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College and Beer

Tara Maharjan in the<br>closed&nbsp;stacks&nbsp;at&nbsp;Rutgers
Tara Maharjan in the closed stacks at Rutgers

Beer is temporary. It’s been around for some 7,000 years, but it doesn’t stick around forever. We don’t argue with that — we make it for you to drink. We don’t make it so that it sits in some dusty museum somewhere, to be gazed at by future generations. We make it, you drink it. That’s how this works.

Furthermore, alcohol and memories aren’t exactly simpatico.

Because of that, our history is fleeting. That’s kind of why we have this blog: to keep some sort of record of what we do, because, otherwise, we’re just sort of throwing things against a wall and hoping they stick. Sort of how everyone’s Italian grandmother checks to see if the spaghetti’s done.

To help us out, Rutgers University’s Sinclair Collection has started archiving the history of craft beer in New Jersey. The Sinclair Collection is the largest collection of New Jersey artifacts in the state, with thousands of books, pamphlets, periodicals, genealogies, agricultural records, meeting minutes, rare books, art books, manuscripts, and whatnot, dating back nearly 500 years.

We got an email from Processing Archivist Tara Maharjan asking for “labels, coasters, stickers, or any kind of promotional materials” from Cape May Brewing Company.

How cool is that?!? The State University of New Jersey wants to document beer! What a strange relationship: college and beer. Who’dathunkit?

So we gave Tara a call to find out about the Sinclair Collection itself, what it is that a Processing Archivist might do on a daily basis, and why they decided to cover craft beer.

As the Processing Archivist, Tara is saddled with a pretty large task. “When we get a collection in, usually it’s in boxes with papers just thrown in. It’s a mess. I put them into an order that would make sense to people — whether it’s chronological or by topic. Then I create a ‘finding aid’ that explains how it’s organized.”

Sounds like a herculean task to us. Marketing Guru Alicia Grasso can’t even keep her MacBook desktop organized.

Tara’s pretty fond of the New Jersey Cookbook Collection. “They are so local,” she says. The Collection has cookbooks from churches and PTAs, as well as a menu collection from various restaurants, trade catalogues, and so forth. As Tara is someone who enjoys cooking, she likes testing out some of the recipes in those books, but she’s also been employed as a cookbook librarian — which we didn’t even know was a thing.

Tara recently stumbled upon Salute to New Jersey: a collection of original New Jersey recipes and historical anecdotes. Within its pages, she found a recipe for Dey Mansion Orange Cake. Since Colonel Theunis Dey was one of the signers of the original charter for Queens College — which eventually became Rutgers — she felt duty-bound to bake a cake. She writes about it at the collection’s blog What Exit.

Craft beer was of particular interest to Tara. “I’m a beer drinker,” she tells us. (Can you blame her?) “When I travel, I like to go to places where there are local breweries.”

The collection so far
The collection so far

As she traveled, she was starting to pick up coasters and stickers, and decided she was going to make a list of the breweries in the state. “I started to realize that some of them had already closed, or had plans to open and couldn’t get the proper permits. I wanted to make sure that we were preserving the history of the breweries that stayed open in the state. The history isn’t necessarily exciting to people right now, but as long as we’re collecting and we have these things, they can be preserved for the future.”

Well, we think it’s pretty exciting, Tara!

She sent an email out to the various breweries in June, and has received a great response. In addition to coasters and stickers, menus and various other promotional materials, she once came in to work to find a tap handle on her desk. “It was a random find on my desk one day.”

Tara has a personal connection to the brewery, as well. She interned under Hank’s father, who’s an archivist at Princeton Theological Seminary. “That’s how I found out about CMBC.” She’s been down to CMBC twice, having actually gotten her first growler here. She’s a big fan of the sours, and really enjoys The Bog.

Since she’s such a fan of the sours, we were telling her all about the Stow Away Series. “I won’t say no if you guys want to mail me some beer,” she jokes. “I won’t be sad.”

Well, we’re glad you found us, Tara! If you make it down this summer, you have to bring us some Dey Mansion Orange Cake. We’ll trade you a bottle of The Keel. That bottle needs to be in the collection.