OSU launches craft-beer project

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A new project at Oregon State University is aiming to create a definitive historical archive of craft beer’s history and impact in Oregon.

The university has launched the Oregon Hops &Brewing Archives. The organizers behind it have the ambition of building the archives as a destination repository for researchers in hops and brewing. In fact, the Oregon Hops &Brewing Archives is the first of its kind in the United States, The Eugene Register-Guard reported Sunday.

“We live in an important moment historically that is reclaiming craft beer heritage and culture,” said Peter Kopp, an agricultural historian at New Mexico State University and an unofficial adviser to the OSU project. “People are going to stay interested (in beer) for a long time. That’s what we’re trying to document, this historical shift during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”

Organizers say people in 100 years may find in the archives the answer to why Americans drank pale, mass-produced beer for so long in the 20th century — and then switched rapidly to craft brews.

The Willamette Valley’s relationship with beer has a long history: from the first hop-breeding experiments at OSU in the 1890s to today’s plant genetics studies at the university.

“Now, they’re mapping the hop genome, in particular, for disease resistance and flavor,” said Tiah Edmunson-Morton, an OSU librarian who is overseeing the collection.

She has mined historic photographs and reports at OSU from beer-related studies in the chemistry, irrigation, disease-management and crop-science departments and divisions.

Now, the archivist is practicing “community archiving,” which is taking her across the state to breweries and hop farms to gather documents, data and oral histories that she believes will help future researchers.

“The exciting thing about craft brewing is all the people, pretty much, who were involved are still alive,” Edmunson-Morton said. “It’s really possible to not be retroactively trying to piece the story together but (instead) working with the people who are making that history.”

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