Universities Archiving Beer’s Past and Present
As the American brewing industry surges forth, university archivists are hoping to record brewing history from pre-Prohibition to the modern age—and they want brewers’ and drinkers’ help.
At Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR, the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA) has been seeking operational or administrative records from breweries, beer recipes, oral histories, photographs and more related to Oregon’s brewing and hop-growing industry. It’s part of a community archiving effort to safely store and record brewing history, says Tiah Edmunson-Morton, archivist for instruction and outreach who is overseeing the collection.
The collection efforts include reaching out to libraries, archives and historical societies (lots of photos of hop farms, she says), as well as to journalists, brewers and farmers for a perspective on the social, cultural and economic aspects of the brewing industry. She’s also worked directly with McMenamins and Ninkasi Brewing to establish collections, and has accrued special finds like a full run of McMenamins coasters going back to 1990 and hand sketches of Ninkasi labels.
On the East Coast, Cornell University’s Eastern Wine and Grape Archive will start an informal effort to collect records and ephemera from New York state breweries.
“We have found that so much of the brewing industry of late mirrors what happened in New York with the wine industry, particularly with passage of the farm winery act in 1976 and the more recent farm brewery act,” says Evan Fay Earle, collections specialist and archival technical services coordinator for the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell’s Carl A. Kroch Library. “Since we have very strong wine and grape holdings and a process in place for gathering that material, it made sense for us to expand our efforts.”
The key to the archival efforts is to get beer drinkers and brewers interested in documenting their past and present, says Edmunson-Morton, so future beer lovers can learn about the evolution of the brewing and hops industry.
“I think it’s a sort of no-brainer that people are going to want to know what happened in this region a hundred years from now in the same way that people are really engaged in thinking about pre-Prohibition brewing.”
To learn more and donate to the OHBA or the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive, visit http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/ohba.html and rmc.library.cornell.edu/collections/winegrape.html.