|Oakbrook Brewing Company
628 Park Avenue
Reading, PA 19611
@OakbrookBrew on Twitter
After much anticipation, Oakbrook Brewing Company, Reading’s first brewery in over six years, is set to celebrate its grand opening on Friday, March 11, 2016. Located at 628 Park Avenue in Reading, the brewhall will be open from 3 PM to 11 PM seven days a week.
Founder and owner Kyle Neuheimer has been working for over three years to restore the former Oakbrook Fire Station into Oakbrook Brewing Company.
Neuheimer was inspired to open a brewery after living in Portland, Oregon from 1995 to 2005. While the rest of the country was experiencing a lull in the craft beer industry, craft beer was booming in Portland.
Neuheimer missed the craft beer scene when he returned home to Pennsylvania. He saw opportunity in the many empty buildings with exquisite architecture, like the former Oakbrook Fire Company station building that went up for sale in 2010.
“This building, when I walked into it for the first time, it just screamed brewpub!” Neuheimer said. “When I started finding some of the history about it and some of the photos, I knew I wanted to be a part of that history and keep the building standing.”
Built in 1905, the Oakbrook Fire Company station was not originally part of the city of Reading. Members of the village of Oakbrook built the volunteer fire station for their community. Locals donated everything from bricks to the horses that drew the horse drawn fire engine.
The city consolidated the Liberty and Oakbrook stations in 2010 into a single facility at 101 Lancaster Avenue. The building was structurally in good shape, and the volunteer firefighters wanted the building to be part of the community again. In fact, many former volunteer firefighters still live in the neighborhood.
Seeing the possibilities, Neuheimer purchased the building. “It’s the right size. It had the right kind of look to it. The look from the outside is iconic. It’s recognized when you see that silhouette. Everybody in the neighborhood knows what that is,” Neuheimer said.
Neuheimer emphasized that it’s not just about the beer, it’s about the experience. He modeled his plan after McMenamins pubs across Oregon and Washington. Many of their locations are renovated and restored historical properties.
Neuheimer worked tirelessly to restore the fire station back to what it looked like in the 1930s. The walls feature the original paint scheme and the schoolhouse style light fixtures from 1938. The design features a firehouse motif.
Oakbrook also plans to develop relationships with local non-profits to support a variety of community development projects.
“Firefighters have a history of fundraising for community projects by passing the boot for contributions,” Neuheimer said. “Rather than asking for contributions, we will be donating a set amount from each pint sold as directed by our customers. The specific mechanism of the voting is pretty neat!”
Oakbrook Brewing Company is focused on traditional beer styles served in an unpretentious brew hall setting. Beer production takes place on a 5 barrel brewhouse as well as a state of the art half-barrel pilot system.
The opening tap list includes Smokey the Dog Smoked Porter, Polly’s Pale Ale, 1938 Special, and Angelica Golden Ale, plus a few experimental pilot batches.
Polly’s Pale Ale honors the infamous Polly the Parrot. Polly, who was known by everyone in the community, lived at the fire station from 1927 until about 1941.
Neuheimer is a homebrewer and also took brewing classes through the Siebel Institute. He completed an internship at Colorado Boy Brewing Company in Ridgway, Colorado with award winning brewer and beer writer Tom Hennessy. Neuheimer not only benefited from the hands-on experience, but also learned about the business side of brewing from Hennessy.
“The beer is only half of it… The other half is getting this building back… and putting it back to something that people can enjoy.”
And the local community is certainly ready to sip and enjoy!