UNIVERSITY PARK (Nittany Nation) — There is no tradition sweeter in the Big Ten than a scoop of ice cream served up at Penn State’s Berkey Creamery.
Known by most simply as “the creamery” the shop has been around for more than 150 years and for many it plays an integral role in a football weekend.
“I mean you can get any flavor and it’s going to be great every single time,” said a fan standing in line ahead of Penn State’s season opener against West Virginia.
That line, which can often be as intimidating as the Nittany Lion’s defense, can stretch beyond the building. But for good reason, and it’s a hit with players and fans alike.
“Some product that the creamery has, seems to be the thing they love the most,” said creamery manager Jim Brown. “Michael Robinson loved Peachy Paterno. Micah Parsons loved the lemonade and had to have the lemonade after every practice, and that’s terrific.”
On a game day weekend, the creamery can serve as many as 10,000 scoops. Many stop by pregame, or pick up a pint for the road.
But what makes it so good? That can be debated, but perhaps the quality of milk plays a big role.
“There’s been a saying around here since before my time that the creamery products are so fresh that two days ago they were grass,” said Penn State’s dairy farm manager Travis Edwards.
Off Park Avenue, across from Beaver Stadium is the school’s dairy farm. It’s a herd of more than 200 cattle that produce the majority of the milk used in the creamery in a process Penn State calls “Cow to Cone.”
The cows are cared for by roughly 10 employees and another 20 students. Milked twice daily, they produce more than 2,000 gallons each day.
“We milk about 220 cows every day, twice a day, and those cows are producing roughly 90 lbs of milk a day, or 45 lbs for each milking,” said Edwards. “That’s about 10 gallons each per day.”
From the farm, the milk is loaded into a truck, and taken almost right across the street where it’s sold as milk, cheese, and yes, ice cream.
But why does Penn State even have a dairy farm?
I’m glad you asked.
The university opened in 1855 as the Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania. It’s a “Land Grant Institution” which required it to have agriculture and technical education. The creamery opened in the 1860s as a way to sell off the milk produced by the herd. Around the turn of the century the ice cream cone sparked an interest in ice cream, and today that sweet, creamy desert brings people to Happy Valley.
“If you come to campus you’re either going to the stadium or sporting event, or the creamery,” said Brown.
The tradition of the creamery, though, isn’t just for Nittany Lion fans. The spot is well known and draws many inside who don’t support the blue and white. But once inside, Brown says everyone is family.
“Those road fans are opponents. So if they’re not here for Penn State, they’re here for Ohio or Iowa or whoever they are. Right? They’re opponents,” he said. “But when they come to the creamery, they’re all together. … it doesn’t matter what color you’re wearing when you’re standing in line, you’re all after one thing and that is ice cream and the ambiance of coming here.”