fittingly, the pub reopened under its present incarnation on St.
Patrick’s Day of 2000. For many years prior to that it operated as the
Hofbrau, reflecting the strong Germanic influence in both the city and
surrounding Berks County. From the mid 1700s
and well into the
twentieth century, Reading’s population was predominantly made up of
people of German descent. One might tend to question the need for a
perfect pint of Guinness at this particular locale. But although the
historic records tell a somewhat different tale, one could make the
case that the Irish, as much as those whose family’s roots were in the
Rhine Valley, built this city.
Reading’s Gilded Age is usually
defined by the stories of German
farmers, laborers and industrialists. But much of the city’s success
hinged on the financial health of the Pennsylvania and Reading
Railroad. By 1870 the P&R had become the largest
corporation in the
world. Much of its wealth was derived from the transport of Anthracite
coal, and most of that precious black rock was brought up from the
depths of the earth by the immigrant sons of Erin. So it is only
appropriate that they are properly represented in the city’s mix of
ethnic pubs. And Glenn Rigg, the owner of the property since 1991, has
more than honorably fulfilled that portion of his civic responsibility.
Not long after beginning his stewardship, Mr. Rigg began to put into
motion the plans that would eventually establish an Irish public house
on the site of Berks County’s oldest tavern.
OF THE UGLY OYSTER
Now normally I’m leery of most attempts to recreate a bit of the old
sod on this side of the pond. It has become common practice to import
everything from tap handles from Tullamore to bar stools from
Ballindooley in order to provide us Yanks with the genuine Irish pub
experience. Unfortunately, many of these places are nothing more than a
high-priced facade and a bartender with a brogue. They tend to
lack the key ingredients that give any pub, Irish or otherwise, its
soul and spirit.
In the case of the UGLY
OYSTER this is certainly not the situation.
Glenn Rigg is the consummate publican, a man who painstakingly attends
to every detail of the business. Whether it’s the selection of beer,
the selection of staff, or the selection of traditional tunes playing
in the background, everything is near perfect. But more importantly,
Glenn, with great care and consideration also attends to the needs of
his customers. He has a deep understanding of his neighbors and the
neighborhood, and he is equally dedicated to the prosperity and
well being of both. It is the cultivation of those types of
relationships within a community that determines what one will find
when they peel back the shell of any establishment. At the UGLY OYSTER
- you’re bound to find a beautiful pearl!
WARMTH, BOTH METAPHORICAL AND LITERAL
IRISH MUSIC SESSION ON THURSDAY NIGHTS