|Sam Adolph founded the first Salem brewery with
John Brown at Church and Trade Streets in Salem in 1862. When
Adolph's brewery burned in 1869, it was relocated to the southwest
corner of Cottage and Trade streets. In 1885 Adolph joined with
two of his employees, Maurice Klinger and Seraphin Beck, to
build the Capital Brewery on the northeast corner of Commercial
and Trade Streets, which produced mainly draught beer but also
had a small bottling plant behind the brewery.
The Salem Brewery Association bought the business in 1903
and produced Salem Beer. With their new buildings and modern
equipment the business became one of the most modern on the
west coast. When Salem voted to go dry in 1913, the Association
moved to Portland and it wasn't until prohibition was repealed
that the Association re-incorporated. In 1943 Sick's Brewery
bought the Salem plant and ran it until the building was razed
in 1955. The brewery had a party room on the second floor
where various civic and private groups met and a large sign
on top advertising "6 Sick's Select Beer."
Another early brewery was founded by Louis Westacott in 1866.
His Star Brewery, located at the foot of Mission Street, used
horse power to operate the pumps, malt mill and other machinery.
He felt that the $30,000 Oregon spent annually to import hops
could be saved if the hops, grown locally, could be cured
more carefully. Since the market price was in proportion to
the strength of the beer, he felt that the local growers,
through their ignorance of hop culture, were not preserving
their crop in optimum condition.
Westacott's Star Brewery kept its lager below ground in a
very cool cellar and his product was judged to be of superior
taste. Lager beer was in vogue at the time and was frequently
prescribed (in moderation) by physicians as a relief from
the heat. The brewery was torn down in 1909 to make way for
the John Minto home. Workmen at the site found an old beer
bottle which still smelled of the beer from twenty years earlier.
In 1870 Salem had thirteen bars and thirteen drugstores dispensing
liquor; the population was 1139 people. Two years later there
were three more breweries operating - the Pacific, City, and
During the years when the breweries existed, the Willamette
Valley was dotted with hop yards and dryers. Hop cultivation
is a year-around proposition involving preparation of the
poles and trellises; construction and maintenance of the wooden
dryers; and pruning, propagating and planting at the beginning
of the season. During the summer there is irrigating, fertilizing
and training of the shoots to be done. In the fall it is time
for harvesting, drying and baling for shipment to market.
The increase in hop cultivation made for an influx of many
migrant workers into the areas surrounding Salem. Nearby Independence
even proclaimed itself the "Hop Center of the World"
and held a festival and parade. In 1896 there were ten hop
growers in Salem alone with many others up and down the Valley,
and by 1902 the American Hop & Barley Company of London
had an office in Salem. The buildings in the 100 and 200 blocks
of Commercial Street housed many hop agencies, as did the
Bush-Breyman Building and the Hirschberg Building at the Northeast
corner of Commercial and State.
The Ladd and Bush Quarterly for July 1912 proclaimed "The
best hop is grown in our river bottoms ... A choice Oregon
hop is incomparable. It stands in a class of its own and always
commands a premium in all the markets of the world".
Although there were no breweries listed in the Salem City
Directory during the years of prohibition, Salem still had
23 growers and dealers. The T. A. Livesley Company had extensive
holdings in South Salem and, instead of selling locally they
shipped to England, providing 1/30th of the international
In the 1940s, mechanization, changing tastes and changing
marketing practices worked against local growers. Hop growing
began to decline in the valley. Today you must travel to rural
Marion County to see hop fields like the ones that used to
be close to Salem.
Researched and written by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering
Salzmann, Joan Marie "Toni". "Hop Agriculture
in the Willamette Valley."
Marion County History, School Days II, Vol. 14 (1983-84),
Salem Daily Record, June 28, 1867.