Friday, May 19, 2006


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.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Damn, it's time to stock up for the end times. august is very soon. it's a shame. lately i've been alternating between iron city in the aluminum cans and rolling rock. pretty soon, these old faves won't be part of the mix. even if it's in the green bottle with the usual labels, it won't be or taste the same. but hey, times change. I actually got to drink a ft. pitt before that place went under.

Sam Adams, here i come.

And honestly, i think the jobs will sting more than the blow to the community pride. at least for the people out of work. try not to get too sentimental.

12:22 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

And I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

9:23 AM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

As a brand it was minor fad for a while in the late 90s. The Heineken of Ireland. No Irish immigrant I have met has explained why to me.

I guess that whiz bang high tech bottling line that Moslon put in was not good enough? I wonder if they will keep the 7oz pony bottles. My less hairy half enjoys a beer after work, and those are just the right size for her.

Sam Adams, eh? What no Penn Pilsner? Not sure if that is contract brewed, or done here. I know the other flavors are made here, which is why you can buy then by the case at the brew pub. Sometimes you can buy the pilsner by the case there, sometimes you can't. It may be change in bottling. It may be a more, or less, knowledgable employee.

4:24 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

One of the articles about the sale indicated that there is overcapacity in the brewing industry.

7:25 PM


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