Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Hop Trade & Football

As the country gears up for the all important Superbowl, the Oregon Department of Agriculture sent out a friendly reminder about the significance of hops to the Oregon economy. Starting with the bold clam that "Beer, often made with Oregon hops, [is] popular during Super Bowl," the release goes on to say:
The great flavor of beer can be traced back to agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. Washington and Oregon rank first and second respectively in U.S. production of hops- the key ingredient in beer- and are responsible for about 90 percent of the nation's hop production. Whether it is the big name brews consumed nationwide or the crafted beers brewed locally, party-goers can thank Northwest hop growers for making much of it possible.

"People don't realize that every time they pick up a can or bottle of beer, they may be consuming something from Oregon," says Laura Barton, an Oregon Department of Agriculture trade manager. "There is a good chance on Super Bowl Sunday, beer drinkers will be tasting a bit of Oregon."
Observing the size of the industry, the release says,
This past year, Oregon growers produced nearly 10 million pounds of hops at a value of nearly $38 million. Washington remains the clear national leader in hop production, accounting for about 63 million pounds in 2008.
The papers were full of hop harvest updates in the years around 1900 - yields & harvest data, prices, diseases & remedies. According to the Salem Online History
During the years when the breweries existed, the Willamette Valley was dotted with hop yards and dryers....
The increase in hop cultivation made for an influx of many migrant workers into the areas surrounding Salem. Nearby Independence even proclaimed itself the "Hop Center of the World" and held a festival and parade. In 1896 there were ten hop growers in Salem alone with many others up and down the Valley, and by 1902 the American Hop & Barley Company of London had an office in Salem. The buildings in the 100 and 200 blocks of Commercial Street housed many hop agencies, as did the Bush-Breyman Building and the Hirschberg Building at the Northeast corner of Commercial and State.

The Ladd and Bush Quarterly for July 1912 proclaimed "The best hop is grown in our river bottoms ... A choice Oregon hop is incomparable. It stands in a class of its own and always commands a premium in all the markets of the world". Although there were no breweries listed in the Salem City Directory during the years of prohibition, Salem still had 23 growers and dealers. The T. A. Livesley Company had extensive holdings in South Salem and, instead of selling locally they shipped to England, providing 1/30th of the international hop market.
Livesley is interesting because Salem is literally in his shadow: The tallest building in Salem is the Livesley building, and Livesley built Mahonia Hall, where the Governor lives today.

So when you crack open that cold, frosty brew on Superbowl Sunday, think about Salem, Oregon!

Hop Driers
Hop Pickers
Images courtesy Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Collections, Salem Public Library, Salem, Oregon.

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