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     THE WORLD IS YOUR UGLY OYSTER white logo
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS POH

It was on a recommendation by one of our readers that motivated me to suggest to my wife a day trip to the city of Reading, Pennsylvania. I’m sure that Fran harbored some secret hope of at least a brief stopover at one of the town’s popular name brand discount retailers. After all, we would be in the city that the veteran shopping set has come to regard as the original outlet mecca of America. But unless some favored purveyor of whiskey or beer had opened a tasting room next to a factory store, the better part of the sojourn would most likely be spent on a bar stool engaged in conversation with some local. And so it was. After a brief bout of negotiating the cold snow packed streets of Reading on foot, we entered into the warmth of one of the most splendid looking establishments that these eyes had gazed upon in quite some time. There was definitely nothing ugly about the UGLY OYSTER DRAFTHAUS.


The bar at The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review




The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THE UGLY OYSTER IN READING, PENNSYLVANIA



Interior at The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
"SPLENDID" INDEED DESCRIBES THE BAR



Backbar at The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
TREATS FOR THE PALATE, A TREAT FOR THE EYES




Rather 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.


Glenn Rigg, owner of The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
GLENN RIGG, OWNER 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! 



Fireplace at The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
WARMTH, BOTH METAPHORICAL AND LITERAL


An Irish Music Session at The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
THERE IS AN IRISH MUSIC SESSION ON THURSDAY NIGHTS


The Ugly Oyster in Reading, PA at night as seen in American Public House Review







Pint at the Ugly Oyster in reading, PA as seen in American Public House Review
pint




UGLY OYSTER DRAFTHAUS


21 SOUTH FIFTH STREET

READING, PENNSYLVANIA 19602

610-373-6791


www.theuglyoyster.com

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