The second ice cream shop my friend and I stopped at on our way back to New York City from Punxsutawney, PA, was Berkey Creamery at Penn State. The Creamery was first established in 1865 and moved into a standalone building in 1889, where it processed milk, churned butter, and offered instruction in dairying. In 1892, the Creamery began offering the Ice Cream Short Course, which educated students on the ice-cream making process from selecting ingredients to equipment to freezing. The tradition of getting ice cream at the Creamery began in 1896, and now almost 200,000 gallons of ice cream are produced there each year (along with thousands of gallons of milk, cheese, and yogurt.) Apparently the ice cream is made so fresh that only four days on average pass between the cow and your stomach. Imagine, four days prior to my arrival at Penn State, the milk in my strawberry ice cream was just being collected from one of the 225 cows at the University’s Dairy Production Research Center!
The current Creamery is housed in the new Food Science building and opened in 2006, sleek with large glass windows and a wide open space. Upon entering, you can find an array of milk, yogurt, and cheese in the refrigerators lined along the walls to the right, while ice cream sandwiches and half-gallon and pint-sized containers are arranged in the freezer sections to the back. While vanilla and chocolate are supposedly the most popular flavors here, I’d suggest trying one of the many tantalizingly-named flavors, like “Death by Chocolate” – chocolate ice cream with chocolate flakes, fudge pieces and chocolate swirl – and “Peanut Butter Swirl” – vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirl. A limited selection of their full flavor list was being offered during our visit, so I’ll have to go back another day to try “Sandusky Blitz” – a banana-flavored ice cream with chocolate-covered peanuts and caramel swirl, or “Bavarian Raspberry Crunch” – chocolate ice cream with Swiss mocha chips and red raspberry swirl, or “Apple Cobbler Crunch” – cinnamon apple-flavored ice cream with pie pieces and apple sauce swirl….. shoot, I better wipe this drool off my keyboard.
I would have been perfectly happy eating a spoonful of every flavor available, but after my friend and I sampled about five, I felt too guilty to request another (mostly because I couldn’t stop thinking about all the plastic spoons going to waste…) and finally decided on strawberry. It was delicious, but I preferred the chocolate-based and peanut butter ice creams.
Now, maybe I’m a little crazy, but I prepared for this little road trip by bringing along a cooler and frozen ice packs. You know, just in case I found some ice cream along the way that I just HAD to bring back to New York. (Or, just in case we decided to be really crazy and drive to Cincinnati to get some Graeter’s ice cream.) I realize that ice cream is best enjoyed at the shop, but the thought of having it in my freezer when I’m craving it is comforting. So, I succumbed to temptation and purchased two half-gallons to take home – “Peanut Butter Swirl” and “Bittersweet Mint” – a mint chocolate chip with very bitter chocolate, which is great because I love dark chocolate – the more bitter, the better.
If you’re craving some Berkey Creamery ice cream, you’re in luck, because you can purchase it online, although shipping is very expensive. Better yet, make a pit stop if you ever find yourself driving through Pennsylvania on I-80.
Here’s the rundown:
The Pennsylvania State University
119 Food Science Building
University Park, PA 16802
Hours: Mon – Thur, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Fri 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sat 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sun 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Parking available in East Deck Parking Garage on Bigler Road located directly behind the Creamery Store; first 30 minutes are free