Penn State’s first president Evan Pugh was born in 1828 at Jordan Bank Farm, three miles south of the city center of Oxford, Pennsylvania, an hour west of Philadelphia, in Chester County. One-hundred eighty-nine years later, an Oxford brewery is honoring one of the preeminent champions of public higher education in the form of a delicious porter.
Bog Turtle Brewery, located right off the main street in downtown Oxford, started serving Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter in early November. It’s a true local operation — the brewery, which is just more than a year old, services several local bars and is open itself for a few hours five days a week for growler fills only (Growlers, for the uninitiated, are glass jugs you fill with beer to take home. There is no on-site consumption). The beer itself is a mild, light bodied porter, perfect for the winter months.
Bog Turtle’s decision to name a beer after Pugh happened in a completely random way. According to Chris Davis, the Bog Turtle’s financial guru, the brewery is located in what used to be municipal offices for the Oxford Sewer Authority. In one of the closets, the brewers found the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Evan Pugh — previously posted near Jordan Bank High School — which had been damaged by a snowplow and removed some years before. It was this chance discovery that inspired the group to name its seventh-ever beer after one of the most important figures in Penn State history.
The vanilla porter isn’t the only reminder of Pugh in his hometown. Drive three miles south of Bog Turtle, deep into Pennsylvania farmland and adjacent to a Mennonite Church, and you’ll run into another subtle reminder of Oxford’s most important former resident. Jordan Bank Farm still exists, and two houses still inhabited by the Pugh family sit on the 56-acre plot on Media Road. A seldom-seen marker placed up against the roadway 50 years ago by Penn State and the local historical society marks the spot where Pugh was born.
Oxford is one of those magical, increasingly rare Pennsylvania towns that allows us to go back in time, even if just for a short visit, unimpeded by the distilled culture creeping into most places today (you won’t find a Target in downtown Oxford, for instance). If you’re ever in the area — it’s just a short detour on the way to State College from Philadelphia — take the opportunity to have a pint of a good beer and experience the world for a few moments like Evan Pugh did before he took on the responsibility as the founding president of the Farmer’s High School.
The Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter is not the first beer paying homage to an important Penn State figure brewed in recent years, but it is definitively the best tasting.