The day started with our tour bus behind schedule after experiencing an extra hour’s worth of heavy traffic leaving Philly. Later in the day, our bus would try to make a hairpin turn on the narrow streets of Pottsville near the historic Yuengling Brewery- and consequently got stuck for a couple minutes.
But finally, after having a quick lunch at Saucony Creek Brewing in Kutztown (home of Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Andre Reed’s college alma mater) we were on our way to a historic event- and one that would make our earlier delays worthwhile.
The bus had left the Craft Brewers Conference in the Philadelphia Convention Center on May 3, 2016 at 8:15 a.m. filled with people of various agendas; some attendees took the tour to see Yuengling, some were media, and some held influential positions in the upper ranks of the Brewers Association.
Despite the phrenetic pace of the tour bus, Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz was successful in expediting our arrival to Reading, PA “fashionably late”. As we disembarked the tour bus, we were greeted by city officials with open arms and pretzels. (previously unbeknownst to me, Reading is nicknamed “Pretzel City”)
It was an obvious path up a small hill to a statue; all we needed to do was follow the trail of animated politicians and welcomers.
The purpose of our trip to Reading was to attend a rededication ceremony for the monument of Frederick Lauer. The first monument erected in Reading was the 1885 statue of Frederick Lauer, pioneer of beer manufacturing in Reading and the first President of the United State Brewers Association.
The top part of the monument is a life-size likeness of Lauer, cast in bronze. The statue stands on a four-sided cement pedestal, with each side containing a plaque. Lauer was a champion for the fight against Prohibition. He did his best to legitimize the use of alcohol and he served the Reading community untiringly.
In early 2015, the statue was vandalized, and the plaques were stolen. Repairs were needed, but it was unclear where the funds would originate from. There was some concern that the city of Reading would not be able to shoulder the financial burden for repairs of the statue.
The Brewers Association, led by President and CEO Bob Pease, answered the call. Pease said:
Serving as the first president of a national association of brewers, Lauer is eternally a member of our community. We felt it was our duty to make sure this statue, which pays homage to Lauer’s legacy, was returned to its rightful state.
The Brewers Association donated $25,000 to the city of Reading to restore the Frederick Lauer statue. On May 3, local officials, Brewers Association representatives, local politicians and a bus full of media and Craft Brewers Conference attendees were able to participate in the rededication of the statue.
Attendees that made remarks included State Senator Judy Schwank, State Representative Tom Caltagirone, City Council President Jeff Waltman and Brewers Association President and CEO Bob Pease.
But unquestionably the most spirited and entertaining of all the podium orators was Kyle Neuheimer, owner of Oakbrook Brewing Company in Reading. A video of his speech can be viewed here:
Kyle “brought the house down” with his blend of knowledge, humor and sincerity. He made reference to archives of Lauer’s beer and joked about Untappd reviews. But in the end, his appreciation for a monument restored in his home city of Reading was heartfelt and sincere.
It is you, Kyle Neuheimer, who shall be yielded the palm.
An hour prior to the ceremony, I had the honor of enjoying lunch with Brooklyn Brewery President Steve Hindy. Hindy had informed me that a special guest and former colleague would be in attendance. Fourth generation Brewmaster William M. Moeller, now 90 years young, would be present at the ceremony. Moeller was the first Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery.
Taken from the Brooklyn Brewery website: “Moeller, a former head brewer at Philadelphia’s Schmidt Brewery, was tasked with brewing Brooklyn Lager at the FX Matt Brewery in Utica, New York. The result was an all-malt lager beer with a tangy aroma created by “dry-hopping,” an age-old technique of adding hops during the maturation process to create a robust aroma. Brooklyn Lager made quite a splash in the 1980’s beer scene in New York City, dominated by the light, rice and corn lagers sold by Budweiser, Miller and Coors.”
So on that cloudy May day in Reading, while noshing on a particularly palatable pretzel, our busload of Craft Brewers Conference attendees in Philadelphia was able to witness history.