SFU Archives curates beer archives

The collection showcases the rich history of breweries in BC

This is a photo of part of the SFU beer archives collection. Various beer memorabilia and artifacts are shown.
PHOTO: Pranjali J Mann / The Peak

By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer

SFU Archives and Record Management is beginning a beer collection to trace the history of breweries in the province. The collections will include records of various local breweries and their documentation, breweriana, and advertising material.

The information and archives include over 160 years of brewing history in BC. As stated by What’s Brewing, SFU will be creating this collection alongside its existing rich collections of “women’s history, social activism, social justice, and politics.” SFU Archives is looking to acquire some “external materials and records from the public,” as well. 

To learn more about the collection, The Peak interviewed Melanie Hardbattle, SFU Archives’ acquisitions and outreach activist. Hardbattle noted community engagement for brewing history led her to this idea of creating a beer archive at SFU. 

Pointing to the shifts in brewing industry over the years, she said, “There’s been a lot of ebbs and flows over the years so we wanted to capture them. We noticed that nobody else, no other institutions, were acquiring material to document this, so we thought it was a good niche for us to get into.” Their collection comes from individual donors and organizations around BC.

The collection has been an ongoing effort which comes in time of the four decade anniversary of the first prominent brewery on mainland BC — Horseshoe Bay Brewing, which opened in 1982. 

As SFU News outlines, we are in the “golden age” of brewing in the province with many options for the consumers. In the 1900s, the brewing industry was monopolized in the hands of the “Big 3:” Molson, Labatt, and Carling-O’Keefe. In 1982, John Mitchell and Frank Appleton opened the microbrewery in Horseshoe Bay, which led to 220 breweries in BC. Microbreweries manufacture limited-production special beers. 

In reference to some beer labels from Whistler Brewery, Hardbattle mentioned, “Back in 1989, that’s one of the earliest craft breweries. It’s still going, but it’s changed ownership.” Hardbattle visited the brewery earlier this year. Appreciating its architecture in the manufacturing unit, she noted it was first equipped with German technology. SFU Archives managed to secure some initial hand-drawn marketing materials, logos, first opening invitations, and construction photos from Whistler Brewery.  

Hardbattle described packaging from “the first case of Granville Island Light that was produced. Everybody that was working on it, signed their names and dated it. So it’s a really cool piece of history.” 

Hardbattle collaborated with Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia (CAMRA) in Victoria. One of the central collections of CAMRA is Greg Evans, a BC beer historian. Some of Evans’ collections will now be available at SFU. Older central craft brewery collections from Michael James Jackson, Charles Finkel, Ed McNally, among others are also in the current archives. 

CAMRA was also home to related publications such as What’s Brewing, which are now part of SFU’s collection. What’s Brewing was one of the first newsletters for craft breweries, and served as a foundation for the SFU collection. There is also a simultaneous effort to digitize these records for research purposes. Currently, the SFU Archives team is working to make the collection available for student research projects and viewings.