Hops and Brewing Archives at OSU’s Valley Library

Photo Courtesy of OHBA and Widmer Bros. Brewing

The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA) is the nation’s first and only archive of materials related to beer and other forms of brewing. Located in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University, the project was started in 2013. The archive preserves the history of the Northwest’s obsession with growing the perfect ingredients and perfecting the brewing process. 

One area of the archive includes the papers of Portland’s Fred Eckhardt, the “dean of American beer writing,” who passed away in 2015. Eckhardt began homebrewing wine, beer, and sake in the 1960s as the brewing industry became more and more consolidated and beer became less and less tasty. 

In the 1970s, Eckhardt published A Treatise on Lager Beers, an early DIY brewing guide when homebrewing was still outlawed under prohibition era legislation. Luckily for us, homebrewing became legal in 1978.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton, curator of OHBA says, “OHBA is a long-term community-based project to document the agricultural and brewing history of the Pacific Northwest. My goal in both gathering historical materials and oral histories is to create a record of the voices and rich complexity of these industries.” 

Companies like McMenamins and organizations like the Oregon Hop Growers Association make up just some of those records.

OHBA also contains materials from OSU’s long history of research around hop growing and brewing. Research began as early at 1890, but it was suspended during the 1930s due to Prohibition. All the Hops Research Reports available have been digitized, and are available for anyone’s perusal on the OHBA website.

Edmunson-Morton has conducted over seventy oral histories so far and is always looking for new documents and people to interview. She encourages anyone in the area who has been involved in commercial and home brewing of beer, cider, mead, kombucha, and food fermentation – or the growing and picking of hops and barely – to get in touch with her.

For more information see http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/ohba.html. You can contact Edmunson-Morton at tiah.edmunson-morton@oregonstate.edu. Photos from the archive are available on oregondigital.org.

by Andy Hahn