Oakbrook Brewing Co. Speech for Frederick Lauer Memorial Rededication
A statue honoring a founding father of American brewing is standing tall in Reading, Pennsylvania, once again.
Frederick Lauer was the first president of the United States Brewers’ Association. His work sparked the organization and representation of brewers throughout the US and his commitment to brewing is admired today through the current iteration of the association and CraftBeer.com.
A statue to Lauer was built in his hometown of Reading, but in 2015, vandals stole bronze plaques that were at the base of the statue. Earlier this year, the Brewers Association announced that it would donate $25,000 for its restoration alongside the Brewers of Pennsylvania and the City of Reading.
The statue was rededicated in May. The ceremony included an address by Kyle Neuheimer of Oakbrook Brewing Company in Reading. The following text is a transcript of his speech.
I’m Kyle Neuheimer from Oakbrook Brewing Company here in Reading, and it’s an honor to be here today. We’ve already heard a bit about the importance of Frederick Lauer to the City of Reading and also about his importance to the brewing industry on a national and local level.
But, we have a busload of brewers here with us from Philly and I suspect they might want to hear a little bit about the man’s beer.
I did a little research but found nothing on Untappd. Go figure. So I did a newspaper archive search and I found this review of “Lauer’s Reading Ale” originally printed in the “Philadelphia City Item” in March of 1870:
Lauer’s Reading Ale “Philadelphia brewers will henceforth have to yield the palm to Mr. Frederick Lauer, the renowned brewer of Reading, Berks County, for making the finest ale in the country. The article he manufactures combines at once all the requisites of a first-class beverage; pleasing the eye with its bright and sparkling translucence, and gratifying the palate with its delicious flavor. It is beyond all cavil the Ale par excellence of America, and is certainly not surpassed, if equaled by the celebrated brews of London and Edinburg. Sancho Panza invoked a blessing on the man who first invented sleep. In a like manner, we invoke a blessing on the man who invented ale, and an especial one on Mr.Frederick Lauer, for advancing the art of brewing to its present high standard of excellence.”
Let’s compare that to a recent online review of our brewpub here in Reading: “I didn’t like the cheesecake – 1 STAR!”
It occurs to me that the art of the review has really gone downhill in 150 years. We don’t even serve cheesecake!
I want a review like Frederick Lauer had! I want our ales to be “unrivaled by the celebrated ales of London and Edinburg!” Wow, times have changed.
Times have changed. But this is not the first time that the Frederick Lauer monument was in peril. During prohibition in 1922, a politically active and vocal faction of prohibitionists submitted a resolution to the city, demanding the removal of the Lauer monument from City Park in the name of “temperance.” Emboldened by the ratification of the 18th amendment and fueled by their own personal beliefs that Mr. Lauer, a brewer (of all people) should not be memorialized in this way, regardless of his civic accomplishments.
Wisely, and unanimously, the city council rebuffed the demands of the prohibitionists and the statue remained here in City Park, in its rightful place, overlooking the city of which the man had become such an important benefactor.
Now, nearly a century later, there was concern that the fate of the Lauer statue was again in peril, this time not from prohibitionist zealotry but from a perception of apathy. When the memorial plaques were taken from the monument there was concern among some of us in the local brewing community that it would be difficult to find someone willing to shoulder the financial burden of costly restoration efforts and that the city itself may not have the resources to effectively repair the damage.
I can’t tell you how pleased I am as a brewer, a business owner and an advocate of the City of Reading, to find that any concerns of apathy were unwarranted. It is great to see the Brewers Association, the Brewers of PA and the City of Reading work together to assure that this monument was restored and that it will continue to represent the ideals of leadership, philanthropy and civic involvement which were not only the ideals of Frederick Lauer 150 years ago, but have become the cornerstone; Lauer’s legacy to the craft brewing movement today.
Thank you to the Brewers Association for your generous donation to this city and thank you to the city council for reaching out to the business community and allowing us the opportunity to participate in the rededication of this historic but still so very, very relevant monument. Thank you both and thank you all for your time today.
Now, nearly 150 years later the ideals that Mr. Lauer stood for still resonate. More than ever there are increased challenges for small brewers and detractors exist to tear down the positive and community-oriented aspects that the brewing industry creates. As uncertainty and hardship face our nation, it is often easy to have feelings of apathy and to forget our roots. I’m glad that the Frederick Lauer statue has been repaired to offer a symbol of hope and remind of what one man or women can do through their belief in what is fair and right.