In the corner of the Munday Library archive reading room at St. Edward’s University in Austin sits a four-by-three-foot sculpted metal sign advertising Waterloo Brewing. The first brewpub in Texas, which operated on Austin’s Guadalupe Street from 1993 to 2001, is considered to be the cornerstone of Texas craft beer. The history of Waterloo is preserved via this and other artifacts by archivist Travis Williams, who curates the university’s Texas Craft Brewing Collections. “People who come into the reading room have a very emotional reaction to the sign,” Williams says. “They’ll say, ‘I can’t tell you how many hamburgers I ate there!’ ” The dates, breakups, celebrations, and commiserations that happened in the shadow of this sign make it one of Williams’s favorite pieces in the collection. “People spend a lot of time with friends and family at breweries, and they attract a kind of energy that’s fueled by those memories,” he says.

Williams’s job is to safeguard those memories through the process of preserving artifacts from breweries and craft beer–adjacent businesses across the state. The archive, which was founded in 2017 and has been under Williams’s supervision since 2019, is one of just a handful of similar projects across the U.S. A small but growing number of academic ventures have invested in craft beer history and culture, spearheaded by the Smithsonian’s American Brewing History Initiative, in Washington, D.C., which began around the same time as the Munday archive.

As the contemporary American craft beer movement reaches its sixtieth anniversary (many consider Fritz Maytag’s purchase of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, in 1965, as the start), its academic and cultural value has become clear, helped in no small part by the rich history of Texas craft beer. “At St. Edward’s we were looking for something of academic and historic value not being collected by UT or the Austin History Center, and we saw craft beer taking off in Texas as an important cultural moment,” Williams says.

The St. Edward’s archive consists of the Ephemera Collection, which is made up of merchandise and memorabilia; the Texas Craft Brewers Guild Records, which document the guild’s history and legislative gains; a timeline of Texas beer history; and special collections focusing on breweries and individuals, including Waterloo Brewing and one of its co-founders, Steve Anderson. You can view objects such as an original mural from Austin’s Black Star Brewing, featuring its owners and early patrons; stickers and coasters; artwork from Dallas’s late Rabbit Hole Brewing; and Steve Anderson’s multiple awards from the Great American Beer Festival.

Anderson was a scion of the Texas beer community. He was head brewer at Waterloo Brewing until it closed, then head brewer at Live Oak Brewing, Austin’s oldest continuously operational brewery, before starting Big Bend Brewing in Alpine, which he ran until his untimely death from cancer in 2015. Housing Anderson’s papers, for Williams, is an important responsibility. “I like to think the archive gives many of the people who knew him a sense of peace . . . to know [his papers] are being cared for and celebrated, that his memory is being kept alive,” Williams says.

Hillhops Event at St. Edwards Munday Library on January 25, 2024
Hillhops event at St. Edwards’ Munday Library on January 25, 2024. Courtesy of Munday Library
Wooden Waterloo Brewing sign included in the Steve Anderson Papers collection of the Texas Craft Brewing Collections.
Wooden Waterloo Brewing sign included in the Steve Anderson Papers collection of the Texas Craft Brewing Collections. Courtesy of Munday Library
Left: Hillhops event at St. Edwards’ Munday Library on January 25, 2024. Courtesy of Munday Library
Top: Wooden Waterloo Brewing sign included in the Steve Anderson Papers collection of the Texas Craft Brewing Collections. Courtesy of Munday Library

This is the overarching aim of the archive: to keep stories, histories, and memories alive. A big part of Williams’s job is visiting breweries and attending events to raise the profile of the archive and invite donations from breweries, businesses, and members of the public. Anyone can donate suitable items to the collection, which Williams and his students meticulously sort and file for visitors to view by appointment.

When Williams connects with a new brewery, relationship-building is very important. “I’m not just asking for donations,” he says. “I want to connect with them and check they’re happy about how their artifacts are being represented.” One way in which Williams forges and maintains these connections is through the archive’s annual HillHops event in January, a showcase of the collection with beer tastings and panel discussions. For Jarle Lillemoen, brewmaster at Wild Bunch Brewing in Red Rock, fifteen miles east of Lockhart, the event is a great way to reach a new audience. “It’s a good opportunity to meet new faces and spread the word about our brewery,” he says. “The archive is important because it gathers a lot of information about all the breweries that come and go, and the brewers are mostly just working hard to try to have a good product and don’t have time to make archives of all the interesting things that are happening.”

HillHops also showcases the breadth of career opportunities within the beer industry to SEU students. “We have chemists, marketing students, business majors—all looking at beer from their own career perspectives,” Williams explains. This year’s event featured more than forty local breweries and businesses and a panel on Black leaders in craft brewing, the first all-Black Texas beer panel. Panelist and Dallas-based beer educator Angi Thomas says the event offered an important opportunity to share her experiences as a Black woman in beer. “As a representative of BIWOC in the beer industry, it’s crucial for us to speak in white male-dominated spaces to challenge the status quo, break down barriers, and pave the way for future generations,” she says.

The Texas craft beer industry has suffered a swath of closures in the last year, including Cedar Park’s Hedgehog, Dripping Springs’ Beerburg, Humble’s Ingenious, and San Antonio’s Second Pitch. To secure their artifacts, Williams must approach the shuttered businesses with tact and sensitivity. “This is a very stressful time for business owners,” he says. “They have a mountain of tasks, and they are also grieving. My role is to emphasize the archive’s role in preserving their legacy.”

Now the archive’s work seems more poignant and necessary than ever, but Williams believes in looking forward. “I want to focus on the fact that even though the businesses have closed you can revisit them at the archive,” he says, explaining that he wants to build an oral history element into the collection. “So many stories only exist in people’s minds, and as people get older we need to do this sooner rather than later.”

A majority of the archive is available online, including recordings of the HillHops panels, making it easily accessible. “Like every archive, the goal is to preserve the stories of the people and places among us,” Williams says, and “to do our part and capture what we can of the culture they live in today and find the untold stories of Texas beer and brewing to share with future generations.”