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Latrobe brewer to serve up JoePa tribute

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is carried onto the field by his players after defeating Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. Penn State came back from 0-21  to win 35-21 to give Paterno his 400th career win. CDT/Craig Houtz
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is carried onto the field by his players after defeating Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. Penn State came back from 0-21 to win 35-21 to give Paterno his 400th career win. CDT/Craig Houtz CDT file photo

There are more than a few beers consumed in the parking areas around Beaver Stadium on Saturdays during football season.

This year, some of those beers may be honoring the man who built Penn State’s football program: longtime head coach Joe Paterno.

On Sunday, Duquesne Brewing Co. announced its new Paterno Legacy Series.

“It’s obviously to honor Coach Paterno,” said President Mark Dudash, who brought the company back to life in 2010 after a 38-year hiatus. “And for Penn State fans, who are everywhere.”

Dudash said the idea came to him about a year ago.

“(Paterno) just had a great reputation. I thought about it, approached Jay and his family, worked on it for about a year and that’s how it happened,” he said.

Jay Paterno, the coach’s son, said part of the proceeds from the beer sales will go toward a charity that his family supports, but exactly which one has not yet been determined.

What he does know? He likes the legacy.

“It’s kind of a western Pennsylvania thing,” he said, talking about how other cans have honored the Steelers and their owners, the Rooneys.

At the same time, he said, he knows that his self-effacing father wouldn’t like too much spotlight on himself.

“My dad would have been the first to tell you he gets too much credit,” Jay Paterno said. “But it’s gratifying to get a chance to be a part of this.”

Dudash said the artwork for the cans, which will be sold in two 12-pack cases, will be unveiled at a news conference in mid-July. The beer itself will be released in mid-August, just in time for tailgating.

“I think the fans of Joe will be very pleased. And I think the fans of beer will be very pleased,” Dudash said, describing the beer as a lager-style with European hops.

“It’s nothing fancy, just a good solid beer,” he said. Asked if that was fitting for the coach who famously lived a quiet, middle-class life amid what has become the big business of college sports, Dudash laughed.

“I never thought about it that way, but yeah, it really is,” he said. “He was the Yankees, clean-shaven, no names on the jerseys, simple, straightforward, just like this beer.”

Jay Paterno also likes the timing, coming right on the heels of the announcement of his father’s election to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Both honors are part of a series of events — such as the restoration of the coach’s wins as Penn State’s NCAA penalties were repealed in January — that he believes show a change in the perception of Joe Paterno, who was fired in November 2011 after Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on child sex abuse charges. Paterno died two months later. A vehement fan base has lobbied hard to say that the longtime Nittany Lion leader was scapegoated while the university-commissioned Freeh report tarred him as part of a cover-up.

“The false narrative, day by day, is burning away in the sun,” said Jay Paterno.

The beer announcement actually takes the Paterno family back to simpler, early days and family roots. Joe Paterno married his wife, Sue, in Latrobe in 1962. Her father was an architect who designed the bottling facility there.

“I used to walk the floor at that brewery with my grandfather,” said Jay Paterno. He also remembered it as part of the rivalry of the Pitt-Penn State games in his childhood.

Dudash remembers when the first batch of Duquesne rolled off the line after he reopened the Latrobe plant, and said he knows the first Paterno cans will mean just as much to the coach’s family.

“I can’t wait to be there to see Jay’s face that day,” he said.

But was JoePa really a beer kind of guy?

“Absolutely,” said Jay Paterno. “He gets credit for being a bourbon drinker, but he used to have a cold one.”

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