01 September 2009

A "History of Craft Brewing" Archive?

An interesting question arose during an e-mail discussion.

Does anyone know of any archive that is documenting the history of the craft beer industry, whether in the region or the nation?  I'm talking a central repository for the likes of the Barleycorn, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Ale Street News, Malt Advocate, Celebrator Brew News, guide books, and the like.

I can't be the only bloke reading this with a near-complete set of Barleycorn and MABN in boxes somewhere.  In my case, I finally consolidated several boxes into three long file drawers, and am picking through what few ASN's I lack.  Even as someone who makes some pocket change from writing about this stuff, the utility value per cubic inch tends to shrink as it grows.  (I have similar problems with a complete set of 69 years' worth of Trains Magazine, 35 years' worth of Railfan/Railfan & Railroad, 27 years' worth of Railpace, etc., but at least there's a reserve archive of those at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum I can access for research if mine were to disappear--and I help administrate that library as well.)

Be honest, folks--when was the last time any of you, aside from the free-lance or professional writers/editors, had to look up, for example, when Wild Goose was moved from Cambridge to Frederick?  Or when Valley Forge Brewing opened and closed?  Or what the original plans for the brewery were at the new Birchmere?  Or when Lancaster Malt Brewing closed and reopened, or how/why it changed hands, names, or whatever?  Or when a second Globe Brewing opened and closed in Baltimore?

Would it not be fitting for some brewpub, brewery, beer bar, or museum in this region to assume a care-taker role for a selected history like this and keep it publicly accessible, at least by appointment?  I suspect such an archive of publications would be too specialized or broad for an institution like the DC Historical Society or the Maryland Historical Society, or any of the university libraries.  But maybe, for example, the Baltimore Museum of Industry?  The "library" room of the Pratt Street Ale House?

A quick and cursory online search shows a National Brewery Museum in Wisconsin and a Brewery Museum Foundation in St. Louis.  Raise your hand if you've ever heard of either one.

Thoughts?  Does this archive already exist, and we need to know where to access it?  If a brewpub or the like were willing to establish such a craft-brew library archive, would any of you be willing to donate books, papers, coasters, ephemera, or the like to it?  Brewers/publicans: are you interested in allowing a disused office or spare corner of your plant be used for storing a file drawer and bookshelf for "the public" to use by appointment?

And no, I'm not trying to get rid of my own stash.  Yet.


Stan Hieronymus said...

We had to pitch rather complete runs of Barleycorn, YBN and others brewspapers when a flood (in New Mexico, yes) left them too water logged to read.

But to answer your question. The museum in Potosi is set up to include a library. Was not open when we were there nor do I think they have an archivist. A necessary first step. But the current issue of American Breweriana indicates they are constantly rotating exhibits. So it's not like they set up an musem and figured they are done. That's a positive.

I'd certainly find a place for your stash if you were talking about dumping it.

Lucybeercook said...

Yes, the museum in Potosi, WI is set up to acquire archives, but probably not in a position to pay - perhaps a tax credit? Worth the effort, I think

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Well, fine and dandy if you happen to live in or near Potosi, which is not quite the middle of nowhere between Madison and Des Moines (sorry, Dubuque)....... But what about us chumps on the Eastern Seaboard?