Digital Fermentation: The Portland Library's Craft Beer Archive

You don’t have to walk too far in Portland to find a great mug of craft beer.  With about 70 craft breweries in the city, Portland has more craft breweries than any other US city, and Portland has gained the reputation as the craft brewery capital of the nation.

Although the Multnomah County (Portland area) Library has yet to install fermentation tanks and a tap room in its branches, the library has worked closely with the craft brewing community in the area to create an unusual and fascinating digital archive of Portland breweries, Portland Brew Stories

Librarian Erica Findley had just arrived at MCL in 2014 when project development launched, and she took on the role of project manager. “I think it’s a unique opportunity as a library to get involved in something that is really special in our community, and we know it’s something people want to knowmore about,” Findley says.   “It’s a cultural heritage collection that showcases the passion for beer in our community.  A lot of the breweries we worked with had been open only since the 2010s, and when breweries close, what is left behind for us to remember them?  We are preserving our history of that moment in time. It’s the only digital collection we know of this kind.”

 Brew Stories, one of five digital archives on the MCL site, includes a mix of video, stills and text reflecting the history and identity of 14 Portland breweries.  The launch of Brew Stories in 2015 came with a number of community events.  Yes, of course, there was a full-house kickoff event with six breweries (and tastings of their product), a historical lecture and video screenings.   Other events have included classes on cooking with beer and a Valentine’s Day event adding chocolate to beer.  Erica, whose official title is cataloging and metadata librarian, anticipates continuing interest, and she plans to generate new momentum with social media discussion and with adding new breweries to the gallery.

Interestingly, the launch of the Portland Brew Stories was inspired and assisted by another Oregon library beer archive, the Oregon Hops and BrewingArchive at Oregon State University, curated by archivist Tiah Edmunson-Morton, and established in 2013.

Findley will be telling the story of Portland Brew Stories at NMM in a professional development session, Wed. Oct. 25 at noon.   At press time, no information regarding the craft beer menu for the presentation was available.

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