Barley, Barrels, Bottles and Brews

I had a chance to visit the Oregon Historical Society‘s retrospective on beer in Oregon recently and I thought it was a bit tepid.

beer tumblers from the 1900sThe information about the early days when hop growers were first starting to get their businesses started was OK and I had no idea that a great many Native Americans were involved in the harvesting of hops back then. Unsurprisingly, many Chinese immigrants were also involved in the work back then, too. However, aside from one, maybe two lines on the subject, the racism they experienced or the contributions they made, aside from the work they did, didn’t get much exploration. No comment on the picture of children who were doing this work in the 1800’s, which again seemed odd.

There were also less than intriguing exhibits; at one point I saw a wooden box that had the notation, “Box for carrying hops” near it. That was it.

Last time I checked, boxes can hold anything; what made this box interesting or worth display? It wasn’t until I was walking away that I noticed a logo on the side of it for a company farming hops. While not of deep interest, the logo at least gave context to what I was looking at and it wasn’t even facing the audience.

Maybe don’t bury the lede?

Early homebrew text by F EckhardtSimilarly, although perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on them for this, there was a massive gap in information between the time when Prohibition started and the 1980’s, when craft brewing started to take root. Sure, there was a small section devoted to Fred Eckhardt (who helped found the Oregon Brew Crew, amongst other things) and Don Younger (a huge promoter of craft ales and Oregon beer at large via the Horse Brass pub), as well there should have been, but I’m absolutely certain that things happened between the end of prohibition and 1980, when the craft beer and homebrewing movements started.

The section on the Pink Boots society was nice but felt underdeveloped-which is an apt way to describe most of the information on the modern era. The efforts of modern breweries and homebrewers was almost unmentioned but they did have a portion of the exhibit dedicated to the hop growing and fermentation programs at Oregon State University.

The interactive portion of the exhibit was neat though; you could smell hops and read about what they would be used for in brewing, and a couple of large touchscreens that people could play with to get simple overviews of beer styles and the brewing process.

It was free, though and in this instance I suppose I got what I paid for.



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