By Tiah Edmunson-Morton
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Oregon native and environmental historian Dr. Peter Kopp recently returned to his home state to educate an audience about the history of a very special beer ingredient that’s the focus of his new book. “Hoptopia: A World of Agriculture and Beer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley” was the focus of the talk held at Oregon State University. Kopp’s research illustrates how the hop in Oregon offers a fascinating glimpse into the way our “sense of place” is reflected through the physical, cultural and social aspects of the industry.
While Dr. Kopp focuses heavily on the history of Willamette Valley and Pacific Northwest hop farming and culture, his book travels to ancient Sumer, visits the boom times for the hop industry along the East Coast and then delves into the years where the Willamette Valley was the hop center of the world. Also included is the birth of the Cascade variety at OSU in the early 1970s along with tales from present-day Beervana. Additionally, Kopp connects the broader global history of beer to local farmers, scientists and the magnificent hop.
His research draws heavily from local sources, so you’ll find that farmers, laborers, brewers, historians and scientists all have strong voices in this book. In addition to creating a thorough academic text on the global impact of this specialty crop, Kopp encourages his audience to become curious about where our food comes from. He suggests that "plants have incredible stories to tell, they just lack an easy way of telling them" and that "capturing these stories offer ways to rethink environment, agriculture, labor, business and science over time"
Kopp has written and presented extensively on projects related to agricultural and environmental history, and he often focuses more specifically on local history, culture and traditions. While he's taken a turn toward more coverage on horticulturalist Fabian Garcia and his work with chilies, another specialty crop that is closer to Kopp’s current home in New Mexico, much of his writing has related to hops and brewing in the Northwest. The stories of annual hop harvests, the local and global roots of the craft beer revolution and prohibition are all areas of interest to Kopp.
As the director of the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives, I work with a wide range of researchers and scholars, advocate for accessible local history, collect oral histories and gather records that document the history of "fermentable liquids" in our region. I hope that Dr. Kopp's book will inspire you to get involved in saving and sharing our local history. It is a must-have for people curious about the rich regional history poured into their pint glass!
Want to get involved with saving local brewing history? Contact Tiah Edmunson-Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-737-7387.
Learn more about OHBA at scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/ohba.html and more about our collections at bit.ly/ohbaguide.
Read more about Dr. Kopp at thebrewstorian.tumblr.com/search/kopp.
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In today’s fast-paced industry, it’s easy to forget that the modern craft beer revolution hasn’t even hit middle age yet. At Oregon State University, the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA), the first brewing archive in the U.S., saves and shares the story of hop production and the craft brewing movement in Oregon.
“We do this by collecting historical materials, conducting oral histories, sharing best practices for maintaining records and assisting with historical research,” explains Tiah Edmunson-Morton, main curator for OHBA (she also blogs about her work at thebrewstorian.tumblr.com). “In line with OSU's land-grant mission, this archive focuses on local agricultural, business and heritage communities, connecting OSU to the much larger story of brewing and hop growing in our region.”
Located on the fifth floor of The Valley Library at OSU, OHBA began in summer 2013 as part of the OSU Libraries & Press’ Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Edmunson-Morton works closely with staff in OSU Special Collections and Archives, the digital production unit and library administration. A student worker aids with research and a graphic design student recently designed a beer history board game.
Edmunson-Morton has collected oral histories from notable figures such as McMenamins’ historian Tim Hills along with beer writers John Foyston and the late Fred Eckhardt. Current projects include scanning brew sheets for the first 2,000 brews at McMenamins Hillsdale, Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Fulton breweries. Portland Brewing’s Fred Bowman granted access to news clippings about the early years of Portland Brewing, as well as photos showing the remodel of the building at the original Northwest Flanders Street location in advance of the brewery’s opening in 1986. OHBA is also collaborating with the Multnomah County Library on “Portland Brew History,” a digital exhibit featuring materials from 15 breweries.
“I feel so lucky to be working on something so fun and culturally/scientifically significant,” says Edmunson-Morton.
University, Industry Are Key Partners
It’s only natural that OHBA is part of OSU. The Corvallis public university is renowned for its hops breeding, brewing research and Fermentation Science program. Edmunson-Morton works closely with all of them, as well as the beer and cider sessions staff in Professional and Continuing Education to discover and procure new materials and stories.
In addition to oral histories with hop growers, OHBA has records from the Oregon Hop Growers Association and the Hop Research Council and is reviewing hops industry photos and research reports from the 1920s-1950s. Edmunson-Morton has collaborated with the Benton County Historical Society to convert tapes of oral histories with pickers and growers from the early 1980s. “We also scanned a set of questionnaires from that same oral history project,” she says. “That give a really interesting insight into the conditions in the fields in the 1930s.”
OHBA also sources documents and histories through newspapers and other periodicals, such as Zymurgy and The Amateur Brewer, as well as newspapers. “I’d like to continue to collect research files, pictures and publications from beer writers,” says Edmunson-Morton. “We are also looking at expanding the archive to more actively highlight and collect materials related to barley. Who knows? This may lead to a name change if we include yeast too.”
The Art of Beer
Rep. Peter DeFazio and OSU President Ed Ray were among the first to come to OHBA’s opening day for “The Art of Beer: What’s on the Outside.” Celebrating the work of brewers and artists in Oregon through beer labels, the public walk-through exhibition was planned to be open during April and May 2015, but instead closed at the end of July.
With items dating back to the early 1980s, The Art of Beer showed that labels are more than just marketing or advertising. “While the range of art on labels and coasters itself was important,” says Edmunson-Morton, “I also wanted to look at identity, branding, the process of creating art and the simple artistry that goes into … such a small bit of visual real estate.”
Beer labels are a snapshot, she explains: telling customers about the company, the taste or style of beer, the experience you are likely to have. “They are also connecting with consumers as artists, creating something beautiful and evocative,” says Edmunson-Morton. “When you saw the bottles on store shelves or labels on tap handles you were picking up clues about the beer, the brewery, etc. But when you saw those labels enlarged on a wall, they turned into something much more: art.”
However, a sort of meta-exhibition was also at work. Archivists and curators “make choices about what you see, labeling items to categorize them, grouping them with other items, and asking the viewer to consider and examine them in a constructed way,” says Edmunson-Morton. “Advertisers work in the same way by inviting you to draw a quick meaning and conclusions based on what is on the outside, and then asking you to make a decision and interpretation about what’s inside.”
A Community-Based Archive
While of interest to brewing hobbyists, professionals and academics, the archive is also part of the public’s awareness about the history of a vibrant modern industry. “People don't know how interesting and important what they have is, or think the posters they produced three years ago aren't historic,” says Edmunson-Morton. “With an archive like this, three years ago is certainly history!”
OHBA is actively asking the public, brewing industry, and homebrewing community to contribute new materials, such as photographs, news clippings, publications, books, recipes, coasters, taplists, menus, and/or any records for breweries and hop growing operations.
“The way an archive grows is by adding materials, but the way we save a history is by sharing it and telling its story,” says Edmunson-Morton. “I want this to be a community-based archive, which means that we collect materials that tell the story of the cultural and industrial communities, but also the story by the communities. It's not just my story to tell.”
Questions, donations and contributions:
Tiah Edmunson-Morton, OHBA Curator
541-737-7387 / email@example.com
Visit the Archives:
Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Valley Library Fifth Floor, Oregon State University
Tyler Craven, owner and creative director of BeerQuest PDX, is shown here leading a haunted pub tour through Old Town Portland. In addition to stops for craft beer at two locations, participants get to learn about the city’s sordid history and supernatural experiences. Photo courtesy of BeerQuest PDX
By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
Portland’s Old Town is the kind of area where you’d expect to find 20-somethings lined up outside of dimly lit clubs bumping along to the same incessant electro-beats, bar tops packed as tightly with people as the dance floors and even an increasing number of craft breweries. You might’ve even had the experience of stumbling around some of those cobblestone streets during a 21st birthday or other booze-fueled party.
Old Town has certainly sealed and even embraced its status as an entertainment district. But that reputation is anything but new. A cursory glance of the setting reveals brick buildings, fountains and roads that are more than a century old — and these landmarks have seen their fair share of raucous drinking throughout the years. In fact, today’s scene might look downright tame compared to the activities that used to define the city’s nightlife. You can, in one sense, experience the history of Old Town almost anytime you’d like through walking tours hosted by BeerQuest PDX. And while they’re offered year-round, the Halloween season might be the best time to go because you not only learn about the questionable characters who inhabited old Portland; you also hear stories of some of the spirits who continue to visit their stomping grounds today. Sound a little spooky? Not to worry. The crawl includes plenty of beer to take the edge off.
Tyler Craven knows what it’s like to take Portland’s history and beer for granted. The owner and creative director of BeerQuest PDX grew up in West Linn and didn’t really have much of an interest in Portland’s past. In fact, Craven, who still leads many of the tours and conducts all of the research that goes into them, didn’t even major in history, despite your likely expectations. He got his degree in biology at Creighton University in Nebraska. But that’s also what helped spur his interest in craft beer. Like many an undergrad, Craven downed plenty of Coors Light and similar domestic lagers lacking in flavor. Moreover, craft brewing options in the Midwest were notably bleak. It was only when he’d returned to Oregon that he began to take notice of the burgeoning beer culture. The science behind the production, yeast’s role in particular, also intrigued Craven. He then started trying out every brewery he could in Portland.
The path from beer fan to beer tour guide is neither straight nor simple. Freshly armed with his academic credentials in 2009, Craven once again found himself having a similar experience as many in his cohort, just this time as a new graduate. He didn’t know what he wanted to do next. So he worked for a summer and decided to travel abroad. That led to a volunteer year in South Africa where he taught English and worked at a rural medical clinic. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the culture, so Craven extended his stay another year. During this period, he got his first experience leading people on tours. He wasn’t talking about beer quite yet. The subject matter instead revolved around the animals at a game reserve in Swaziland. The background in biology certainly helped him flesh out all of those random facts about zebras, giraffes and water buffalos. But perhaps more importantly, Craven discovered a strength.
“That’s where I kind of learned that hey, I’m really good at telling stories and people are really interested and just kind of honed my craft as far as that goes,” explained Craven. “And then when I got home, I just kind of applied the same thing to beer in Portland.”
While combining his two passions — entertaining crowds and craft beer — seemed natural, not all of Craven’s initial business ideas took off. He laughs now when admitting there were actually a lot of failures. That the original plan, a beer scavenger hunt, didn’t work is somewhat of a surprise. When you consider the adoration for events like the adult soap box derby, it seems like you’d have to crochet bomb quirky Portlanders to street signs in order to keep them away from signing up for a beer scavenger hunt. But popularity can be a problem. Too many moving parts and not enough experience were overwhelming.
“I really got pretty far into the development of it,” said Craven, “but at a certain point I decided that I needed to do something that I was better at myself and with less people. Five-hundred people is a lot. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Craven reached the point where he wasn’t sure whether starting a business would work and even began looking for jobs. But a conversation with a friend on the East Coast turned everything around. He happened to know some guys behind a ghost tour company in Washington, D.C. Craven got in touch with one of the men, who didn’t know much about Portland, but encouraged him to look into it.
And so the research began.
If you’ve ever taken the haunted pub tour, you’ll know that this isn’t some surface-level, brochure-style lecture. The stories are detailed, vivid and engaging. And Craven has certainly done his homework. The Oregon Historical Society has been a primary resource from the beginning.
“They keep basically every Oregonian [newspaper] that’s ever been made, which is really cool. So I would learn about a character, learn about someone in Portland history, and go back and read the original articles about it or look at some of the photographs,” Craven described.
He also worked to find a consensus among sources when accounts of certain events would vary. And as far as digging up material for the tales of the supernatural, Craven tries to talk to the bartenders and servers at Kells and Old Town Brewing Co., where the tours pause for beers, on a regular basis. The guides, of which there are now four, appreciate being able to mix things up a bit to keep their talks fresh.
While internal startup costs may seem like they’d be minimal — because, after all, it was just one guy walking people around town — there actually were expenses Craven had to deal with. The website and logo were two important elements that didn’t come cheap. A Mercy Corps matched savings grant ultimately helped propel the business forward and Craven quickly noticed that he had a hit on his hands.
“We started Halloween night three years ago, and it was just sold out, like, every night. So I was like, ‘Okay, we’ve got something here,’” Craven recounted. “And just kind of kept it going and figured, ‘Why not? Maybe people will keep signing up.’ And they did.”
Before performing for paying customers, Craven practiced in front of friends and family. That first run clocked in at a longer time than Gilligan’s scheduled boat tour. Four hours’ worth of material was simply too long to endure, so Craven found that he ruthlessly had to cut some of the stories he loved. One of his favorites, though, is about notorious shanghaier [and drunkard] Jim Turk. He owned a boarding house in both Portland and Astoria, kidnapping unsuspecting sailors and teenage boys to then sell to ship captains looking for extra laborers. He was so conniving, Turk ran a scheme where he would shanghai his oldest son Charles, and just as the ship would leave Charles would jump overboard and swim ashore, splitting the earnings with his father. Eventually, their plot did backfire, adding yet another interesting twist to Portland’s history.
Individuals are often drawn to the underbelly of a city, delighted by the sordid details of drinking, killing and sex. Beer played a big role, especially in a city like Portland where sailors were ready to party after months at sea. A culture of brewing was growing even back then as beer halls and saloons became popular places to socialize. On the tour, you’ll even learn that the longest bar in the world was once located in Old Town, along with what was also probably the longest urinal since it was a trough that ran along the bar. Learning about the old way of life is undeniably fascinating and actually spending physical time in that space helps the history come to life.
“Walking around and thinking back to that old mindset and seeing the city the way it used to be and imagining the horse-drawn carriages and imagining sailors running around — I think that hits home with people,” Craven said. “And, you know, knowing that, like, it hasn’t always been this way and we’ve evolved over the years and kind of seeing the past in the present is a fun thing to do.”
During October when the leaves burn vibrant shades of orange and red, when you start to first notice your breath leaves a cloud in the chilling air and when the nights grow longer — the haunted part of the tour tends to be the biggest attraction. More locals sign up whereas tourists dominate during the summer. Craven said that unknown factor is a big pull — empirical proof doesn’t exist when it comes to the supernatural, but it becomes more and more difficult to deny the mounting number of shared experiences. Even as a man of science with a degree in biology, Craven has now heard and seen enough to shake his skepticism.
“Just too many things for it to be a coincidence,” he explained. “And we go to the same places over and over, so we kind of know what it usually is like and we know when something’s really different — there’s just a different energy to it.”
Now the tour isn’t all ghost stories and ghoulish history. The atmosphere tends to get quite festive as costumes are encouraged and also worn by the guides in October. Halloween, of course, will be the busiest day for the haunted tour. Last year, BeerQuest PDX held four different start times for the crawl and all of them were booked.
A good storyteller knows how to weave an anecdote in such a way that you’ll remember the plot and main characters. Certain details will fade with time, but others should be unforgettable because of the level of description and animated delivery. Craven and his team help ensure that quality stories are told about Portland and its past, which is one thing he hopes people take away from the experience.
“I always really like the locals because they’re really interested and really surprised with all the history that is in Portland, in their backyard, that they never knew,” Craven said. “And they’re always really excited they know these stories now, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can tell my friends all about it!’”
In addition to knowing what shaped Portland, Craven wants participants to gain a strong appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into making the beers they enjoy along the route. And, in the end, the tour is not unlike brewing — Craven has worked to find the perfect balance among differing elements that help define the city.
“You get a greater appreciation for a lot of these places and the history behind them and how old the buildings are, you know, how the brick has been there since the 1800s,” Craven described. “You know I always say, if the walls could talk, the stories they could tell about the olden days around Portland would be pretty dang good.”
By Jim McLaren
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It took 20 years, but Tim Hohl was finally living a homebrewer’s dream. He had a world-class brewer cornered and was going to make him taste his latest, made-it-in-the-garage creation.
Hohl is the news director at Portland’s KPAM radio and hosts the weekly “First Edition Beer Geek” program. “I had met Dave Fleming as part of an interview,” Hohl explains. “He was at Lompoc as their head brewer. I knew he was sort of beer royalty when it came to brewers in Portland.”
Hohl had made a batch of Cascadian dark ale and, while he had Fleming in studio, asked him to try it. Fleming remembers, “I get a lot of home brews given to me. Ninety percent of it is just OK. But Tim’s beer was quite good.” In fact, Hohl says, it was so impressive they brewed a 7-barrel batch of it at the New Old Lompoc brewery in Northwest Portland. “We called it ‘Black Hole’ and it was gone within two weeks,” says Fleming.
A similar meeting between two like-minded men also happened in Oregon about 170 years ago. It would, eventually, give name to what Hohl is about to open.
But first, back to the obvious question you ask a new brewery owner: Why beer? Before talking beer, or about using a kit to make his first batch, Hohl admits, “it’s less about a love of beer and more about a fascination with the people in the industry. It’s such a creative, collaborative environment. It’s more about people.”
Being about people is why Hohl chose an Oregon City location for his brewery. “It’s a beer drinking town.” And it’s his love of what people do — make history — that gave him an idea for a beer program. “We want to brew a regular line of heritage ales, beers based on historical recipes. Our second flagship beer will be what we are calling ‘George’s Honest Ale.’ It’s based on a recipe that is in one of George Washington’s journals.” Hohl says the beer is made with a lot of molasses, since that was the primary fermentable in Washington’s day. Hohl and Fleming did a test batch and say it got good feedback.
It’s also the newsman’s sense of history which prompted the name for Hohl’s brewery. Had he been around in 1845, Hohl might have reported: “It was at a dinner party in Oregon City’s Ermatinger House where two bearded men were squabbling about what to name a 640-acre clearing along the Willamette River. Someone suggested a coin toss and dug a copper penny out of a pocket. Asa Lovejoy, from Boston, called tails. Francis Pettygrove, from Portland, Maine, called heads. The shiny coin was flipped in the air. The light of kerosene lamps caught the image of Lady Liberty on one side of the spinning coin and the words ‘one cent’ on the other. Three times the coin was launched toward the ceiling. Twice it landed heads up. The city of Portland had a name." And, 170 years later, so does Hohl’s brewery — it’s "Coin Toss."
But starting a new brewery is anything but a simple coin toss for Hohl. “I’m really focused on doing it right. How do you make it something you love but also a viable business model? We decided it’s going to be 10 barrels, which is a lot, but then let’s figure out how to make this a business we can get off the ground and build.” Fleming gave Hohl his “face reality” speech by explaining, “There’s no money in this.” But he then jumped in with some advice for attracting customers: “Let’s make Oregon City ale that’s a lighter beer that will get people in the door to check us out.” Fleming calls that matriculation ale. It teaches customers what you can do and makes it more likely that they’ll try more flavorful brews.
Hohl thinks he could be at the front door of a beer boom in Oregon’s first incorporated city (Editor's Note: Astoria was Oregon's first settlement). He sees the possibility for a handful of new breweries to arise in Oregon City in the next year or so. If he’s right, maybe folks will forget that other coin toss and just enjoy the one at 14214 Fir St. in Oregon City. It opens this summer.
Special thanks to Colin Preston, owner of Practical Fusion in Portland. He is making the brewhouse for Coin Toss, just as he has for dozens of other breweries around the U.S. He sat in as I talked beer with Tim Hohl and Dave Fleming.
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