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Oregon Trail Brewery Records, 1951-2020

By Tiah Edmunson-Morton

Collection Overview

Title: Oregon Trail Brewery Records, 1951-2020

Predominant Dates: 1985-2015

ID: MSS OregonTrail

Primary Creator: Oregon Trail Brewery

Extent: 2.0 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The Oregon Trail Brewery Records are arranged into five series: 1. Brewing Records, 1996-2020, 2. Operational Records, 1985-2020, 3. Marketing, 1951-2015, 4. Photographs, circa 1995-2010, 5. Newsclippings, 1987-2008.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2021

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Oregon Trail Brewery Records document the brewing and company operations, finances and shareholder involvement, transitions to new ownership, marketing and promotion, and reporting about the brewery in the press.

The Oregon Trail Brewery Company was incorporated as Brewing Northwest, Ltd. on March 20, 1985 in Corvallis, Oregon and began beer production on July 15, 1987. When Oregon Trail Brewery opened in 1987, it was the first new brewery in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland since Prohibition was repealed.

Scope and Content Notes

The Oregon Trail Brewery Records document the brewing and company operations, finances and shareholder involvement, transitions to new ownership, marketing and promotion, and reporting about the brewery in the press.

Of special note are the brewing records, which include brewsheets from 1996-2020 and brew logs from multiple fermentation tanks at the facility from 2015-2016. Brewsheets and fermentation logs record data about ingredients, temperatures, waste, and other measurements of the brewing process and when the beer is in storage.

Also of note is the Brewing Northwest, Ltd. company binder, which includes information about the company and its operations; materials on and for shareholders; licensing and reporting documents for state and federal agencies; information about the Oregon Brewers Guild (1987-1992); documentation of distribution and beer pricing; financial documents (banking, invoices, summary statements) from 1987 to 2005; and marketing materials (labels, newsletters, beer information sheets).

Biographical / Historical Notes

The Oregon Trail Brewery Company was incorporated as Brewing Northwest, Ltd. on March 20, 1985 in Corvallis, Oregon and began beer production on July 15, 1987. When Oregon Trail Brewery opened in 1987, it was the first new brewery in the Willamette Valley outside of Portland since Prohibition was repealed in 1933. In 1987, the definition of a microbrewery was a brewer that produced less than 10,000 barrels per year.

The brewery was a "Sub Chapter S Corporation" of the company Brewing Northwest, Ltd. and was financed with shareholder investments. It opened in 1987 at 341 SW 2nd Street, Corvallis, Oregon, in "The Old World Center." Ted Cox was the owner of the building, as well as the owner and manager of the Old World Deli (OWD), which still adjoins the brewery. Cox opened OWD in 1977, ran a homebrewing supply shop in the space, and bought the building in 1986. The OWD complex was called "an improbable blend of faux-medieval architecture, bohemian mini-mall, performing arts space and de facto town square" in 2015.

Jerry Shadomy, the original brewer, co-owned the business with his wife Nancy; they worked with volunteers to transform the back corner of the OWD into a three-story brewery. Beer production officially began on July 15, 1987 under the name Oregon Trail Ale; Jerry used malt from Washington and Wisconsin and hops from the Willamette Valley. Before that, 40-year-old Jerry ran a landscaping business with 35 year-old Nancy and was an award-winning homebrewer. Jerry won Best of Show at the 1986 State Beer Festival. Although Jerry had been brewing since 1980, he had no previous professional brewing experience; nonetheless, they raised over $80,000 from investors, secured a $30,000 loan for operations, and arranged a five-year, rent-free lease with Ted Cox.

Like many early microbreweries, Jerry started with used equipment. He purchased the original 7-bbl brewhouse from Hart Brewing in Kalama, Washington and two of the fermentation vessels came from Canada. The brewery was housed on three levels, with a total of 1,800 square feet, and was set up to take full advantage of gravity at every stage. The top level of the brewery housed a 6-ton malt hopper, which was gravity fed through a roller mill. The malt was cracked and became a grist as it entered the mash-tun with hot brewing water. Their base malt was a two-row Klages and that was combined with smaller quantities of bagged specialty malt as needed. The wort was transferred to the second floor copper kettle and then to the ground floor where the hops were added.

The brewery operated in plain view of the OWD's customers and the deli was the brewery’s first draft account. Jerry focused on traditional English ales, including an Empirical Brown Ale, Oregon Trail Ale, Oregon Trail Chinook Stout, and winter porter. In 1990, Hubert Smith offered an evocative narrative of the brewing process at Oregon Trail. He wrote that "Shadomy ferments warm and matures warm, starting the beer at 70 degrees and aging it for up to four weeks at 50-55 degrees. This permits flavor compounds produced by the ale yeast to infuse the beer with pleasant, subtle, fruity flavors. 'Fruit' in an ale is as much an aromatic as it is a taste, a luscious melding with malt and hops."

Initially, Oregon Trail beers were quite good and the company’s growth was consistent, if still a bit slow. Jerry had good exposure at various festivals, including the then-fledgling Oregon Brewers Festival. However, due to lack of consistent flavor and quality control, they lost many accounts. Shortly after expanding from 300 barrels to over 1000 annually, a series of personal and financial problems collided with unwanted bacterial infections in the beer; this led to a foreclosure of the loan by Cascade West Financial. The brewery closed in October 1992.

On March 14, 1993, Dave Wills, an original shareholder, purchased Jerry's shares and stopped the final foreclosure. Wills served as the President, Secretary, and Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was responsible for finances and oversaw production, sales, and distribution until 2020. In 1983, he had started Freshops, a hop marketing company that supplied hops to small breweries and homebrewers. He was also a Christmas tree grower.

In 1992, Wills hired Jerry Bockmore to serve as brewmaster and company Vice President; he was in that role from 1992-1998. Bockmore was a brewer for Hart Brewing Company in Kalama from 1989 to 1992; he was also the founder of the now defunct Yamhill Brewing Company. When he started at Oregon Trail, Bockmore removed the two open fermentors, which eliminated the brewery’s biggest infection risk. Other equipment changes included the addition of glycol temperature control for the fermentation tanks and the purchase of Zahm & Nagel CO2 and air testing equipment. All kegs were changed from Golden Gate to Sankey to better match what the rest of the industry was using. A thorough cleaning of the entire brewery was all that was left before brewing could begin again.

This all cost money and in 1994 there was a call to increase investments to purchase more equipment, including more fermenters and a bottling machine. At that time, the capacity of the brewery was 91 barrels (182 kegs) per month. At full capacity, the five fermenters at the facility could produce 200 barrels (400 kegs) per month or 2,400 barrels (4,800 kegs) per year. When compared to other breweries in Oregon at that time, their production was approximately 1/3 of Deschutes Brewery and 1/10 of Widmer Brothers Brewing sales in Oregon. At the time of the call for investors in 1994, the Board of Directors floated building a larger brewery in another location and installing a larger bottling line. The move to a new facility never happened, nor did they ever bottle on a large scale. Working in a three-level brewery in a historic building was good for gravity flow, but prevented them bottling beer because of the lack of floor space; instead, Oregon Trail Brewery continued to primarily offer beer in kegs and "party pigs," which are 8.5 liter reusable beer dispensers that kept beer fresh and carbonated.

Bockmore and Wills launched with a Witbier as the flagship beer, which was followed by their Brown Ale. In 1994, the brewery made five beers. Oregon Trail White Ale had been introduced in June 1993 and was a Belgian style wheat beer spiced with coriander and orange peel. In October 1993, they'd introduced Oregon Trail Brown Ale. In December, they produced a seasonal Christmas Ale, which was partially brewed on a contractual basis at the Everett Street Pub in Portland. Oregon Trail Ale, a German style ale (kolsch), had been introduced in February 1994. Oregon Trail Stout debuted on St. Patrick's Day. Nearly 20 years later, in 2012, they still made Witbier and Brown Ale, but had added Smoke Signal Rauchbier (a stronger, smoked-malt version of the Brown), an IPA, a Ginseng Porter (a robust porter infused with American, Korean, Siberian, & Tienchi ginseng), a Bourbon Barrel Porter, and seasonals like Blackberry Wit. In 1989, Oregon Trail Brown Ale was awarded a Beer of the Year award by Fred Eckhardt. Oregon Trail Brown Ale also won silver medals in 1994 at the Great American Beer Festival and in 1995 at the World Beer Championship.

In 1994, they had contracts with four distributors and approximately 40 accounts where their beer was served between Corvallis and Portland; however, they only offered their beer in kegs until 1995, which made distribution and competition with other Oregon breweries difficult. By 2005, they focused on distribution to Corvallis, Eugene, and Newport. They took advantage of the brand name "Oregon Trail" in their labelling, marketing, and beer names. In addition, they had an authentic covered wagon they brought to festivals and occasionally used to deliver beer.

The company continued to have ups and downs for employees and customers. From 1997 to 2002, there were concerns over licensing and serving at beer events; as a result, there was a gap in Wills' involvement and brewery production in those years. In 2003, Don Pfeifer, a retired OSU microbiologist, started working as the Oregon Trail Quality Control Microbiologist, which helped maintain consistency in the beer. Turnover at the brewery was high (nearly a brewer a year), but working there offered OSU students and new brewers an opportunity to work on a manual, and oftentimes challenging, system. Beer was sold at festivals and fairs, on draft at restaurants in Corvallis (Nearly Normals, Squirrel's Tavern) and for a time in Portland (Westside Dublin Pub), through direct sales to the public from the brewery, and at The Old World Deli. The deli was the brewery's main account.

Waylon and Toby Pickett bought The Old World Center in 2020 and reopened it in 2021 after substantial renovations. The Oregon Trail Brewery is owned and run by Waylon's brother, J.D. Pickett.

Author: Tiah Edmunson-Morton

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 2 boxes, including 10 photographs

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: These materials were donated to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center by J.D. Pickett in 2021.

Related Materials:

The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives Oral History Collection (OH 35) includes interviews from industry professionals, journalists, and community members, including Dave Wills and Ted Cox. The Fred Eckhardt Papers include photographs and research files for Oregon breweries. There are periodicals and journals housed in various archival collections, the main source being the Brewing and Fermentation Research and Olympia Brewery Library collections.

Further information regarding the values, logistics, and goals of the burgeoning regional brewing community can be found in organizational collections like the Heart of the Valley Homebrewers Records, Ninkasi Brewing Company Collection (MSS Ninkasi), McMenamins Brewery Collection, Portland Brewing Company Records, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company Records, Rock Bottom Brewery Records, Fred Bowman Papers, Art Larrance Collection, and the Oregon Brewers Guild Records. The personal research collections of Denny Conn, Pete Dunlop, Abram Goldman-Armstrong, and Robert Daly contain additional information regarding the beer writing process and beer culture.

Collections linked to Oregon State University research, as well as other manuscript collections, are described on the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives research guide. More information pertaining to the history of hop growing and brewing in Oregon can be found on the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives website.

Preferred Citation: Oregon Trail Brewery Records (MSS OregonTrail), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Oregon Trail Brewery
Shadomy, Jerry
Shadomy, Nancy
Wills, Dave

People, Places, and Topics

Beer--United States.
Beer industry--United States--History.
Brewing industry--Oregon.
Corvallis (Or.)
Corvallis (Or.)--History.
Hops and Brewing
Microbreweries--United States.
Natural Resources

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Brewing Records, 1996-2020
The majority of the brewsheets are from 2004-2014. Numbering resets intermittently without explanation. 1996 and 2001, brewsheets were labeled Brewing Northwest, Ltd.; for those years there are only five sheets and they brewed White, Brown, and IPA. There were beers regularly brewed (White, Brown, IPA, Witbier), new beers added and then regularly brewed (Ginseng Porter, Beaver Tail, Smoke Signal, Bourbon Barrel Porter), and some brewed only for a short time (Gringo, Hop Doctor, Frog). Some brewsheets have notes to Dave Wills about issues or supply needs. The last beer was Witbier brewed August 13, 2020.
Box-Folder 1.01: Brewsheets, 1996
Box-Folder 1.02: Brewsheets, 2001
Box-Folder 1.03: Brewsheets, 2003
Box-Folder 1.04: Brewsheets, 2004
Box-Folder 1.05: Brewsheets, 2005
Box-Folder 1.06: Brewsheets, 2006
Box-Folder 1.07: Brewsheets, 2007
Box-Folder 1.08: Brewsheets, 2008
Box-Folder 1.09: Brewsheets, 2009
Box-Folder 1.10: Brewsheets, 2010
Box-Folder 1.11: Brewsheets, 2011
Box-Folder 1.12: Brewsheets, 2012
Box-Folder 1.13: Brewsheets, 2013
Box-Folder 1.14: Brewsheets, 2014
Box-Folder 1.15: Brew logs from multiple tanks, 2015-2016
Box-Folder 1.16: Brewsheets, 2016
Box-Folder 1.17: Brewsheets, 2017
Box-Folder 1.18: Brewsheets, 2018
Box-Folder 1.19: Brewsheets, 2019
Box-Folder 1.20: Brewsheets, 2020
Series 2: Operational Records, 1985-2020

This series contains materials and records related to the creation, administration, and operations of the Oregon Trail Brewery. This includes correspondence, meeting minutes, shareholder lists, licensing and financial information, trademarks, distribution, building documentation, and state and federal alcohol production reports. Of note are materials related to the creation of the Oregon Brewers Guild. The materials in folders 1.21 and 1.22 were removed from a binder titled Brewing Northwest, Ltd: Minute Book and split in two folders for space purposes. Folders 2.01 - 2.06 includes bank statements, cancelled checks, invoices (supplies, equipment, sales), and OLCC summary statements (production, inventory, taxes).

The Oregon Brewers Guild was founded in 1992 and is a non-profit trade, marketing, and lobbying association that represents the Oregon craft brewing industry. Its mission is to protect the brewing industry of the state and the interests of Guild members through education, advocacy, and events.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) administers Oregon's Liquor and Cannabis Act and the Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act. It promotes the public interest through the responsible sale and service of alcoholic beverages and recreational marijuana products. In 2021, the name was changed from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to reflect the addition of cannabis under the commission's purview.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, statutorily named the Tax and Trade Bureau and frequently shortened to TTB, is a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, which regulates and collects taxes on trade and imports of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms within the United States.

Box-Folder 1.21: Brewing Northwest, Ltd: Company Binder (part 1), 1985-2014
Included is information about the company and its operations, changes to the Board of Directors, meeting minutes, correspondence, transfers of company shares, and brewers. Issues and materials by year include the following. 1985: certificates of incorporation, Board of Directors (Dave Thomson, Gerald Shadomy, Vernon Kim Kutsch). 1986: stock subscriptions, Board of Directors (Jerry Shadomy, President; Nancy Shadomy, Secretary), resignation letters from Dave Thomson and Kim Kutsch). 1987: correspondence, meeting minutes, resignations from board, new shareholders, financial statements, purity bonds, assets, OLCC brewery license, building lease agreement with Ted Cox. 1988: transfer of notes from Nancy Shadomy to Jerry Shadomy, distribution,  announcement about new board of directors (Vernan Kutch, President; Dave Wills, Vice President; Burk Brandt, Secretary and Treasurer; Jerry Shadomy, Brew Master). 1992: lawsuit between Jerry Shadomy and Cascades West Financial Services. 1993: Proposal for new brewpub by Carl Simpson (Dublin Pub, Portland) and alternate proposal by Dave Wills to buy out Jerry Shadomy, materials related to Wills purchase of Jerry and Nancy Shadomy shares. 1994: employment agreement for Jerry Shadomy, brewmaster job description. 1997: Dave Wills resignation as president and from Board of Directors. 1998: transfer of shares from Nancy Shadomy to daughter Jerika Allison, various share transfer documents. 1999: materials related to the resignation of Jerome Bockmore and the license cancellation; Bockmore took records related to OLCC and BATF tax documents, the Board of Directors was appealing for more time to collect records. 2013: shareholder form. 2014: materials related to efforts to sell brewery, shareholder correspondence. Undated: list of Board of Directors (Jerry, president; Nancy, secretary; John Beuter, chairman).
Box-Folder 1.22: Brewing Northwest, Ltd: Company Binder (part 2), 1985-2014
See Brewing Northwest, Ltd: Company Binder (part 1) for description.
Box-Folder 1.23: Shareholders, 1985-2020
Stock and shareholder information and correspondence (some overlap with Brewing Northwest, Ltd. binder); 1994 offering circular with history of the company, details about the business, management, market strategy, finances, shareholder list.
Box-Folder 1.24: Building plans, OLCC records of incorporation, Oregon beverage records, 1986-1987
Alcohol measurements of Oregon Trail beer, OLCC procedures for posting beer and retail sales information, Oregon Beverage Container Act, incorporation and certification documents for OLCC (1987), building and brewery construction (1987), meeting minutes, materials related to Board of Directors and shareholders.
Box-Folder 1.25: TTB and ATF: recipes, forms, notes, 1985-2003
Box-Folder 1.26: Trademarks and legal cases, 1986-2014
Certificates of registration from U.S. Patent Office, correspondence, materials related to lawsuit with Oregon Trail Mountain Spring Water over trademark of phrase "Oregon Trail."
Box-Folder 1.27: Ripley Stainless Steel: invoices and Correspondence, 1988-1989
Box-Folder 1.28: Notes and Correspondence general, circa 1990-1995
Box-Folder 1.29: Building lease, 1994
Box-Folder 1.30: Distribution and beer pricing lists, 1986-1996
Correspondence to and from distributors.
Box-Folder 1.31: Distribution: Oregon Trail Brewery, 1993-1996
Box-Folder 1.32: Financial and taxes, 1987-1993
Box-Folder 1.33: Brewer bonds, licenses, correspondence, 2000-2004
Box-Folder 1.34: Oregon Brewers Guild, 1987-1992
Includes articles of incorporation (1987), by-laws (1991 and 1992), meeting minutes, correspondence, membership applications, agendas, newsletter. Of note is a 1988 proposal for the formation of a craft brewers' cooperative. Originally called the Greater Oregon Brewers Association.
Box-Folder 1.35: Brewery manual by Sean Martin, 2011
Box-Folder 1.36: Tank cleaning procedures, 2012
Box-Folder 2.01: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1987
Box-Folder 2.02: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1988
Box-Folder 2.03: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1989
Box-Folder 2.04: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1990
Box-Folder 2.05: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1991
Box-Folder 2.06: Banking, invoices, summary statements, 1992-2005
From years 1992, 1994, 2005.
Series 3: Marketing, 1951-2015
Marketing and promotional materials including labels and beer information sheets, label submission forms for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), three issues of the Oregon Trail Brewery newsletter, and materials related to trademarking the name "Oregon Trail."
Box-Folder 2.07: Labels and beer information sheets, circa 1990-2015
Labels, beer information sheets, draft labels (includes negatives), coaster, information about 1994 and 1995 silver medal beer awards.
Box-Folder 2.08: TTB label submissions and forms, 1987-2006
Box-Folder 2.09: Label maker companies, 1995 - circa 2005
Box-Folder 2.10: Oregon Trail Brewery history, newsletters, articles, 1987-1995
Oregon Trail Brewery newsletter (3 issues: 1988, 1993, 1995), articles about brewery by beer writer Hubert Smith (1989-1990), company history (1987).
Box-Folder 2.11: Oregon Trail history, 1951 - circa 2005
Book and pamphlets about the Oregon Trail used for brewery marketing and design.
Box-Folder 2.12: Marketing for other regional breweries, circa 1995
Series 4: Photographs, circa 1995-2010
1 folder with photographs of events, Dave Wills, and operations.
Box-Folder 2.13: Photographs, circa 1995-2010
Series 5: Newsclippings, 1987-2008
Clippings and articles documenting Oregon Trail Brewery and the brewing industry in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, conference materials and articles for a 1995 "Business of Beer," and cartoons.
Box-Folder 2.14: Clippings: Oregon, 1987-1989
Box-Folder 2.15: Clippings: Oregon, 2002-2007
Box-Folder 2.16: Clippings: General, 1987-2008
Box-Folder 2.17: The Business of Beer: conference materials and articles, 1995
Box-Folder 2.18: Cartoons: Brewhaha and Mitch Scheele, circa 2005

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