Skip to main content

Beer Research Guide: Library Research


Primary sources are materials in a variety of formats that serve as original evidence documenting a time period, event, work, people, or idea. Examples include: letters and correspondence, photographs, organizational records, newspapers and periodicals, diaries and journals, pamphlets and ephemera, books, maps, and artifacts. 

Primary or secondary? It depends. 

Primary sources are often described as "first hand accounts" or observations, written by someone close to the event. However, it is hard to consider an artifact or a map a primary source in this definition. The definition can be broadened to include any materials produced at the time under study. If you are researching an event, first-hand accounts from people who witnessed the event are important, so are print materials surrounding the event, photographs of the event, and ephemera produced for the event. If your research is more centered on an era, rather than an event, the field of potentially relevant primary sources broadens!

Secondary sources are materials that relate, discuss, or interpret information presented elsewhere, including in primary sources. Secondary sources can be scholarly books and articles, but can also be any material that interprets or presents arguments about other sources. 

Sometimes deciding whether a source is primary or secondary can be tricky. The same source may be primary in one research project and secondary in another. It depends on the question you are asking of the source.


Using a library to do research can be intimidating! There are many ways to find physical and online items to use in your work and many library research guides to assist in your research. 

There are specific OSU Library guides for different subjects. They include discipline specific databases and search tips. 

Governments save and track a lot of information, much of which would be useful in researching the brewing industry. Local, state, federal, and international research varies, and the library has guides for researching the different levels. 

Theses and dissertations contain in-depth original research and data, analysis, and robust lists of sources. The library has a guide for how to locate and obtain these works. 


There are OSU Library guides that are topical for beer research. 

There are other university library research guides that will help in your research. *Note that you'll need to consult the OSU Libraries databases page to see if we have access to databases listed on other libraries' guides. 


ProQuest Congressional is a comprehensive online collection of primary source congressional publications and legislative research materials covering all topics, including government, current events, politics, economics, business, science and technology, international relations, social issues, finance, insurance, and medicine. Congressional hearings (published and unpublished), committee prints, committee reports and documents are available from 1824-present, the daily Congressional Record from 1985-present, and compiled legislative histories from 1969-present. There is full text access to the U.S. Statutes at Large, which is the official compilation of all public and private laws and resolutions passed by Congress, and they are listed in order by date of enactment from 1789-present.

  • Nexis Uni (Alternative Name(s) & Keywords: Lexis Nexis Academic)

Nexis Uni features more than 15,000 news, business and legal sources from LexisNexis (including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1790).

The Global Company and Industry Intelligence database offers detailed company and industry profiles, including SWOT reports, market share reports, and financial reports. Also included are thousands of company histories and industry essays from Gale's core business collection, case studies, scholarly journals, and business news for deep research coverage of global economies. Also includes Thomson Reuters company financial reports providing interactive balance sheets and cash flow statements, as well as market conditions for publicly traded U.S. companies. Note: there is more information for United States businesses than for other countries. 

This database provides coverage of all business disciplines, including accounting, economics, finance, marketing, management and strategy, as well as business theory and practice. Users will understand the activities of companies and industries worldwide through business and trade publications, complemented by a selection of international, U.S., and regional news publications.

Business Source Premier provides full text for nearly 3,300 scholarly business journals, including full text for more than 1000 peer-reviewed business publications. Coverage includes virtually all subject areas related to business and this database provides full text (PDF) for more than 300 of the top scholarly journals dating as far back as 1886. It is updated on a daily basis via EBSCOhost.

Mergent Online is a subscription-based service offering information on approximately 15,000 NYSE, AMEX, and NASDAQ companies; also included are data on 20,000 non-U.S. based corporations. This includes: company history, business, property, subsidiaries, officers, directors, long-term debt, bond ratings, capital stock, income statement, balance sheet, statements of cash flow, exchange and ticker symbol, address, telephone number, annual stock price ranges, trustees, registrar, transfer agent, stock splits, dividend payment history and more. Annual and quarterly financials date back 15 years, annual reports date back to 1996 or 1997, and SEC filings date back to 1993. There is company information from all of the Mergent/Moody's Manuals except for the Municipal & Government Manual. 

Published annually by the Federal Government since 1878, the Statistical Abstract of the United States is the best-known statistical reference publication in the world. When the Census Bureau announced in 2011 that due to budget constraints they would cease to produce this resource, ProQuest took on responsibility for updating and releasing it. Both an answer book and a guide to statistical sources, the Statistical Abstract is a comprehensive collection of statistics on the social, political, and economic conditions of the United States. ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States 2013 online edition has some significant enhancements over the Census Bureau’s online version, including line-item access to tables, monthly updates instead of annual, and table-specific capabilities for narrowing results by source, data date, subject, and type of data breakdown. Links to a Help page and a quick start Guide are located at the top of the page.

Oregon State University Library patrons have access to the Academic Video Online (AVON) collection from Alexander Street Press. AVON provides access to over 63,000 streaming videos on a wide array of subjects ranging from arts, education, "how-to," travel, and STEM topics. Users can also find and view documentaries, news programs, short clips, and feature films from popular producers such as BBC, A&E, PBS, American Academy of Pediatrics, 60 Minutes, and much more. All AVON videos are closed captioned and many have transcripts that come in multiple languages. 

Provides unlimited access to an online library of profiles on over 900 industry segments. This research tool features in-depth, up-to-date information. Profiles are comprehensive and include:

  • Condensed industry profile overview in addition to the traditional full profile overview
  • The competitive landscape
  • Products, operations and technology
  • Finance and regulation
  • Regional and international issues
  • Human resources
  • Labor statistics


There are many books in the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives collections! Information about publications is available on the OHBA Guide at

Here are some bibliographies for finding sources:


There are many terrific sources for learning about beer history. Most of the books on this list have a western focus, so please send me a message if you find books from other parts of the world. 

Here are some books at the OSU Library:

  • Arnold, John P. Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology; a Critical Essay. Cleveland, Ohio: Reprint Edition by BeerBooks. (2005, 1911 original)
  • Arnold, John P., and Frank Penman. History of the brewing industry and brewing science in America: prepared as part of a memorial to the pioneers of American brewing science, Dr. John E. Siebel and Anton Schwarz. Cleveland, Ohio: (2006, 1933 original)
  • Baron, Stanley, and Young, James Harvey. Brewed in America: A History of Beer and Ale in the United States. 1st ed. Boston: Little, Brown and, 1962.
  • Bickerdyke, John. The curiosities of ale and beer. An entertaining history. New York: Blom. (1977, 1866 original)
  • Cornell, Martyn. Beer: The Story of the Pint. London: Headline, 2004.
  • Downard, William L. Dictionary of the history of the American brewing and distilling industries. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980.
  • Hornsey, Ian S. A history of beer and brewing. Cambridge: Royal Soc. of Chemistry, 2003.
  • King, Frank Alfred. Beer has a history. London: Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications, 1947.
  • Mittelman, Amy. Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer. New York: Algora Pub., 2008.
  • Ogle, Maureen. Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. Orlando: Harcourt, 2006.
  • Oliver, Garrett. The Oxford Companion to Beer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Patterson, Mark, and Hoalst-Pullen, Nancy. The Geography of Beer : Regions, Environment, and Societies. Dordrecht ; New York: Springer, 2014.
  • Rorabaugh, W.J. The Alcohol Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
  • Schiefenhövel, Wulf, and Macbeth, Helen M. Liquid Bread: Beer and Brewing in Cross-cultural Perspective. Anthropology of Food and Nutrition ; v. 7. New York: Berghahn Books, 2011.
  • Smith, Gregg. Beer: A History of Suds and Civilization from Mesopotamia to Microbreweries. New York: Avon, 1995.


HathiTrust Digital Library houses millions of digitized books and other items from a coalition of academic and research libraries throughout the world. You can narrow your searches by date, region, and language. A search for terms like "brewing," "brewery," or "beer" will return results containing books and journals from the mid-nineteenth century into the late twentieth, most of which are full-text searchable. Critically, researchers are able to apply filters to the search results by date, language, place of publication, and more. 

Google Books is a service from Google that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR), and stored in its digital database. Books are provided by publishers and authors through the Google Books Partner Program, or by Google's library partners through the Library Project. Google has partnered with a number of magazine publishers to digitize their archives.

The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies, and music, as well as 286 billion archived web pages. The Internet Archive also has a book collection, some that can be freely read and downloaded, and others can be borrowed and read in their online book reader.​

Early English Books Online (1475-1700) has a wide date and topic span, from the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, it contains over 96,000 titles.


The Valley Library and Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives have a robust collection of periodicals for topic research 

A terrific online resource is the Brewery History journal published by The Brewery History Society

  • "Brewery History was first published in 1973 and appears four times a year. Its prime aim is to promote historical research into all aspects of brewing and related industries, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The journal comprises original articles, photographic essays, reprints of academic theses and difficult to obtain pieces, and book reviews. The scope of Brewery History includes, but is not limited to, histories of existing and closed breweries, research on associated industries (e.g. malting, hops, retailing, &c.), biographical pieces on key figures, and studies into the social, political and economic impact of the brewing industry."


Keywords and Library of Congress Subject Headings are useful for searching in library catalogs, archival collection databases, in newspapers, and online. Here are some to try: 

Alcoholic beverage industry
Anheuser-Busch, History
Anheuser-Busch, Inc
Antitrust Law
Beer History
Beer industry
Beer Industry United States History
Beer United States
Brewing -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Brewing Industry
Brewing industry -- Law and legislation -- United States
Brewing Industry Law and Legislation United States
Brewing industry periodicals
Brewing Industry United States
Brewing Industry United States Periodicals
Busch Family
Labor Unions United States
Liquor industry
Liquor Industry United States Labor unions
Liquor laws
Malt Liquors
Malt liquors Law and Legislation United States
Propaganda, German
United States Brewers’ Association


As long as there has been civilization, there has been beer. And as long as there has been beer, there have been words written about its history.  

While there are books listed on this page, many of the sources you'll see are links to lists of Google Scholar search results. Google Scholar casts a wide net in its searches, so it's a convenient starting place, but not a comprehensive "one-stop shop." You'll learn about Google Scholar below. 

Google Scholar is a search engine that searches scholarly literature and academic resources. You can search across disciplines and sources for articles, theses, books, patents, and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities, and other web sites.

Google Scholar is different from "ordinary" Google because it searches many of the same scholarly books, articles, and documents in the library catalog. It is this scholarly, authoritative focus that distinguishes Google Scholar from "ordinary" Google. There is overlap between what is in Google Scholar and our library databases, and I had better luck finding non-U.S. historical sources using Google Scholar first. 

OSU students, staff, and faculty have access to articles in Google Scholar from any computer with an Internet connection. With a few adjustments to your preferences, you can tell Google Scholar to point you to the resources the library provides for the OSU community. You can find instructions for setting up your preferences on the library guide Don't Pay for Articles: Google Scholar & OSU Libraries.

Additionally, whether or not you need to use a scholarly source depends on your research project. For my beer history research, I move between Google searches, Wikipedia articles, popular magazines, peer reviewed articles, and academic books.