When you tell people you're from Latrobe, they typically name one of the following--Mr. Rogers, Arnold Palmer or Rolling Rock beer, which, now that the beer has been bought by Anheuser-Busch, will no longer be brewed at the Latrobe Brewing plant. Ironic, given that the beer continued to be brewed in Latrobe even after it was bought by Labatt in 1987 and then later by the Belgian brewer InterBrew.
I didn't drink in high school, but when I went to college, I'd often drink Rolling Rock--on those occassions when I could afford to graduate from the Beast or Keystone Light. I geniunely enjoyed the taste, but I also liked how it identified me with my hometown. (OK, so I actually grew up in Unity Township, but I went to junior high and high school in Latrobe, and that's got to count for something.) When my buddies and I would get together at home over break, we'd go to a place called the Pond, where the owner would pour us 80-cent Rock drafts before we had even plunked down in our stools. Drinking Rolling Rock made you feel like you came from some place.
Assuming no one buys the plant and keeps it operating--which seems an unlikely prospect--250 people will lose their jobs, and that could be devestating to a small town like Latrobe. I never knew anyone who worked at Latrobe Brewing, but I'd always heard it was a good place to work, and an interview I saw on KDKA tonight with an employee confirmed that it was the kind of place where jobs were handed down from one generation to the next.
The economic impact will be bad enough. But losing the brewery could very well strike at the heart of the town's identify. Nine years ago, when a fellow reporter at the Trib was quitting to return to his home state of Washington, I took him on a Latrobe bar tour. As we drank Molsons at a bar called the Brew House, just down the street from the brewery, I looked around the room and realized that everyone but us was drinking Rolling Rock. I felt, momentarily, like a traitor.
Sure, you'll still be able to buy Rolling Rock, and I'm sure it will still come in the distinctive green bottle. But it will no longer be brewed in "the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe." And in the town the beer made famous, that's sure to go down hard.