Editor’s note: The OPB Video Series”overabundantexplores the stories behind Pacific Northwest foods. We are now applying the same guiding principles to a new platform: email. We tapped food writer Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based food historian and botanist, to highlight different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem each week. Read below to get a taste of Friday’s newsletter, where Arndt Anderson explores the history of hops and beer in the North West.

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Aw, nuts: Oregon hazelnuts drive prices down. It was a perfect storm of unfortunate events for Oregon hazelnut growers. This year’s harvest has been good to excellent, but Turkey (the world’s largest hazelnut producer) has had an incredible year for hazelnuts, flooding the global market with a 20% increase in supply and a drop in price. . But look on the bright side, filbert fans: shipping complications in China (a big consumer of Oregon hazelnuts) mean more of our local product stays put.

Backyard hens are looking pretty damn weird right now. If you leave your backyard hens on a natural laying cycle rather than keeping lights in their coop, you’ve probably noticed that they start to slow on eggs at this time of year when the hours of light slowly diminish towards winter. Some hens take the opportunity to drop their old feathers, or molt, as they can use that egg energy to grow fresh feathers instead. If you keep chickens, now is a good time to give them some extra protein, or if you’re a home brewer, you can give them your spent grains.

More seaweed farms could be on the horizon. Tom Banse reports that the Pacific Northwest could soon see a huge jump in the number of seaweed farms – double or even triple the current number if permits go smoothly. Like growing mussels and oysters, growing kelp can improve water quality. According a 2019 study published in PLOS ONEshellfish and seaweed aquaculture can deacidify seawater, increase habitat for aquatic organisms and ultimately benefit fish stocks.

You must love a harvest festival – a time to celebrate bounty and revel in (super)abundance. The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival took place a few weeks ago, and the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot is fast approaching. Residents of Mt. Angel may have packed its Oktoberfest outfit for the year, but here in the Pacific Northwest, the hop harvest has just begun. Today, Oregon and Washington produce more hops than anywhere else in the world. Heck, you probably have a neighbor who grows some, if they’re not in your own yard.

People picking hops in an image of unknown origins. Hops have been grown in the Willamette Valley for over a century.

Unknown / Volgagermansportland

Although we always tend to associate hops with the Germans, the history of growing and harvesting hops in the Willamette Valley is intertwined with the stories of multicultural laborers who helped grow and harvest the plants. Harvesting hops is treacherous work – the vines (known as hop vines) are covered in tiny thorns that look like velcro of razor wire – and it all has to be done at the same time as the hops ripen. , before the rains spoil the harvest. Prior to the mid-20th century, finding enough labor was always a challenge, and farmers typically turned to seasonal help to complete the task.

Lots of hands make light work, but machines make it even lighter

In September 1928, The Oregonian reported that the Willamette Valley had between 35,000 and 40,000 hop pickers in the fields. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and indigenous laborers worked alongside white pickers to rush the cones into split trucks, dry them before they were shipped around the world and eventually became beer.

In his excellent documentary Bitter Harvest, filmmaker Ivy Lin recounts the struggles Chinese hop workers faced while farming the Willamette Valley at the turn of the 20th century. Chinese hop pickers received only 80 cents for every dollar earned by white pickers, and due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Chinese farmers were not allowed to own property, relying instead on renting of land to grow hops. To learn more about how Chinese hop workers helped secure Oregon’s place as a beer Mecca, read Putsata Reang’s essay (which accompanies Lin’s film) in Oregon Humanities.

People working in a hop farm.

Braceros works in the hop fields of the Pacific Northwest, in an undated image from the Oregon State University archives.

Oregon State University Archives/OPB

During World War II, there was a shortage of agricultural labour, with men and women enlisting in the army or taking better paying jobs in factories. Then-President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which imprisoned more than 125,000 Japanese Americans, including the 4,000 sent from Oregon to Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. The Bracero program, a labor agreement between the United States and Mexico in 1942, brought in contract workers from Mexico to take up some of the slack. The program ended in 1964, but in the 1950s (a decade before the end of the Bracero program), hops were mainly harvested by machines.

Why do we grow so many hops here anyway?

Hops growing on a garage.

Side by side images of growing hops.

Heather Arndt Anderson/OPB

It bears repeating that Oregon’s geographic position at (roughly) the 45th parallel, our Mediterranean climate, abundant rainfall, and volcanic soils mean that we can grow many wonderful things to eat and drink. When it comes to beer specifically, we have water, wheat and hops to make it shine. In many ways, beer is a perfect symbol of all that our state has to offer.

In 1805, on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, their hunter John Collins brewed Oregon’s first beer when the camas patties they had purchased on the Columbia began to ferment. (The Corps reported that along with their breakfast of fish and dog meat, they enjoyed “an excellent beer…which was very good”.) Breweries had been a part of the fabric of Portland since its inception, and much of the city’s early wealth was based on liquor. Oregon is home to many of the nation’s oldest microbreweries (and our non-alcoholic craft beer and seltzer hop scene is currently thriving), but home brewing has a long history here, too. FH Steinbart in Portland is America’s oldest homebrewing supply store – they even had the audacity to open during Prohibition (in Oregon the dry laws went into effect in 1915), which fits nicely to our Wild West reputation.

Hops are perhaps best known as a beer bittering agent, but they are also a natural preservative, helping beer stay clear and not mushy. Although India pale ale (IPA) has been around since the 18th century, Northwest hop varieties like Cascade and Chinook have brought IPAs to their modern zenith. Today’s hop brothers sent beer on an ever-upward journey up the IBU mountain, much like how chileheads are always on the lookout for more Scovilles.

Recipe: Cheese-Beer Bread

Sliced ​​bread with butter on it.

Cheese and beer bread.

Heather Arndt Anderson/OPB

What better way to enjoy a crunchy beer than with a slice of warm, cheesy beer bread? You can use any beer you have for this recipe, but we like the flavor of a malty, malty Weissbier here, which balances well with strong cheese.


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • ½ cup grated or diced cheese (old cheddar works well here)


  1. Place a rack in the middle of your oven, preheat to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan. (You can add a strip of parchment in the center if gluing is a problem!)
  2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Pour in the beer and oil or melted butter and mix until combined, then stir in the cheese.
  3. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean), then run a knife along the edge of the bread to dislodge it. Carefully unmold onto a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before slicing.