Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives
The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA) is a collecting initiative, documentation, and community archiving project that will tell the story of hops production and the craft beer industry in Oregon. The goal is to coordinate the historical documentation and provide access to information about the hops and brewing industries through both the OSU collections and those in outside repositories, industries, or communities.
Hops and Beer in Oregon: A History Worth Saving
Look locally and you’ll see a surge of breweries, a healthy hops production, and a swelling of community interest centered on hops and craft brewing in Oregon. More than just an enthusiasm for what is happening in the present, there is an excitement to connecting current farmers, researchers, and brewers to those who came before.
Though New York was the first state to commercially produce hops in the early 19th century, the specialty crop moved west with the people. When William Wells planted his first hop yard in Buena Vista in 1867, commercial hop production officially arrived in Oregon. In the early 20th century Oregon was the nation's largest hop producer and by the 1930s the area around Independence in Polk County was known as the "Hop Center of the World." Both mildews and mechanical picking machines had a significant impact on the number of farms operating in the state, but in 2013 Oregon is still the second largest hop producing state in the country with a vibrant farming culture in our own Willamette Valley.
By all accounts, beer brewing in our state actually predates commercial hops production! In 1852, seven years before Oregon was a state, a German immigrant named Henry Saxer opened the Liberty Brewery in Portland. He was followed by Henry Weinhard, the well-known Oregon beer icon who took brewing in our state to a new level. Unfortunately for the industry, wHen Oregonians voted to ban alcohol in 1914 (five years before the 14th Amendment established a national prohibition), alcohol consumption dropped drastically and breweries closed. The 1970s and 80s were decades of positive change and renewed growth. In October 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which contained an amendment that created an exemption from taxation for beer brewed at home for personal or family use. Locally, craft brewing in Oregon took a major turn when a small group of brewers worked together toward the passage of the 1985 Oregon's brewpub law, allowing for the brewing and dispensing of beer on the same premises. As of September 2013, Oregon is home to 137 brewing companies, operating 175 brewing facilities in 59 cities dotting every region of the state.
For those of us in the business of preserving and promoting history, we see an engaged community and research potential!
Collection Development and Growth
The OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center (SCARC) has started work on a new initiative to document and celebrate the history of hop production and the craft brewing movement in Oregon. As the archive for the University, we already have strong collections related to the history of both hops and barley research at OSU, as well as fermentation science studies at the Department of Food Science and Technology. This initiative has the potential to cut across all of our main collecting areas as we explore the agricultural, scientific, farm labor, and cultural components of hop and brewing history. The current scholarship and research in programs like Aroma Hop Breeding and Fermentation Science show that the field is alive and growing at OSU, but there are opportunities for us to grow our collections and work with current creators to document their history.
A broad strategy for growing the OHBA will allow us to acquire collections from a variety of donors, actively collect both ephemeral and digital materials currently produced the community, digitize collections we don't own, provide online access to digitized content in newspapers, collect secondary literature to support scholarship in the form of rare or historic books and historic industry journals, and conduct oral histories. Current technologies allow us to explore a "post custodial" approach to archiving, which means we no longer have to physically possess or own items to provide access to the informational content. Both access and preservation are integral to this project and the digitization of materials in a variety of repositories and locations will be a core component.
Finally, the mission of the OHBA is to provide access to a wide audience. With both a land grant mission and open access objective, the OHBA is in line with other OSU Libraries & Press initiatives to provide access to information that may otherwise be unknown or inaccessible due to location, repository funding or staffing limitations, or a variety of other reasons. Through access tools like online finding aids and technologies offered by online portals, we hope this project will democratize access to information and allow for new forms of scholarship or interaction with historic materials.
We are lucky to have a strong relationship with colleagues at our allied cultural heritage repositories and this project will allow us to work closely with other institutions with historical collections. There is also an essential external community engagement component that will allow us to form partnerships with the heritage and history communities, state agencies, hop farmers, craft brewers, home brewers, and the general community to think collectively about how this project can best serve a variety of people.
Thinking broadly and collectively will allow us to take a multifaceted approach to document the work of those in the hop farming and brewing industries whose stories have had a significant impact on the culture, industry, and economy of our state.
Since the days of Saxer calling on Old Country methods for making beer in the 1850s, brewing in Oregon has been a community celebration of historic styles and traditional ingredients, with unique twists and the non-traditional, based on solid science and experience. The Willamette Valley has settled into the epicenter of a "craft-brewing renaissance," with Portland affectionately nicknamed "Beervana" and the "Munich on the Willamette."
We look forward to the adventure of discovering new partners, collections, and stories.