The role of beer books (The Session #115)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by Blog Birraire (Joan Birraire in Barcelona) and is on “the role of beer books.

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session. To participate in the current Session just write a comment down here with a link to the article on -or before- September 2nd, so that I can include it on my Round Up.”

05 September 2016: Update posted below

Being me and being about books this is long and perhaps even rambling. Sue me. I’m a reader, a librarian and a cataloger.

The short version: the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place.

First beer books

I doubt that it was my first “beer book,” as I had been collecting beer cans since the age of 12, but I received a copy of Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, 1st US ed. for Christmas 1978. As I was a 19-year-old US soldier stationed in then West Germany, this is the book that first opened my eyes more fully to the world of beer, as it did for many, many others.

Prior to that I was given a copy of Will Anderson’s, The Beer Book; an Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana, 1st US ed. by my parents for my 16th birthday (1975). Somewhere in and around here I also got copies of The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch: an Illustrated History (©1978 so one of my earliest “beer books”) and The Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (©1982), both new. Somewhere in there I also acquired a copy of The International Book of Beer Can Collecting (©1977).

Of course I read all of these books, some, in particular Jackson’s World Guide, several times.

More Recently

For a long time my interest in reading about beer waned as did my can collecting. I am simply ecstatic that I never got rid of any of my early beer books, unlike many other books over the years or like the vast majority of my can collection that was actively worked on for almost two decades. Too many moves. Too many dollars spent on storage. Most of the cans had gone long before we moved to Oregon, although most were shed over a ~20 year period.

Books Owned

More recently since moving to Bend, Oregon my interest in all aspects of beer has been rekindled. According to LibraryThing—which until now has served as my personal catalog—I own 87 books having something to do with beer or brewing, plus there are a couple that aren’t in as they need manual cataloging and I haven’t yet.

Books Read

My Goodreads account has 118 books on my beer shelf. Bouncing that off of the read shelf I show 74 as read, 1 skimmed, 1 gave up on (had a better version), 1 on pause, and 3 currently being read. Many of those would have come from assorted libraries, both public and academic.

My beer blog

My blog is named “By the barrel; or, the Bend Beer Librarian.” Sadly, I have done a poor job at reviewing all of these books. There are many reasons for that, only a few of which are actually good/legit ones. I always strive to do better although I see seven beer books waiting for reviews on my review-these-damned-books-already (physical) shelf next to my desk. There are of course many more that aren’t sitting here needing reviews. Some of those currently waiting are:

  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 4th ed.
  • Amato – Beerology
  • Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide
  • Herz and Conley – Beer Pairing

Others waiting to be reviewed, not directly related to beer but of immense overlap and interest possibly, include:

  • Halloran – The New Bread Basket
  • McQuaid – Tasty

Of course, these are just those books still to hand. ::sigh::

The Role of Beer Books

So what do I consider the “role of beer books”? I may not be much of a reference librarian—my specialty is elsewhere—but as a reader (and a cataloger) that “role” is completely dependent upon the context(s) brought to bear by the reader and cannot really be given much in the way of an answer unless that context is included.


Education is the simple and most relevant generic (and specific) answer. As you can see from just the above list, my personal beer book-enabled education covers a lot of ground from brewing to the history of craft beer to style knowledge to beer and food pairing to almost encyclopedic works and on from there to the revival of craft grain/malt production to the science of taste.

Early spring this year I went on a book buying binge to ensure I had most of the books in the BJCP Judge Certification Program “BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide” [see pg. 3-4] as I was involved in a 12-week tasting exam prep class and hoping to take the tasting exam [I did manage to take it on 23 July and now get to spend a few agonizing months waiting on my score]. I already had quite a few of the books listed but I got almost all of the others, except for the individual style books in the Classic Beer Styles Series from Brewers Publications I didn’t already own.

To backup, my very first beer books were books about beer can collecting and were for both education (history, production) and to see far more of the variety of what was out there (can porn) than I could encounter in my Midwest home town and surrounding environs. Will Anderson’s book is more generally about breweriana and so helped broaden my education beyond cans.

Michael Jackson’s book was given to me just a few months after I had arrived in Europe for my first tour of duty. I knew styles existed, of course, but this book was a real eye opener.

Nowadays my interests are far broader and I have a massive amount to learn! I want to be a competent and confident beer judge. I want to brew beers well that Sara and I like, along with understanding their historical and current cultural contexts. I want to be solid at beer and food pairing. I want to understand how we got to where we are culturally via archaeology, anthropology, ethnology and so on (across cultures). I want to understand as much of the science of brewing as I can. I want to enjoy what I read, at least some of the time. I could probably elucidate many other reasons for a desire to learn about beer and to be entertained by beer writers.

On Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon beer

If you are interested in the beer, breweries, and history of Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon then I highly recommend the following:

  • Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
  • Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Logan Thompson – Beer Lover’s Oregon: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars

For the larger region but covering Oregon also are:

  • Lisa M. Morrison – Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
  • Gary and Gloria Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer Making in Oregon and Washington

All of these books are a bit dated; some more than others. They are either primarily history (Abernathy & the Meiers) or Regional guidebooks (the rest; and the most dated).

“Beer books” is a non-category

I think beer books is too broad a “category” to consider as a whole; as in it isn’t really a category, far too amorphous. In 2013, I gave a talk on beer books during Central Oregon Beer Week and this is how I broke down what I talked about:

Those I addressed:

  • General
  • Beer porn
  • Reference
  • Beer business
  • Historical
  • Breweriana
  • Trivia
  • Regional Guidebooks

Those I did not:

  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing science

No doubt other categories could be named as no doubt some of these could be split further.

The role of a regional guidebook is generally going to be much different than a book of beer porn or one on the business of beer or one on brewing science and so forth. A book of beer can porn serves one role to a collector and another to a student of mid- to late-20th century commercial art.

Conclusion; or, a return

Thus, I am going to say that the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place (context).


I have received a few comments regarding the Brewers Publications Classic Styles series. I believe that I could have been a bit clearer in places in my post but let me offer some comments to take or leave as you please.

I believe that the only books I explicitly recommended were under the heading ON BEND, CENTRAL OREGON AND OREGON BEER. All of those are technically historical documents at this point; one always was and a second mostly was. But the first four are still close enough to the present to be useful even if lots of newer breweries are left out. Any other book(s) mentioned I meant to neither recommend nor not; many I would but that was not my point. I was attempting to discuss the role of books from my perspective and not which were good or bad. Perhaps I should have had a small section on the use/role of books that have bad or contested information. That would include pretty much every beer-related book ever written to some extent. The reason I mentioned the Classic Styles series was in the context of acquiring the recommended books to study for the BJCP exams. Clearly I did not believe that those style guides were necessary for my studying.

I am aware that there are some definite issues with the Classic Styles series books. I do not have enough brewing chops to provide much useful critique though, except in the rarest of circumstances and that would still be based on book learning. I do know that some of the “history” is definite bunk. I also realize that they still sell. I have even picked up a couple—all used—as primarily archival documents, if you will. Not necessarily to learn how brew the styles, nor to believe everything written in them—I do that with no book; do you?—but to take them as an artifact of a time and a place.

I do my best not to slog products here—especially those creative endeavors of one or two authors—but rather avoid them or discuss them in a context that hopefully doesn’t entail recommending them. Others far better qualified have addressed the deficiencies on the individual Classic Styles titles and I leave it to them.

I have read several books—some of them fairly new—by big names in the beer world and I thought them either not at all worth the paper they were printed on; there are more older books that fit in that category, thankfully. I gave them a low rating in Goodreads and moved on without writing a review. I do not believe in the “If you don’t have something nice to say …” school of thought but I also see little reason to be an ass for the fun of it. I get excitable enough, which turns me into something of an ass on occasion, that I do not need to pursue it as hobby.

Besides, I have too many outstanding reviews still to be written for books that I do want to recommend to bother writing reviews for ones I find lacking.

I apologize if I failed to pull apart some of these issues but they did not seem particularly pertinent to me in my thinking on the role of beer books at the time I was writing my post. That does not mean they couldn’t have, and maybe should have been, included; or, I could have been clearer about what I was recommending and what I was not. But that was also not my point.

My point is that use of any particular book is up to the individual reader. And while we may or may not be privy to the specific failings of any given book, that too is a part of the context that we need to attempt to bring to it, even before reading sometimes. That is often difficult after reading it. Makes life a little less uncertain to say the least but you should regard pretty much all of your knowledge as potentially fallible and kept open to actual experience anyway.

To decide if a given book is relevant to your own purpose(s) is a critical, complex, and, yes, often fraught undertaking.

That was an awful lot of words to say that “mentions do not imply endorsement.”

Meier and Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest

Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: a history of beer-making in Oregon and WashingtonGary Meier; Fjord Press 1991 (Western Writers Series No. 3)WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

Read 21 July – 8 August 2013 


This book, published in 1991, purports to list all of the licensed breweries in Oregon and Washington from the 1st in 1852 (Portland) to “the present” of 1991. They list 126 breweries in Oregon and 138 in Washington. But I do not know if those numbers take into account the microbreweries of the recent present which are listed in ch. 6, which includes 20 for Oregon and 15 for Washington. There they are all listed alphabetically by name and separated by Oregon and then Washington, unlike the ones in ch. 3 and 4 where the cities are listed alphabetically within their respective states.

The book is more than a simple listing of breweries, though. There are two introductory chapters on the history of beer and on the brewing process and requirements. There is an “interlude” chapter on Prohibition and another on saloons. There is a chapter which focuses solely on “The Big Three”: “Henry Weinhard of Blitz-Weinhard; Andrew Hemrich of Rainier; and Leopold Schmidt of Olympia” (129). The final chapter focuses on the rise of the microbreweries, although it is primarily a listing.

The listings are not simply a name within a city but contain a smattering of data on each brewery, if any was found. They range from the short, through the medium, to the more complete:

Coaledo: “This short-lived coal mining community in the Coos Bay area had a brewery from 1874 to 1875 that was run by Henry Tolle” (40).

Brownsville: “Mr. B. Clomer held a brewery license in this Linn County town in 1878 and 1879, but there is no record that a brewery was built or that any beer was actually made. Perhaps he couldn’t brew up enough support or financing to get going” (36).

Coos Bay (Marshfield, at the time): includes a lengthy listing, compared to the above two, listing several changes of hands of a brewery that existed from 1868 to 1912, along with a very short note about two other breweries (41).

The book includes lots of black & white photos depicting breweries, bottles, advertisements of assorted kinds, and other breweriana.

If you are interested in a bit of history on beer making in Oregon and Washington, with what purports to be a complete listing of licensed breweries up until 1991, then this book is for you.


  • Foreword     vii
  • 1 The Universal Beverage     11
  • 2 Copper Kettles and Wooden Barrels      16
  • 3 Brewed in Oregon         30
  • Interlude One: The Infamous 18th Amendment     76
  • 4 Brewed in Washington     82
  • 5 Henry, Andrew, and Leopold: The Big Three     129
  • Interlude Two: “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”: The Saloons     164
  • 6 In the Old Stye: The Microbreweries     170
  • Glossary     191
  • Source Notes     195
  • Bibliography      197
  • Index     203

My notes:


First brewery established in Portland in 1852 (vii).

1: The Universal Beverage

Clearly pop history as no citations for things like: “… and an Assyrian clay tablet relates that beer was taken aboard Noah’s Ark” (11). While I call this “pop history” it is not meant as a denigration. It only means that the book was intended to be sold to people who would be put off by the apparatus of scholarly works. This seems to be a very well researched work that the authors claim took three years to research, and they comment on the sources used in both the foreword and in the source notes [see below]. There is also a bibliography that includes a list of books, newspapers and periodicals.

§ Beer in North America

1st recorded commercial brewery – “established in 1612 by a Dutchman and a Dane, Block and Christiansen, in New Amsterdam (New York).” (13)

§ The Advent of Lager Beer

“Lager beer revolutionized the American brewing industry by offering a lively foaming beer that was more palatable to most people than were the old-style beers.” (15)

2: Copper Kettles and Wooden Barrels

“Commercial brewing in the Pacific Northwest began in 1852, when a German immigrant named Henry Saxer established his Liberty Brewery at the new village called Portland in the Oregon Territory. He missed being the first brewer on the Pacific Coast by three years; that honor went to San Francisco brewer Adam Schuppert in 1849.” (16)

  • #2 1854 – Nicholas Delin in Steilacoom
  • #3 1855 – Emil Meyer in Walla Walla
  • #4 1856 – John Muench in Fort Vancouver
  • #5 1856 – J. J. Holman in Jacksonville
  • #6 1858 – Martin Schmeig in Steilacoom
  • #7 1859 – “Henry Weinhard bought the Muench brewery across the Columbia River from the city that would bring him fame.” (16)

Local hops and barley cultivation from around 1865. Shipped from San Francisco previously (16-17).

Book covers 138 breweries in Washington and 126 in Oregon (19 and earlier). [But see above count as I don’t know if this number reflects the microbreweries in ch. 6.]

§ How the Brewer Made His Beer

§ Pails, Kegs, and Bottles

Picture on p. 23 of a few of the 333 types of beer bottle stoppers patented in the US between 1880 and 1890. [333 in a decade!]

§ The Never-Ending Need for Ice, Ice, Ice!

§ Tall Windows and Stately Walls: Brewery Architecture

3: Brewed in Oregon

“Oregon has had 126 licensed breweries from 1852 to the present [1991].” (30)

This was across 53 cities, if not including the microbreweries from ch. 6.

Interlude One: The Infamous 18th Amendment

“By the time the 18th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, effective January 16, 1920, Oregon and Washington had already been “dry” for four years by popular vote.” (76)

“Local option law” put in effect in Oregon in 1904 and in Washington in 1909, and some counties went dry (77).

“Home rule” laws made even more confusing – cities could make their own decision and be opposite of their county (77).

Nov 3, 1914 the “drys” won in both OR and WA “one chief factor in that surprising outcome was the vote of women, who had gained the voting rights two years before. It is estimated that three out of four of every women who voted chose prohibition” (78).

“Appropriate amendments were drafted into the states’ constitutions, and prohibition arrived in Oregon and Washington on January 1, 1916” (78).

I find that many people in the Pacific Northwest seem to be either unaware of this or perhaps they simply ignore it. But I fail to see how one can discuss Prohibition in the PNW and ignore this. Oregon and Washington were fully dry four years before national Prohibition and parts of each were dry for sixteen and eleven years, respectively. I had known about the start of Prohibition in 1916 for Oregon but I did not know about Washington or the earlier period of ridiculous complexity surrounding alcohol in Oregon and Washington until reading this book.

§ National Prohibition

4 Brewed in Washington

138 breweries, “since 1854, when Nicholas Delin first started making beer in Steilacoom. Two of the original breweries are still in operation, and a number of new smaller ones are producing beer for a loyal following” (82).

  • Spokane  – “… many breweries over the years, all of them now gone, except for two recent microbreweries that carry on the tradition” (104).
  • Vancouver – 1935, five men formed Great Western Malting Co.; three well-known brewers – Arnold Blitz of Blitz-Weinhard, Peter Schmidt of Olympia Brewing, Emil Sicks of Sicks’ Rainier Brewing Co., and Bill Einzig, manager; Morgan Kellett, operator. (123)

This was also across 53 cities, if not including the microbreweries from ch. 6.

5 Henry, Andrew, and Leopold: The Big Three

“Three of these historic beer plants, established long ago by their pioneer founders, are with us still, and they have grown to become the largest brewing operations in the Pacific Northwest, and among the largest in the country. We see their names daily as familiar memorials to the three old-time German brewers who created them: Henry Weinhard of Blitz-Weinhard; Andrew Hemrich of Rainier; and Leopold Schmidt of Olympia” (129).

§ Henry Weinhard and the Blitz-Weinhard Story

“In 1863 Henry Weinhard bought property away from the center of town, with only a single road into the place, and here he built his new brewery. It was on the same site where Blitz-Weinhard stands today. He called his new enterprise the City Brewery, …” (133).

In 1882 he replaced the wooden buildings with “what Oregon historian H. K. Hines called ‘an immense pile of brick, which covers the entire block,’ at what is now 12th and West Burnside.” It went from 11th to 13th St; the bottling plant was across the street on Couch St; stables for beer-wagon horses on 13th; large warehouse at steamboat docks (134).

Great philanthropist (134-6).

1890 – Output of 40k barrels/yr. Pacific Coast, Western states and territories, Portland (of course) and China, Japan, the Philippines, and Siberia (136).

Good employer (136-7).

Survived Prohibition by making soft drinks, fruit drinks, syrups, flavorings, toppings, and a malt extract for cooking (138).

Merged with the Portland Brewing Company of Arnold Blitz in late 1927 to become Blitz-Weinhard (138-9).

“After 1953, when Sicks’ Brewing Co. closed its Salem plant, Blitz-Weinhard was the only brewery in Oregon” (140).

“In 1977 Blitz-Weinhard was America’s fifteenth-oldest brewery. But the year 1979 marked the end to one of the last independent breweries. On January 31 of that year the Oregonian announced the sale of Blitz-Weinhard to Milwaukee’s oldest brewery, the Pabst Brewing Company, founded in 1844. …” (141).

Bought by G. Heileman Brewing of La Crosse, WI in 1983, which was bought by an Australian company, Bond Corp. Holdings, Ltd. in 1988 (141).

“Now” employs 350 people and brews 1.2M barrels/year (141).

§ Andrew Hemrich and His “Rainier Beer”

“The site at 3100 Airport Way South [was Ninth Ave. S.] is now the home of the modern Rainier Brewing Company” (photo caption, 144).

Sold the Rainier label to a San Francisco brewery when state Prohibition came in 1916 (146/147).

Sicks’ Seattle Brewing & Malting Co had bought back the Rainier label in 1938 (149).

Since the mid-50s the majority stockholder was Molson Breweries, Ltd. Sold by Molson to G. Heileman in 1977. Heileman bought by Australian company [see B-W above] in 1987 (150).

“Rainier Brewing Co. employs about 550 people, …” (150).

“The former pre-Prohibition Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. buildings in Georgetown at 6004 Airport Way South are worth a look too. (151). [Although I seriously doubt they still stand empty today.]

§ Leopold Schmidt of Olympia—”It’s the Water”

Interlude Two: “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”: The Saloons

“Hollywood Westerns notwithstanding, much more beer than whiskey was downed in saloons. Except for certain arid regions of the Southwest, where it was impractical to import beer from distant breweries, kegs and bottles of ice-cooled beer were an integral part of the barroom inventory” (164).

“Before Prohibition, the saloon was strictly a male stronghold” (165).

§ The Tradition of the “Free Lunch”

Had to buy a beer first; foods were usually spicy and salty to bring on thirst (168).

6 In the Old Style: The Microbreweries

“These are the present Pacific Northwest microbreweries. Any or all are worth a visit.” (171).

Keep in mind that these are supposedly current up until some point in 1991. I would be interested if anyone knew of any missing breweries. Also, there is more information on each of these in the book.

Oregon Microbreweries

  • Bay Front Brewery & Public House – Newport; Opened July 1989 – companion to Rogue Brewery in Ashland
  • Bridgeport Brewing Company – Portland; 1984, Oregon’s oldest operating micro (171)
  • Cornelius Pass Roadhouse – Hillsboro; 1986, a McMenamin brewery (172)
  • Deschutes Brewery & Public House – Bend; 1988
  • Fulton Pub & Brewery – Portland; May 1988, a McMenamin brewery (173)
  • Highland Pub & Brewery – Gresham; June 1988, a McMenamin brewery
  • High Street Brewery & Cafe – Eugene; Nov 1988, a McMenamin brewery (174)
  • Hillsdale Brewery & Public House – Portland; First in the McMenamin chain; “As of April 1990, the McMenamins have opened seven other brewpubs in Oregon” (174).
  • Hood River Brewing Company – Hood River; fall 1988 (174-5)
  • Lighthouse BrewPub – Lincoln City; July 1986, a McMenamin brewery (175)
  • McMenamins – Beaverton; April 1990, a McMenamin brewery (176)
  • Oregon Trail Brewery – Corvallis; July 1987; Willamette Valley’s oldest brewery (176)
  • The Pizza Deli & Brewery – Cave Junction; July 1990
  • Portland Brewing Company – Portland; Jan 1986 (177)
  • Roger’s Zoo – North Bend; Jan 1987 (178)
  • Rogue Brewery & Public House – Ashland; 1988
  • Steelhead Brewery – Eugene; Jan 1991 (179)
  • Thompson’s Brewery & Public House – Salem; Jan 1990, a McMenamin brewery (180)
  • Widmer Brewing Company – Portland; 1985
  • Widmer Brewing Company – Portland; ” expanded in August 1990 to the second location” (180)

Washington Microbreweries

  • Big Time Brewing Company – Seattle; 1 Dec 1988 (181)
  • Duwamps Cafe & Seattle Brewing Company – Seattle; Nov 1990
  • Fort Spokane Brewery – Spokane; July 1989 (182)
  • Hale’s Ales – Spokane; “First established in Colville in the winter of 1983 …. The brewery was moved to Spokane in September 1991” (182).
  • Hale’s Ales – Kirkland; 2nd brewery, early 1987 (182-3)
  • Hart Brewing – Kalama; 1984 (Pyramid( (183)
  • Maritime Pacific Brewing Company – Seattle; Sep 1990 (184)
  • Noggins Brewery and Restaurant – Seattle; 20 Oct 1988
  • The Pacific Northwest Brewing Company – Seattle; May 1989 (184-5)
  • Pike Place Brewery – Seattle; Oct 1989 (185)
  • Redhook Ale Brewery – Seattle; 1982 (185-6)
  • Roslyn Brewing Company – Roslyn; May 1990 (186)
  • Thomas Kemper Brewery – Poulsbo; Jan 1985 (187)
  • Yakima Brewing & Malting Company – Yakima; July 1982 (188)


Source Notes

Some general books on beer were helpful (195).

“The information on specific breweries came chiefly from primary sources, such as: historical records of the United States Brewers’ Association; contemporary newspaper accounts; business directories; county and state records; and the myriad of letters, documents, reminiscences, and advertisements concerning old-time local breweries in the archives of the 54 county and regional historical societies” (195).

State and local histories and profiles of noteworthy residents (195).


This book is definitely worth a look. After reading a hardback copy that I got from OSU Valley Library (TP 573 .U5 M45 1991) I purchased a used paperback copy (ISBN: 0940242532).