Interesting Berks County Stories from the Early 1900s
Perhaps the best-remembered event to occur in Berks County during prohibition happened on October 27, 1923, a day when “heaven-sent” beer rained on South 9th Street. The Reading Brewing Company had placed a $50,000 bond with the U.S. Treasury in order to store the beer it had brewed at the beginning of prohibition. In mid-October of 1923, the Reading Tobacco Company purchased the majority of the brewing company building. Before the sale could be finalized, the beer had to be destroyed.
Arrangements were made for the disposal of the beer at 8:45 a.m. Special Agent D. D. Gough opened the valves to twenty-six 250-gallon tanks of beer- valued at more than $50,000! Within minutes, agent Gough was standing waste-high in beer, and all of the sudden, the manhole on the east sidewalk of South 9th Street blew off. Seconds later, the manhole in the center of the street blew off as well. Geysers of beer spouted from the two manholes. It did not take long before a large crowd descended on the scene. Many people fought for position to gain access to the “heaven-sent” beer. Wheelbarrows were used to haul off the beer for later consumption, and an organized queue of men with large cans formed an impromptu assembly line. The chaos, which began around 9:00 a.m., came to an end around 1:00 p.m., leaving behind the odor of hops and malts.
An Excerpt from “Beer from Heaven” by Benjamin L. Bernhart, The Berks County Historical Review, Vol 73-75, Spring 2008 Issue, pg 89. Selected by BHC volunteer Gail Corvaia.
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