Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Old "Hop Juice" Unearthed in 1909 on Minto Property

When we last saw John Minto, around 1895, he and Governor Lord were staggering home "pretty well lit," tailed by goody-two-shoes Oswald West.

About 15 years later, in the summer of 1909, after Minto had spent some time in Portland, workers excavating for his second home found evidence that a brewery had been there!



While workmen were clearing the ground on Mission street for the new home of Hon. John Minto, former postmaster of Portland, who, by the way, has come to Salem to live, and were te[a]ring down the old building that in bye gone days was used as a brewery, and in which the now celebrated Salem beer was first manufactured, an old bottle full of fine, good beer was unearthed. That they made good beer in those old days, not less than twenty years ago, was evidenced by the fact that this bottle was well preserved and had gained in quality since its manufacture. The bottle was unearthed by a pick-axe and was broken but the aroma that issued made the mouths of the men water like as they had never watered before. Lying in the cool bosom of the earth for so many years it bore evidence that hop juice was well made then.

Besides myriads of broken beer bottles, there seems to be millions of bricks and brick bats. That old house was first used as a brewery about forty years ago, and furnished the "joy juice" for the early fathers of old Salem. Inside the house there were several old U.S. Licenses for brewers of malt liquors. Many old timers will remember this historical building which now passes out of existence and lives only in the memory of man.

According to Ben Maxwell, writing in 1946, in 1866 Louis Westacott and a person named Miller
started a small brewery at the foot of Mission street, then a county road. Westacott died May 23, 1889....Westacott's brewery in 1870 represented an investment of $5000. Horse power was used to operate pumps, the malt mill, and other machinery. Wages for the year amounted to $700 and lager beer was produced to the value of $4500.

In this 1895 map, the house directly south of the brewery on Saginaw sits on what I believe was Minto's property (at least by 1909 it was), but the footprint is not that of his 1869 original home.

Today, the Meridian's parking lot sits on the site of the brewery. Around the corner, there are three standing houses associated with John Minto on the corner of Mission and Saginaw.

The addresses and building dates are somewhat confusing. 835/821 Saginaw in particular have not been used consistently, and a 1926 map suggests the second lot from the corner used both addresses at various times. Additionally, houses may have been moved. And more than one house may have been torn down on the site. It is not clear that the house built in 1909/10 is still standing: Two of the standing houses are associated with the 1920s, and the first with 1869.

In any event, in 1915 Minto died in a house at 821 Saginaw, which appears to be the one built in 1909/10, not the first one - and certainly not the ones from the 1920s!

As for the article's claim the Salem beer was first manufactured there, according to Maxwell in 1946, Samuel Adolph had been the first brewer in Salem, not Westacott, and started brewing in 1862 at Church and Trade. It may not be possible to settle the question definitively.

The idea of the old beer being sound is interesting. Jared has written about crazy hopping rates circa 1870, and the fact that after 20 or more years the beer was still aromatic (accounting for some newsy hyperbole, of course) suggests the beer here might also have been more highly hopped, malted, and alcoholic than the light industrial lagers against which craft brewers have defined themselves.

Update - here's an 1866 newspiece about Westacott's brewery.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Toast to Ben Maxwell

The obituary writers called him "the sage of Polk County" and "the bard of Eola Hills." Ben Maxwell died 42 years ago today. He was born on the 25th of February, 1898 and died on the 25th of December, 1967.

Maxwell was a raconteur and journalist. He loved stories. His articles and notes are the essential starting point for any research in Salem area history, though as a story-teller Maxwell's taste for flavor and color sometimes caused him to overseason the facts. He is unfailingly reliable for the big picture, but in the fine detail he cannot always be confirmed.

While this more than occasionally vexes Capital Taps, we also acknowledge our debt. And with our holiday tipple, we raise our glass. Prost!

Maxwell wrote for the Capitol Journal, the periodicals of the Marion County Historical Society, as well as for national magazines.

He was also a great collector of photos and clippings, and he donated over 5000 photos to the Salem Public Library. They constitute the Ben Maxwell Collection, images from which regular readers will often see here.

His obituary said:
Ben Maxwell - "the sage of Polk County"; "the bard of Eola Hills" - is gone. Living on, in the wake in life he created, is his memorial to the past he loved so well. Maxwell died of a liver ailment on Christmas in a Salem hospital, 68 years and 10 months from the day he was born into a pioneer family.

He was generally recognized as the Mid-Willamette Valley’s chief historian, particularly for Salem and Polk County. He said once, "The historical inclination grew on me like any other disease." Later, explaining why he continued his research and gathering of printed and photographic memories of history, Maxwell said: "It’s more comfortable to live in the past than in the present, because you can eliminate what you don’t like about the past. You have to live with what you have in the present."

Yet Maxwell lived in the present, too, and became well-known not only because he was a walking history book but for his colorful turn of speech. He described one politician as "nothing whittled down to a fine point." And he said of another that he "could hang a gate and daub mud on the inside of a chimney, but he never will write poetry."

Another of Oregon’s noted historians, state archivist David Duniway, called Maxwell "A great figure in the historical world. His work has been tremendous. He knew more of the history of Salem and Polk County than any other member of the community, and he expressed himself tersely and effectively in describing. it."
About his writing, Al Jones said
Ben's vocabulary added flavor to facts without loss of accuracy. He might refer to a certain politician as being “whittled down to a fine point” or to another early character as one who “could hang a gate or daub mud on the inside of a chimney, but could never write poetry." In describing early Salem hotels, he said: “In pioneer times, most so-called hotels were little more than flop-houses without facilities. The flea bag who scratched when he applied for a room was just as welcome as a dignified citizen who wore a plug hat and squirted tobacco juice through his whiskers."
The slight variations on the favorite phrases are amusing - and characteristic.

According to Jones, he also said:
I’ve always regarded Salem as a good place to be born, a nice place to die in, but a dull place to live.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beer Poetry: Sir Walter Scott on Christmas

The longest night of the year seems like a good time for more beer poetry. This comes from Sir Walter Scott. Before he was a novelist, he'd established himself as a poet. Marmion came out in 1808. Maybe you too read Ivanhoe long ago - but I knew nothing of his other novels or poetry.

I like the idea of a "mighty ale." To Jared's question, "Are we no longer looking for a gullet warming thick malty brew for those cold January evenings?" I think the answer is that winter indeed calls for the mightiest ale!

(Image: The mansions of England in the olden time by Joseph Nash.)


Heap on more wood!-the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall,
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall,
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone,
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly-loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair.’
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide:
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie:
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry maskers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Monmouth Moots Post-Prohibition Prosperity

Who says Prohibition's not relevant these days?!

In the Statesman recently was news that Monmouth citizens are petitioning voters to repeal the ban on hard alcohol.

This was surprising.

Monmouth is proud of its heritage as a dry town, of course. The city's walking tour says it right at the top! (Though perhaps that's more like making lemonade out of lemons...)

But I thought they were selling and serving alcohol now. Turns out it was just beer and wine. According to the article petitioners needed to get 676 valid signatures by December 15th to place on the ballot a proposal to broaden the list of currently permitted liquors. The earlier repeal effort was more narrow:
In 2002 petitioners spirited a drive to allow the sale of beer and wine. Proponents of the current drive cite economical factors favoring the sale of hard liquor and hard-liquor drinks as central to their objective.
Monmouth is a college town, after all.

In a tourism report released September 2009, the lack of restaurants was a barrier to visitors and tourism in Monmouth.
[S]urvey respondents expressed concerns that the current liquor laws might be restricting interest by restaurants.

The Monmouth City Code on alcohol is curious - maybe even draconian. Section 40 of the City Code contains the laws against selling liquor of more than 14% alcohol - so even many wines, strictly speaking, would not be legal. Hardly any American Zinfandel or California reds would qualify, and certainly no fortified dessert tipples. The consequences for violating the code? A $250 fine plus confiscation:
40.320 - Confiscation of Liquor. Whenever any officer shall arrest any person for violation of Sections 40.110 to 40.395, such officer shall take into his possession all intoxicating liquor or other property which the person arrested has in his possession, or on his premises, which apparently is being used or kept in violation of Sections 40.110 to 40.395. Upon the conviction of such person or forfeiture of bail by him should the court find the intoxicating liquor and other property has been used or kept in violation of Sections 40.110 to 40.395, the court shall enter an order forfeiting the liquor to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the other property to the city (Ord. 697, sec. 9).

This is clearly directed towards someone operating a speakeasy or otherwise dealing in liquor in quantity. But still!

So anyway, Prohibition's hardly just a relic from the last century! Raise your next glass to Monmouth or buy 'em a drink!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Anchor's Fabulously Fusty Label

One of the special delights of winter are the winter beers, especially the holiday ales.

And one of the greats is Anchor Christmas Ale. Anchor has been brewing it since 1975, each year with a different recipe and different label. At the site you can see a slide show on the label design and typography, links to all the labels - and even merchandising tips and aids! Fritz Maytag is amazing!

Here's a review of this year's recipe.

It's part of a Beer Advent Calendar, which is as nice a way as any to count down the days to Christmas! Jared's got notes on several other holiday beers in his review of the Holiday Ale Festival. There are also several other beer advent calendars around the intertubes.

Anchor is a special favorite because for a long time steam beer was a unique style. There are copycats now. But so much of Anchor is rooted (both sincerely and for marketing ends) in its pre-prohibition and indeed pre-1906 earthquake history. In its branding it deliberately cultivates more than a few fusty whiffs of the 19th century.

And this retro look works to evoke wintry mysteries, whether of Christmas or the Solstice or any of the other Holidays, better than something more modern.

Capital Taps is a sucker for it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

f/stop Fitzgerald: Certified Purveyor of an Honest Pint

Jared's mentioned f/stop Fitzgerald's a couple of times, but I haven't managed to get there yet.

Last week Beervana recognized the f/stop for its honest pints.

That's great news! Salem now has two Certified Purveyors!

Here's the f/stop facebook page, which contains some taplist info and discount secret passwords.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

W. T. Rigdon & the Ike Box - From Funeral Home to Foster Home

The Ike Box is an all-ages music club, coffeeshop, and refuge. It is, of course, also alcohol-free. Though it may not have a central place in Salem's temperance movement, it has a long association with temperance advocates, and its current mission perhaps better and more poetically fitted to the building than even many of its board members may know.

On the 16th, the Ike Box and Isaac's Room will celebrate its 5th birthday. But the building has a much older history.

It was built in the mid-1920s, right in the middle of Prohibition. This ad is from the 1930 Polk directory. The building first appeared in the 1926 directory, advertised as "The New Rigdon Mortuary."

W.T. Rigdon was an important figure in Salem history. He probably buried more Salemites than any other undertaker. He buried courtesan Pauline Phillips, early architect Wilbur Boothby, and publisher Asahel Bush. The Salem Pioneer Cemetery lists almost 2000 burials associated with him or his firm. Before operating a mortuary, having bought the undertaker's business in 1891, he had been a teacher and state Representative. (Image courtesy of the Oregon State Library.)

Rigdon was the epitome of the self-made man on the frontier. From the 1882 Pen Pictures of Representative Men of Oregon
HON. W. T. RIGDON [i]s one of the Representatives from Marion county on the floor of the House. He was born in Powesheik county, Iowa, in the year 1849. In the year 1850 his parents immigrated to Oregon and sought a "home in Marion county, where he has ever since resided. In 1852 the father of the family died, when young Taylor was but three years old.

Left without a father at that infantile age, his story is that of many another boy who, deprived of the blessing of a father's presence and the consequent advantages that accrue therefrom to boyhood, has had to battle with the world alone and single-handed, and to his honor be it said that by application to his book around the family fireplace and working during the day for the maintenance of his mother and a large family, he, by his own efforts, obtained a good education and grew up to a useful and respected manhood.

At the age of twenty-four he became a teacher in the Jefferson Institute, where he remained two years, and afterwards taught three years in the district schools. Mr. Rigdon was married to Miss Mattie J. Smith in the year 1878, and their union has been blessed with two little daughters.

Although this is the first time that Mr. Rigdon has been before the people as an officeholder, he has always taken a leading part in the politics of Jefferson, is an ardent advocate of the cause of temperance and an active member of the M. E. Church. He is a Republican, and has done good service in the present session, having taken a particular interest in the passage of temperance measures.

Clearly loving words, Rigdon donated to the Oregon Historical Society a copy of Noah Webster's second dictionary.

His daughter, Ethel, was also a teacher, and she died in an accident on November 27th, 1916. In grief, W. T. Rigdon turned to poetry. This creative transmutation engendered several books of poetry, most notably Truth in Pleasant Rhyme.

Isaac's Room is the result of a similar expression of creativity and tribute. Its founders, Mark and Tiffany Bulgin, write:
Isaac was our first son. Born in October 1998 with a heart problem, he only lived for two months before we lost him on December 29 of that year.

Isaac's Room is our effort to extend the family love and support that we would eagerly have given Isaac throughout his life to the young people in our community who have suffered from a shortage of it throughout theirs. Just as the room that Isaac was supposed to live in is physically empty and therefore available, the space we make in our lives for our own kids is now available through Isaac's Room.

The mission of Isaac's Room is explicitly religious:
Isaac’s Room is a faith-based organization whose mission comes from a biblical calling. Our effort springs from a collective devotion to the clearly articulated concerns of God: to father the fatherless, the pure religion of looking after orphans in distress and guarding against polluted thinking or habits, and the establishment of his kingdom of justice and mercy. Our strength is formed and our energy is sustained in personal discipleship to Jesus.
The rhetoric of "purity" and "pollution" traces out a direct line to 19th century temperance concerns.

More interesting from Capital Taps' perspective is the way the Ike Box fosters creativity and music-making. Though on the 16th Isacc's Room and the Ike Box will be holding a celebration for the 5th anniversary, another way to honor Ike might be to dance like crazy to "songs in the key of life." The next show is on the 12th, and Explode into Colors is playing along with Massive Moth and Wampire.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Celebrate the Constitution: Toast the 21st Amendment!

Beer lovers, it's your Patriotic Duty to celebrate the 76th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition! Saturday is Repeal Day, December 5th, the date in 1933 the states and nation formally ratified the 21st Amendment.

On the 6th, the Statesman reported
[Passage] found the federal government prepared to control the flow of liquor in wet states through a virtual dictatorship over the industry, and to protect the arid ones. Several of the 18 states where liquor could be sold immediately, however, were without regulations.

Repeal celebrations, however, found liquor supplies for immediate consumption restricted in some sections.

In a hurried effort to meet the demand and thereby thwart the bootlegger, the government today decided to allow large importations of American type bourbon and rye whiskies from Canada. It also planned to release for beverage purposes medicinal liquors held in bonded warehouses and customs houses.

Here in Oregon supply was definitely a problem, and the only reliable supply of booze seemed to be "medicinal" hootch.
The passing of prohibition found Oregon theoretically wide open but actually arid as far as legal liquor was concerned as before repeal of the eighteenth amendment.

The Oregon legislature, now meeting in special session, had not yet passed a measure to regulate liquor and only the restrictions imposed by municipalities were in force. The supply of legal liquor, however, was little if any larger than in pre-repeal days, being limited virtually throughout the state to "prescription liquor."

Most interesting was the problem of bootleggers, who had already built sophisticated warehousing, delivery, and accounting systems. The current three-tier system with the state controlling liquor and an inflexible system of producers, distributors, and retailers arose as the response to making bootleggers legit. The paper reported that
Speakeasies continued to do their average business in Portland, it was reported, as citizens wishing to buy anything more than 3.2 per-cent beer were unable to find any places of retail other than the drug stores where certain types of liquor, mostly whiskey, have been available since last August.

Oregon faces the problem of a well-organized group of bootleggers and racketeers and the only way to curb these individuals is to take the profit out of liquor, Senator Goss told members of the senate alcoholic traffic committee at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"When you take the bootlegger and racketeer out of the liquor business he will continue his criminal operations and eventually find himself in the penitentiary," Goss continued. "You cannot obtain adequate punishment for these men under any law which gives them an even break."

Over at the Weekly Brew, Jared's got a nice discussion of the three tier system. He's also got a nice post on the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland, which unquestionably has the most alluring beers for a toast. Closer to home, Beervana honored Venti's as a Certified Purveyor of an Honest Pint. Read more about it on the ventiblog.

So go toast the Constitution!