As the year turns to October, what else can we think of but Oktoberfest?! Special Collections holds a variety of materials for researching the history of beer, brewing, temperance, and other spirited delights!
San Diego is now renowned in the microbrewery world for its fantastic contributions from Alpine Brewery, Stone Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Company, Ballast Point, and other notable breweries. But according to materials in Special Collections, San Diego has always been a beer town! At the start of Prohibition in 1920, many Californians flocked to Tijuana and other towns in Mexico to quench their thirst. One of these Mexico-based breweries was Cervecera Azteca, a competitor of Cervecera Mexicali. In 1933, with the end of prohibition, Cervecera Azteca relocated to San Diego and renamed itself the Aztec Brewing Company (A.B.C.) and became one of the most popular beers in the West. The Balboa Brewing Company, likewise established itself locally in 1933. Although these breweries have since closed, their hoppy legacies live on in our San Diego Photograph Collection and the San Diego Vertical File. The SDSU campus has also had a history with beer. According to the October 27, 1970 issue of the Daily Aztec, the Associated Students issued a campus-wide referendum for the sale of beer on campus. Despite the vote, beer didn't appear on campus until September 5, 1978 because of opposition from the San Diego Evangelical Association and local store owners, and a prolonged struggle to gain an alcohol license with the city.
Besides materials on the history of beer in San Diego, Special Collections has numerous collections with content on the general history of distillation, fermentation, and appreciation of beer, wine, liquor, and spirits. Our earliest book on the subject is from 1508, and is entitled Liber de arte distulandi, or Book on the Art of Distillation. In it, the author describes various methods for and instruments used in distilling, and describes recipes and ingredients for making concoctions like “root water“ or “barley water“. We also have Hogarth’s famous set of engravings of Beer Street and Gin Lane, which are fantastic primary sources for studying the history of licensing and taxation in 18th century England. In Ale in Prose and Verse (1866), Barry Gary extolls the delicious properties of ale, and claims he wrote the work "under the inspiration (at respectable intervals) of the sparkling beverage [the book] celebrates." Our Adams Ephemera Collections provide an incredible wealth of research material, including trade cards, postcards, menus and recipe books that show the material and visual culture of temperance and spirited indulgence in the 19th and 20th centuries!