Suds Kroge and Dregs Donnigan published the book “Bars of Reading & Berks” in 1988. The authors had previously written four other guides: “The Bars of Reading,” “The Bars of Berks,” “Eat,” and “Eat II.” The author’s real names were David Wardrop and Bob Weirich, Jr. Dave was known as Dregs, and Bob was known as Suds. They visited every bar in town to write Beer Drinkers Guide to the Bars of Reading in 1975. Being high school teachers and understandably concerned about how their book would be taken in the community, they chose to use pen names that stuck with them through four more volumes.
It was at Wilson High School, where Wardrop taught industrial arts and Weirich taught English, that the duo hatched the idea to hit every bar in Reading. Wardrop, who began teaching at Wilson in 1963, was already a member of an extracurricular teachers’ group called W.A.L.B. (We All Like Beer). When Weirich joined in 1969, the duo began researching local saloons to find an optimum drinking spot for the group’s monthly meetings. From these inauspicious roots grew the book.
Suds and Dregs became something of celebrities, and not only in Reading. They appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and were written about in many national newspapers. They followed the first book with one on Berks County bars, then books called Eat and Eat II before revisiting every bar in Reading and Berks County to write their last book in 1988.
Each bar got a 1 to 5 mug rating, an address, a quote from a manager or regular that typified it, a note on what you’d likely see (or not see) there, and a one-line summary, all delivered with wry humor that could be either lighthearted or biting, but never dismissive. When a bar was a filthy disaster, they said so; when it was a rough gem, they said so; when it was a fern bar, they said so.
The number of city taprooms dwindled from 133 in 1975 to 109 in 1988 and county taprooms, which numbered 238 in 1977 reduced to just over 200 in 1988.
The bars in Reading & Berks were categorized into three types: City bars, County bars, and Go Go bars. Suds and Dregs revisited and rated every bar in the city limits and visited 188 county sudseries to come up with the 61 they felt deserved “BEST OF” status. Their rules included at least one beer per bar and enough time to get an overall feel for the place.
They visited bars like Stanley’s (a male only stand-up drinking bar), Al Kline’s Paddock (a four-burp bar with original decor, including three saddles atop stools at the bar), the Spring Inn (seafood dinner for three: $25.50, including a pitcher of Rolling Rock), and the Northeast Tap Room to “talk beer” for a few minutes with Pete Cammarano, Northeast Tap Room owner.
Below: Stanley Wojciechowski of Stanley’s Tavern, Minor and Laurel Sts., with David Wardrop and Bob Weirich, Jr.
The rarity of the book makes it a valuable addition to any book collection. In addition to bar ratings, the book includes illustrations, a historical account of breweries and taverns, and a detailed case study of their impressive feat of visiting 24 bars in 11 hours (with a designated driver).
Below: Bar reviews from the Bars of Reading & Berks, 1988.