagline “The Friendly Beer for Modern People.” It was successful in increasing sales which Reading Brewing rode out into the 1970s.

Reading Brewing Company

In 1976, Reading ceased operations due to increasing pressure from larger macro brewers. The label was purchased shortly afterwards by C. Schmidt & Sons. The brand changed hands several times until 1999, when it was again retired. In 2006, the Label was revived by Legacy Brewing, which produced original Reading recipes. In 2009, the Reading label and its recipes were purchased by Ruckus Brewing.

Reading Premium Beer

Reading Premium beer made a revival in 2019 thanks to Sly Fox Brewing. It is once again available on shelves and makes for a great throw-back treat.

Reading Brewing Company
Reading Brewing Company in the 1890s and today
Reading Brewing company
Old Reading Beer Trucks in front of Deppen Brewing Building

The Reading Brewing Co. was filling its Bergheim cans today with premium air. Thats right, air. The beer was gone Wednesday. The Reading Brewing Co., which reopened in 1933 when Prohibition ended, ceased its manufacturing career today. The machinery has been operated for the last time.

The brewery stopped production March 24. The last of the beer was canned Wednesday but there were a few Bergheim cans remaining. The company was sealing the cans for eventual sale to souvenir hunters.

Prohibition didnt kill the Reading Brewing Co. Too much beer pouring forth from the competitors simply drowned the firm.

Most of Reading Brewing Company’s buildings were razed on November 22nd, 1976. In November 2023, one of the structures that was once a bottling building for Reading Brewing caught fire. The building had been abandoned by Lincoln Chemical but there were toxic chemicals left in the basement. The building was demolished shortly after and as of January 2024, the EPA still is present at the site performing a clean up.

Recently our friends over a Brewery Aficionado came into the possession of the original 1886 date “stone” (actually made of metal) that is visible in the window of the middle section of the front of the building in the photo above. Read more about that story here.

Source: Wikipedia, Reading Eagle

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Timothy Stone
Timothy Stone
7 years ago

That’s great you doing a great job.


[…] Read about Reading Brewing Company […]

Joe P
Joe P
3 years ago

Just wondering if anyone knows where the Sunshine aka The Barbey Brewery stored it’s beer? Where are the old beer caves? Just asking

10 months ago

I remember the Sunshine Beer my first at 12 years old, Still like local Currently PBR at 70. screw bush.

Berks Nostalgia