Sweet Old State

The Penn State Berkey Creamery celebrates 150 years of delicious dairy products—including the rich, creamy ice cream that keeps students, alumni, and the community coming back for more.

A visit to the Berkey Creamery, on Penn State’s University Park campus, is a must-do for so many students, alumni, and visitors. Well known for its rich ice cream desserts, the Creamery is a sweet hub for fun, friendship, and enduring memories.

“It is a place of nostalgia,” says Tom Palchak, manager of the Berkey Creamery since 1986. “People keep coming back to relive that experience and share it with others.” 

A group of students, along with the Nittany Lion, choose from the available flavors of ice cream at the Penn State Berkey Creamery.

Selecting a scoop at the Penn State Berkey Creamery

The Creamery is a place for students to make memories—and for alumni to relive them. The sweet taste of Penn State's very own ice cream keeps them coming back again and again. The Creamery celebrates its 150th year of continual production in 2015.

Image: Michelle Bixby

"[The Creamery] is a place of nostalgia. People keep coming back to relive that experience and share it with others."—Tom Palchak, manager, Penn State Berkey Creamery

From home football Saturdays to reunion weekends, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and just about any hot day in the summer, the long lines to Penn State ice cream show just what a sweet memory it is. 

But what some loyal patrons don’t know is, for the last 150 years, the Creamery has enhanced the University’s mission through its commitment to education, research, and outreach in the dairy industry—from advances in food safety to milk, butter, and cheese manufacture to the ice cream it’s known for today. 

Through the Years

Dairy farming has historically been a critical piece of Pennsylvania’s agricultural landscape and, since 1865—when the Creamery was established in the “College Barns”—it has played an important role in advancing the industry. 

"One of [my] best childhood memories was going to the Creamery on Sunday when you had to climb up to the second floor to get to the ice cream shop."—Richard Diilio

Penn State’s mission as a land-grant institution is rooted in providing farmers with practical knowledge. The Creamery provided outreach and education to dairy farmers, conducted research related to the dairy industry, and made important advancements in dairy product manufacturing and food safety. 

Over the years, the Creamery has grown—not just in size, but in impact. Dairy researchers at Penn State pioneered techniques to determine milk fat content, maximize herd efficiency, and keep food safe.

A group of students, along with the Nittany Lion, sit at patio tables outside the Berkey Creamery salesroom.

The Penn State Berkey Creamery patio

The Creamery serves as a gathering place for students, alumni, and visitors alike—and sometimes even the Nittany Lion. The Creamery store and its associated processing operation have been located in the Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building since 2006. 

Image: Michelle Bixby

"We stopped [at the Creamery] nearly every day on our way back to the dorms from classes. Best. Ice. Cream. Ever!"—Mary Ellen Lelsey Baker

Today, the Creamery uses five million pounds of milk every year (70 percent of which comes from cows at Penn State’s own Dairy Production Center), dips 750,000 cones each year, prepares 700 milkshakes every day—and that’s just the beginning. 

Behind the scenes, in the Creamery’s processing operation, there are 23 full-time employees working hard to manufacture those products. 

8 flavors of ice cream

Creamery Ice Cream

Just a few of the flavors of ice cream made by Penn State's Berkey Creamery. 

Image: Rebecca Ziegler

"Last time I was at Penn State for a football game, the first thing we did once we parked, which was about 10:30 a.m., was walk over [and] get in line for an ice cream cone. That sure helped to make the day."—Chris Nicholson, Sr.

“We employ a certified lab director, a delivery driver, a maintenance department, refrigeration people, and more. I think people might not realize the extent of the operation behind the Creamery store,” Palchak says.

Today, the Creamery is well known across the country—and even the world—for making premium dairy products. 

This makes Penn State a natural choice for other ice cream makers looking for educational opportunities. University short courses and correspondence courses have been completed by representatives from companies like Baskin-Robbins, Häagen-Dazs, Hershey’s Ice Cream, and Ben & Jerry’s. 

Jeff Gordon reaches over the counter at the Penn State Berkey Creamery for his dish of ice cream.

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon samples Creamery ice cream

Following a press conference and pep rally on Penn State's University Park campus, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon visited the Berkey Creamery for a cup of famous Penn State ice cream. Gordon was visiting Penn State to unveil the new Penn State, blue and white, 24 car he will be driving at the Pocono 400 in June.

Image: Cameron Hart

It’s also a place for University visitors to get a real taste of Penn State. Famous guests like Bill Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and Jeff Gordon have all stopped in for their flavor of choice. 

Join the Celebration

Cutting the cake: With input from the Penn State community, the Creamery has developed a new birthday cake ice cream flavor as part of the festivities. The new flavor debuted at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and will be available for half-gallon purchases later this year. 

What’s in a name? Visitors to the Creamery will be able to offer their own suggestions for the flavor’s official name, which will be decided later this summer. 

Every flavor a memory: The Creamery passport is a commemorative item available at the Creamery salesroom. Stamp your way through every flavor!

A hand holds the Creamery 150 flavor passport.

Pick up a Creamery 150 commemorative flavor passport

The Creamery 150 commemorative flavor passport encourages Berkey Creamery visitors to try all of its top flavors—from Apple Cobbler Crunch to Wicked Caramel Sundae and everything in between. Get yours at the Berkey Creamery through 2016.

Image: Penn State

"I really believe that as long as Penn State is here, there will be a creamery. There will come a time when the Creamery celebrates its 300th anniversary."—Tom Palchak, manager, Berkey Creamery

About the Berkey Creamery

The Penn State Berkey Creamery has an ongoing relationship with the College of Agricultural Sciences, residing in the college's Department of Food Science.

Named for Jeanne and Earl Berkey, the Creamery store and processing areas are located in the Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building, on the corner of Bigler and Curtin Roads on Penn State's University Park campus.