Penn State Alum’s Passions Fuel State College’s Brewery & Gaff
Tucked away on McAllister Alley and underneath Canyon Pizza sits the Brewery, better known as the Brew — one of State College’s most beloved dive bars. After walking down a long hallway and checking your ID, you’re traditionally greeted with a smile from bartender and part-owner Scott Shooter.
Shooter, originally from Pittsburgh, graduated from Penn State with a degree in art education. After falling in love with the area, he chose to stick around for a while and work at the Brew and the Gaff.
“I started in engineering and then realized that’s not for me,” he said. “I wanted to be a teacher at the time, and shortly after school, my dad died. I just had no desire to be a teacher anymore.”
Throughout his time as an undergrad, Shooter picked up a couple of shifts at the Gaff as his part-time job. After his experience at the Gaff, his friend Rocky bought the Brewery, and Shooter started working for him.
“Rocky was a bartender at the Phyrst at the time, but he also got a degree in accounting and an MBA from Penn State,” he said. “I met him at the Gaff, he was nice, and the rest is history.”
If you stumble upon the Brewery on a Friday night, you’ll notice the walls decked out in paintings and different knick-knacks suited for a bar atmosphere. Those paintings, of course, were created by Shooter himself.
“Art was something I did my whole life, and there have been stages of it,” he said “One day, I had a thought where talent bred into us, it’s the desire to improve what you’re doing. There’s always some natural ability in there, too. I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid.”
Shooter was that kid in class who was asked by his peers to draw for them. Whether it was a shark, eagle, or, in this case, Michelangelo’s Statue of David holding a Rolling Rock, he was your guy. He even designed the cartoon-like Brew logo.
Another one of Shooter’s passions comes through music. Having older brothers, he knew every decade and style of music to get the party going. Some of his Sigma Nu fraternity brothers worked for local companies as DJs, which happened to run Gaff’s music tracks, too. This would set him up for another gig as a DJ.
“My buddy was telling me that I know a lot about music and everything about being a DJ sounded cool,” he said. “He was Gaff DJ at the time, and he got me in there one night a week, which turned into two nights a week.”
Now, if you’ve ever been to Gaffeoke on a Wednesday, Shooter was your DJ.
“One day a friend of mine came in and noticed how Wednesdays back then it really slow at the Gaff,” he said. “He pitched the idea to the owner and me about doing karaoke on Wednesdays. I said, ‘You know what, why not?’ If karaoke is not working, and people aren’t into it that night, I’ll just put back on music and people can have fun and dance.”
Shooter mentions that Gaffeoke struggled at first. It was fun, but things were on a much smaller scale than it is now. No other bars at the time were doing anything like this, but they were determined to try something new.
“We got set up with the old style of karaoke, which was CDs that you had to buy and use with a CD player,” he said. “At that time, I think we only had about 3,000 songs. Then, the same friend that got us into it, he got me into using the digital stuff. That revolutionized everything and made it really easy to play the songs and have the lyrics on TVs. It’s been evolving, but it’s been the same Gaffeoke we know and love.”
As for his favorite passion, Shooter says doesn’t have one. He doesn’t focus on art as much as he used to, and while working six nights a week at the Brewery, he definitely doesn’t have the time. For him, though, that’s not so much of a problem.
“I just like being around people, talking to people, having fun, making friends, and enjoying life,” he said. “Everyone is really welcoming at the Brew. We’re like family.”
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