Family taps JoePa's legacy for line of beer to be brewed in Latrobe
Jay Paterno likes to think his dad would grin if he could see what the Paterno family is brewing up this Father's Day, as Penn State fans regroup around the late coach's legacy.
This year, the NCAA returned 111 of Joe Paterno's team's victories — voided during the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal — to the record books, restoring his title as the winningest coach in Division I football with 409 career wins.
He recently was nominated to the Pennsylvania Football Hall of Fame, and a state lawmaker wants to name a bridge over the Susquehanna River in his honor.
Now Jay Paterno, who coached as an assistant at his father's side for 17 years, has joined forces with Upper St. Clair lawyer Mark Dudash, a 14-year veteran of the brewing industry, to start the Paterno Legacy Series of beer.
The brew, a premium American lager available in 12-ounce cans, is set to roll off the production lines at Latrobe's City Brewing Co. in cases and 12-packs in time for tailgating season.
Paterno said the Latrobe connection was a critical factor in gaining his mother's endorsement of the project.
Sue Pohland Paterno grew up in Latrobe, and she and her husband were married there. Her father, architect August Pohland, did design work at the Latrobe brewery when the Tito family owned it.
In 1933, Anthony Tito bought the former Pittsburgh Brewing Co. which was located in Latrobe at the time. Three of his brothers would eventually join him in the venture.
Jay Paterno recalls visiting the brewery floor with his grandfather and getting a sip of beer as a youngster.
His mother liked many things about the proposal, he said.
"That this is an American company in an increasingly foreign-dominated industry, that it brews in Pennsylvania, that it provides union jobs — all of those things just resonated with my mom and all of us," Paterno said Friday as he toured the brewhouse with Dudash.
And at her instruction, a portion of the proceeds from the beer sales will go to a charity of his mother's choosing. She supports Special Olympics and, more recently, efforts aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.
"Once again, the inclination is to give back," said Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, among the late coach's staunchest supporters.
Paterno built Penn State into a national football powerhouse during his 46 years as head coach but was ousted from his position shortly after the Sandusky scandal broke in November 2011. Paterno died of cancer several months later.
Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for a 2012 conviction for molesting boys in and around Penn State facilities.
Joe Paterno said he reported allegations about Sandusky's activity with a young boy to university officials long before Sandusky's arrest. But an investigative report later lambasted Paterno, concluding university officials failed to take action to stop Sandusky.
"JoePa," as he was known, became a rallying point for students and alumni who rejected the notion that their university turned a blind eye.
Although he's a Duquesne University graduate with no ties to Penn State, Dudash said the intense loyalty Nittany Lions fans harbor for their team and the late coach prompted him to approach Jay Paterno with his idea a year ago.
"We took our time," Dudash said.
"We wanted to get it right," Paterno said.
Their partnership developed in the midst of a craft brewing explosion that helped craft brews — ranging from well-established brands, such as Samuel Adams, to small regional labels from contract brewers — claim 11 percent of the American beer market last year. According to the Brewer's Association, there were 3,200 breweries and 4,500 brewery licenses active last year.
Dudash envisions a brew with the kind of staying power JoePa had: "This isn't a can collector's series. This is to build a brand. We're originating it for football season, but if it is successful, it could go into taps or different kinds of beer."
Dudash successfully revived the Duquesne Beer label five years ago when he began brewing a European-style pilsner at Latrobe.
The Paterno Legacy will be a different beer, Dudash said. Its production is set to begin in late July.
To date, the partners have signed deals with four wholesalers: Erie Beer in Erie, Mahoning Beer Distributors in Punxsutawney, Voelker's Beer Distributing in Danville, and W.R. Hickey Beer Distributor in State College. They hope to distribute an initial 7,000 cases across Pennsylvania this fall.
The price, Dudash said, will "probably be right around all the premium American lagers."
Jay Paterno envisions "the kind of beer my dad would have had around the house," he said. "I think he'd say it sounds like it could be some fun. Of course, if it had his picture on it, he'd probably say, 'Get it out of the house.' "