History on tap at Clark County’s new brewing exhibit

Special Reports

Museum exhibit opening reception marks 100th anniversary of prohibition

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Friday marks the 100th anniversary of prohibition and Clark County Historical Museum is honoring that milestone with a new exhibit.

The history of brewing, distilling, temperance, and prohibition in Southwest Washington will be explored in History A-Brewin’ and it kicks off with an opening reception at 5 p.m. January 17 in Vancouver, Washington.

Doug Whyte, CCHM’s executive director, told KOIN 6 News that Southwest Washington is an area that represents the oldest known instance of people brewing English-style beer in the Pacific Northwest, in the early 1800s.

Richard Schelcht’s painting of 1845 Fort Vancouver, the site of the Pacific Northwest’s earliest experiments with brewing English-style beer. January 10, 2020 (Clark County Historical Museum).

“There was brewing during the period of the Hudson’s Bay Company when they operated Fort Vancouver. And so they brought hops and barely to the area and did some early test brewing. It was never significant in it’s operation, but it was important because it basically started that style of brewing here in the area,” Whyte said.

From those early experiments, to brewing companies that have come and go, and later the implementation of “wet” and “dry” counties, the brewing history of the region is rich and varied.

As a testament to the enduring passion locals have for beer, today there are about 28 craft breweries in the greater Clark County area, Whyte said.

The exhibit will feature historical items, such as artifacts from the now-defunct Lucky Lager brewing company, historical displays, and some interactive elements.

One display is actually designed to look like a bar, with local craft beer cans lining the walls behind it and a timeline of the history of various brewing companies that have come and gone atop it.

There’s also a sniff and guess challenge where various kinds of hops and malts in individual compartments can be smelled by participants and they have to guess what kind it is based on a list of choices.

“Kind of like a hop or malt challenge, like the Pepsi challenge,” Whyte said.

Lucky Lager delivery truck at the “L” club on Vancouver Washington’s Main Street. The brewery went out of business in 1985 after 35 years. January 10, 2020 (Clark County Historical Museum).

There’s also a fun sponsorship element that the museum used to raise funds for the exhibit called the 99 Bottle of Beer on the Wall. For $100 individuals or companies can have their name printed on a bottle that will be part of the display, which are all mounted on the wall.

Whyte said there’s still some room left for more sponsored bottles and the individuals even get to keep the bottle after the exhibit runs its course, in four years.

As a night cap for the evening, reception goers are invited to an after party at a local speakeasy-themed bar, called The Underbar, walking distance from the museum.

More information can be found at Clark County Historical Museum’s website.

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