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Oakbrook Brewing Company’s Quirky Charm Founded In Its Commitment To Community

Jun 30, 2017 • by Dani Motze, citizen contributor
Enjoy Oakbrook's signature "1938 Special" in a renovated firehouse.

The only brewpub in Reading proper, Oakbrook Brewing Company serves its craft beer and simple PA Dutch-inspired bar food in a renovated firehouse on the edge of one of Reading’s residential neighborhoods, Millmont. It’s known locally for its grilled sausages served on locally made bread and its Blood Orange IPA, its unique game and movie nights, and its creative efforts to support local non-profit organizations. 

Part of Oakbrook Brewing Company’s charm is that it’s exactly where you wouldn’t expect it to be, in the downtown or a hip main avenue. Rather, a few minutes’ bicycle ride from a nearby Schuylkill River Trail trailhead, Oakbrook Brewing Company is tucked away between a small community garden plot and a warehouse, surrounded by quiet blocks of quaint homes.

Inside you’ll find large communal wooden tables and benches and historic posters hanging on the walls, and outside, simple tables and chairs, and a few bicycle racks. According to owner and master brewer Kyle Neuheimer, his customer base reflects the brewpub’s location, 

“It’s not typically what’s perceived as the craft beer crowd. Definitely not a millennial or hipster hang out.” 

He and his staff welcome customers ranging from young parents pushing a baby stroller to older couples who have lived in the neighborhood for decades to out-of-towners passing through Reading. For new and returning visitors, Neuheimer recommends his “1938 Special,” a classic British style nut brown ale that is made with imported grain, hops and yeast. It has slight notes of toffee and a tea-like hop finish.

Neuheimer grew up in the Greater Reading area and later moved to the Northwest. When he came back to care for aging parents, he and his wife stayed—and decided to start a business here. He remembers feeling attracted to the diverse neighborhood of Millmont, to the other attractions on his side of town (off of the top of his head he lists Angelica Park, nearby bicycle trails, the Reading Public Museum, and Alvernia University) and, to Reading’s growing bicycle culture. 

Neuheimer feels dedicated to not only running a thriving brewpub, but also to supporting the health and development of his community. He does this in a few ways, ranging from working with other community stakeholders, to co-hosting a charity bicycle team, to sponsoring the local roller derby team.

He’s been joining efforts with others focused on Reading’s revitalization, specifically those from the organizations and businesses in his district. From what he’s seen in other cities, beer and bicycling can play a part in a city’s revitalization,

“Cycling is a big part, so is brewing. These are the things I missed [from the Northwest.] Reading is going to have it’s own culture. It’s not Portland or Seattle, it’s a different city. But brew pubs and cycling are one part of it.” 

He recently partnered with JB’s Bicycle Shop to host a bicycle team whose rides will raise money for a rotating selection of local organizations. Its first event will support the Friends of Reading Police Department K9 Unit. In the future, rides will be open to the public and will include kid-friendly and costume or ‘fun’ rides.

This effort evolved from Oakbrook Brewing Company’s “Drink Beer. Do Good.” campaign: customers buy a pint and receive a token that will represent 25 cents donated by the business to one of a handful of local organizations. By dropping the token in a representative vintage firefighter’s boot, customers choose which organization they’d like to support. 

To Kyle, partnering with a local bike shop in order to support local nonprofits was a natural fit, 

“I’ve seen it done elsewhere. With Reading’s growing cycling community, I figured it was time to try it out here.”

Sponsoring Reading Derby Girls was also a natural fit because, according to Kyle, in addition to being a Reading-based non-profit organization, “[Roller derby] is a little quirky, maybe not the most mainstream organization in Reading.” 

Oakbrook Brewing Company hosts a rink side beer garden at the team’s home bouts, located at Skateaway in Shillington, providing free beer to 21+ fans with the purchase of a Reading Derby Girls cup (and, of course, ID check).

According to team member “Skater Di” the partnership between Reading Derby Girls and Oakbrook Brewing Company is mutually beneficial,

“Not only do we like to help support [other] local organizations, we appreciate it even more when local businesses help support our league. It’s a win-win relationship when local organizations and businesses can work together to form a special relationship and promote each other through their efforts.”

Oakbrook Brewing Company is located at 628 Park Ave, Reading, PA 19611. Learn more about Oakbrook Brewing Company: https://www.facebook.com/OakbrookBrew.

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