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Good Beer Hunting

Mar 18, 2021

Beer history has blossomed in recent years, as a new generation of researchers and writers have uncovered fascinating stories from the murky early days of brewing. Some of those discoveries have taken us to exotic locales, while others have illuminated overlooked stories right in our own backyards. And beer history is not just a field for enthusiastic amateurs. Academics and other professionals have been been digging through the archives to tell hitherto unknown tales from the world of beer and brewing.

In this episode, I talk to Jennifer Jordan, professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the author of a recent piece on the historic hop industry in Wisconsin that ran in our “From Barons to Barrels” series. We discuss her research into hop farming in Wisconsin, as well as some the characters who helped create the industry, like Jesse Cottington, originally born in England, who went on to become the leading man of the profitable hop business in Wisconsin’s Sauk County in the 1860s. Professor Jordan’s research has also identified less prominent characters, like Ella Seymour, a young woman who recorded her observations about hop picking and other chores in a diary at the time.

If that sounds ephemeral, it is: by the 1880s, the once-massive Wisconsin hop trade disappeared completely. But as we discover in this episode, the evidence for it — in terms of archival evidence, the changed landscape, and even the plants themselves — still exist today… if you know where to look.