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Friday, February 13, 2009

Big Words: Sesquicentennial and Zwickelmania

Tomorrow the state of Oregon turns 150. The Oregon Historical Society is hosting the biggest party, devoting the weekend to free admission and scads of events. Weathermen say it will be a sunny day, and I expect the joint to be hoppin'.

Breweries are throwing their own fetes as a part of the Guild-organized "Zwickelmania." The event is similar to the open houses held by Oregon wineries over Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends--apparently the inspiration (?) Thirty-five breweries from around the state will be offering free tours and tastings. I won't post the entire list of participating breweries and their events, but you can find it here.

I'd like to add a historical slash beer note. Breweries are closely linked with the history of this state. In the years between 1856 and 1900, pioneers founded scores of breweries across the state. The pattern was similar in most cases: Early settlers had put up a few buildings and started working (or mining or fishing off the coast of) the land. Within months or at most a few years, an immigrant--in nearly every case one of the wave of Germans of that era--had set up a small brewery. It was the time before refrigeration, and the only way to get fresh beer was to brew it. Some of those breweries lasted just a few years, others until prohibition shut them down. But they all played some role in the founding of the state--in some cases, a large and important role.

I've got a wonderful book called Brewed in the Pacific Northwest by historians Gary and Gloria Meier. They sifted through town records across the region, unearthing fascinating stories of some of our pioneering brewers. Over the next few days or weeks, I'll celebrate our sesquicentennial by relaying some of these. So look for that.

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