Home Again

Rolling Rock Extra Pale : Latrobe Brewing / Anheuser-Busch : Lager

I’m back in Pennsylvania, back in the basement, digging out the soaked, and ripping down nineteen-seventies eighth-inch faux paneling. My brother Don and I pile stuff on the curbside until the curb can take no more. And then we pause for dinner, a real Philadelphia Italian sub and…wait…no beer?

Fortunately The White Hill Cafe is just over the railroad tracks. A once-wooden white shack drinking place, tucked against the 17th Street bridge, the White Hill is a local institution ever since the dawn of drinking time. The wooden planks have recently been replaced with off-white plastic siding, but it’s still the same place where my friend Rick Graul and I were warned by a departing patron never to “yell at a drunk driving a car.” Inside, they’ve replaced the picnic tables with plastic counterparts, but it’s still the same place where my friend Zeke’s dad would catch a dinner of homemade pickled eggs and Round Robins (salted herrings encased in plastic strips).

I think it’s the exact same patrons sitting in their same places as when my friend Greta and I once showed up to get a couple of six-packs to go. Greta was obliviously dressed in tight black leather, while the real bikers, graveyard shift railmen, and heavy mothers stared in disbelief at her every move. I suspect they still talk about it.

The same heads turned when Don and I entered to order a six-pack. I could just feel the love, thick in the air that still hangs blue from decades gone cigarettes, as the skinheads and tattoo-junkies follow my every movement approaching the bar. Damn, the inventory is smeared with ancient grease, making the small print indecipherable for my aging eyes. Add in the pressure of this blog…pressure to order something that fits the blog’s inventory and intentions…and in the silence and the attention…to also order something that won’t incur the wrath of White Hill patrons who think that Yuengling is pretentious (if they even know the word).

“A six pack of Rolling Rock, please.” I tuck the precious green package under my arm and carefully back myself out of the now plastic room. Careful.

“A six pack of Rolling Rock,” the White Hillians whisper in disbelief, “a six pack of Rolling Rock.”

I wonder do they lack a sense of history? Yes, this is Rolling Rock, the beer of my youth, and of their youth too, if these patrons were ever young. Rolling Rock ponies served ice cold in buckets, the Rolling Rock of evenings lit by lightning bugs. Brewed (once) in pristine Latrobe, playing football on the fields outside the brewery. Rocking Rock of 33 fame.

There is no embarrassment in this legacy, nothing to whisper innuendos about. Except that the entire legacy and pride was sold away to Budweiser, which is probably the beer that most of these White Hill patrons–at least those who aren’t sipping Moet–are drinking tonight.

Beer epiphany: sometimes legacy counts for more than taste.

Rating: 33% Bud-version / 100% in legacy form

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2 Responses to Home Again

  1. JW says:

    I remember playing football outside the Rolling Rock brewery. Was that with you?

  2. Editor says:

    Some games are still played out in the misty myths of our memories.

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