By Amanda Joerndt
Youngstown State University football fans can now sip beer out of a commemorative can with Penguin City Brewing Company’s limited-edition beer cans featuring YSU’s 1994 championship football team.
The company is the first local brewery to sell beer at YSU football and basketball games.
The beer will be sold for the 2019 football season and 2019-2020 men’s and women’s basketball seasons.
Mark Brungard, health and physical education teacher at Poland Seminary High School, led the 1993 and 1994 football teams to their championship victories, earning a spot in the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Brungard said he was “very blessed to enter at a time [at YSU] where there was a lot of talent on the team and great coaching staff in place.”
“My very first year I was a practice player and didn’t play any games, but I watched the season unfold that took us to a national championship, and I wanted to be a part of that in a bigger form,” he said.
Brungard was the backup quarterback to Nick Cochran for his second year on the team and started working his way up the ladder to earn a spot in the 1993 and 1994 championship games.
“It gave me a lot of opportunities to meet people, career options, and I didn’t have to leave this valley to have a platform to be a teacher and a minister,” he said. “I just feel like I’ve been able to have an impact, so football really set up a great career for me.”
Brungard said he makes an effort to attend a game or two each season and hopes to attend a game this year to purchase a limited-edition Penguin City beer can.
“For this company to make a tribute to [the 1994 championship anniversary] and make this commemorative can is pretty sweet, so I hope to get one and keep it on my shelf,” Brungard said.
Michael Pontikos, the brand manager of Penguin City Brewing Company and a marketing instructor at YSU, said the company sponsored YSU’s athletics department last year and decided to take the partnering a step further for this season.
He said the ability to work closely with YSU athletics inspired the idea for the limited-edition design.
While Pontikos works closely with Penguin City, he also teaches several marketing courses at YSU, instructing students on what it takes to develop unique brand ideas.
“It’s nice to show [my students] that I practice what I teach, and it takes time when developing a brand,” Pontikos said. “Designing a logo can be very easy, but when you’re involved in a brand like Penguin City … It takes time and there are so many different factors that go into it.”
Another Milestone for Penguin City
Penguin City Brewing Company was formed in the heart of Youngstown, and it has come a long way since being established in 2017.
Over 300 locations across the Valley serve Penguin City, and one initiative the company has made a priority this past year was the grand opening of its new brewing space at the B&O Station.
Youngstown community members are welcomed to the B&O Station once a month where the company sells different brews to the public such as Penguin City beer, its flagship product, with food provided by the Boxcar Lounge.
Penguin City will also release a new hard seltzer, Lost River, in September.
The hard seltzer was created through a partnership with White House Fruit Farm to produce a fresh and crisp flavor, according to Aspasia Lyras, co-owner of Penguin City Brewing Company.
The first flavor of Lost River will be peach ginger, made with White House Fruit Farm peaches.
Lyras said along with creating a new, local hard seltzer, Penguin City will be donating a dollar from every case purchased to the nonprofit Friends of the Mahoning River.
“With the Lost River name and the Mahoning River right in our backyard here at the brewery, we thought the Friends of the Mahoning River would be a perfect fit,” she said.
According to Lyras, the B&O Station was a great location for the company’s new brewing center and a “nice place for people to discover.”
“I know there’s some YSU students that come down here and say it’s the first time they’ve been here,” Lyras said. “We definitely wanted this beer company to tie in with the people of Youngstown and at YSU.”