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Beer Research Guide: Finding Sources


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 also OSU Library guides that are topical for beer research. 

There are specific OSU Library guides for 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. 


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 is a great deal of overlap between archives and libraries. An archives may have library as part of its name, or an archives may be a department within a library. Archives can be found in state governments, private corporations, museums, or historical societies. 

Read "What Are Archives and How Do They Differ from Libraries?" from the Society of American Archivists. They have also created a primer for archival research. 

Finding archival collections can be tricky, but here are ideas to get you started. 

  • Talk with an archivist! We know a lot. 
  • There is a list of digital collections below, if something you find is interesting to you, see where the item is held, do an internet search for the repository, and write them an email (or call, if you like). 
  • Use bibliographies. If you find a book, article, or dissertation that fits your topic, see which collections they have used or sources they have cited.
  • Same goes for Wikipedia: it isn't perfect but it can give you context and get you started with sources. I like to use Wikipedia when I am trying to learn more about my topic, when major events happened, and who might have been involved. Wikipedia relies heavily on secondary sources, but you may find find "Related Links" that will lead you to repositories with historical materials or a "Bibliography" with well-known or popular books. 
  • ArchiveGrid is a worldwide database that includes guides to archival collections and other digitized materials. ​
  • A less controlled "search database" is by using your favorite internet browser. Online the "archives" is a word that is attached to anything that isn't brand new, so I advise combining your topical search term with words like "library" or "papers" or "manuscript" or "collection" or "historic." 


undefinedDr. Jennifer Jordan, author of the forthcoming book Before Craft Beer: The Lost Landscapes of Forgotten Hops and 2015 book Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods, talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 15, 2020 via Zoom about how she does her research. In her interview, Jordan talks about selecting a topic, the importance of a literature review, using primary sources, dealing with archival silences, and how her research process and methods have changed with the increase in online archival material. She also talks in detail about how she has done work to research hops in Wisconsin, her experiences using the agricultural census and population census, and how her book project has changed based on the sources she has found. Jordan is a professor and department chair in Sociology and Urban Studies and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 


Newspapers can serve as essential primary sources for historical research. Through eyewitness reporting, editorials, legislative updates, letters, advertisements, election returns, marriage and death notices, maps, cartoons, illustrations and more, historical newspapers offer researchers local and national perspectives on American history, culture, and daily life. The library has a guide to our current and historical newspaper holdings. 

There are several online resources for digitized newspapers. 

  • Chronicling America is a full text searchable database of digitized newspapers. It is produced by the United States National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is maintained by the LOC.
  • There are also state-based newspaper digitization projects, while most content is likely also in the Chronicling America database, there may be additional information about newspapers or different search features on different site. 
  • New York Times: Library database access. Students and staff also have full access to and NYT mobile apps (see the New York Times guide for information on how to access this resource).
  • America’s Historical Newspapers Thousands of fully searchable historical newspapers from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. (coverage 1690-1922). 
  • While we don't have a subscription through the library, is a valuable resource for those who are doing newspaper research post-1923.  


undefinedErin Lawrimore is the University Archivist and an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Special Collections and University Archives. She is also one of the co-founders of Well Crafted NCan industry and community documentation project. Lawrimore talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 24, 2020 about her process for learning about the North Carolina brewing industry, how her skills as an archivist translated to being a researcher, her strategies for finding archival sources, how she deals with archival silence in collections, and how technology has influenced and impacted archival collecting. 


The National Brewing Library is an English language collection relating to brewing, distilling, other alcoholic beverages and dependent trades. The collection aims to be the primary and most comprehensive source of information in the UK, on the scientific, technological, historical and social aspects of the above.

In 2008 the personal library, published books, and research papers of Michael Jackson "The Beer Hunter" were gifted to Oxford Brookes Library and named "The Michael Jackson Collection."   

  • Also related is the Michael Jackson Beer Hunter site. Jackson, who died 2007, was recognized as one of the best-known beer writers in the world. This site is a tribute and an archive of his writings. 

The Scottish Brewing Archive Association is an independent body run by industry experts and brewing enthusiasts. Since 1991 it's archival collections have been housed in the Glasgow University Archives and Business Records Centre. SBAA is part of the Scottish Business Archives. You can find a list of collections online


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

HathiTrust is a collaborative partnership of major research institutions and libraries worldwide. It is a shared digital repository of library books and journals converted from print owned by research institutions. It is an emerging repository which has collection spans over several centuries, and in hundreds of languages. You can narrow your searches by date, region, and language.

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 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.

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."

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.

There are many blogs dedicated to beer writing, but these often address history, aggregate current events, and write about relevant industry or cultural issues. 


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