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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oregon Brewing History

Stan posed a question in comments to my Schwag post that has sent me down a couple dead ends: "Do you know what styles were being produced in Oregon in 1890?" This turns out to be more difficult that it appears. It seems that history doesn't capture beer so much as breweries. This is a bit of a long shot, but does anyone have any idea how you'd go about finding this information? I'd be much obliged if someone had some resources.


  1. I read a book about a year ago called Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer-Making in Oregon and Washington, by Gary and Gloria Meier. It's a good read if you're a NW beer geek and history buff, and I believe it's available at Powell's and Amazon. It's also quite meticulous and a bit redundant. It can easily be summarized with a simple distilled fact: nearly all beers brewed in the Pac NW in the late 19th century up until prohibition were pale, Bavarian-style lagers not unlike those that revived after prohibition. Think: Rainier, Oly, HW. This follows from the amazingly consistent truism that virtually all late 19th century brewers in our region and beyond were German immigrants or first generation German-Americans. There were very few exceptions to this rule, but one that comes to mind was an Irish-American woman in Astoria who brewed ales. Another trend that emerges is that a lot of these small breweries perished in fires.

    Hope this is helpful.


  2. This may seem a little curious, but I ask a question in a comment, you make it a post and then I provide something of an answer in another comment.

    100 Years of Brewing, 1903, does provide some hints.

    It lists 3 breweries that opened between 1862 and 1875 and still in operation in 1903. They produced: lager, beer & porter, lager.

    It lists 9 between 1876 and 1902. They produced porter & lager, lager (previously steam), not noted, lager, lager, not noted, lager, not noted, beer & porter.

    As to the meaning of lager, I don't know. Remember that the first German brewers were brewing traditional German lagers (doh!). It was in the 1870s that a lighter Bohemian style became vogue. In this case brewed with 6-row malt and adjuncts.

    Now I have to go read Pacific Northwest etc., which has been languishing on a shelf.