Pabst Brewing Co. Discontinues Olympia Beer, as Olympia Artesian Vodka Continues On
Today, Olympia Beer made the announcement on its Olympia Beer & Artesian Vodka Instagram page that Olympia Beer will be discontinued, at least for the near future. The long-term goal for Olympia Beer appears to find investors to bring back the beer known for its slogan of, “It’s the Water”, to its original hometown of Tumwater, Washington.
Owned by Pabst Brewing Company and part of the brewery’s portfolio of legacy brands, Olympia Beer has not been brewed in its hometown since 2003. Olympia Beer got its start in 1896 when Leopold Schmidt founded the brewery in Tumwater along the banks of the Deschutes River. Through the years the brewery grew and expanded from its original location that is currently being restored to a new, larger facility that is easily seen along Interstate 5.
In the 1980s the brewery was sold to G. Heileman Brewing Co. and then a decade later to the Stroh Brewery Co. in 1996. In 1999, Pabst Brewing Co. purchased many of the brands under the Stroh Brewing Co. portfolio that included Olympia Beer. But the brewery itself ended up in the hands of Miller Brewing Co. where it brewed Olympia in Tumwater until closing the brewery down 2003. Most recently, Olympia Beer has been contract brewed by Molson Coors in Irwindale, California, a brewery that just recently changed hands and is now owned by Pabst Brewing Co.
Read More: Olympia Beer Debuts Olympia Artesian Vodka in the Pacific Northwest
Earlier this year Olympia Beer expanded its offerings to include a new distilling operation in Tumwater. There Olympia distilled and packaged the new Olympia Artesian Vodka after initially only distilling and packaging hand sanitizer for medical facilities and first responders during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vodka will continue on but the beer will be discontinued, at least for the near future.
Here is the complete statement from the Olympia Beer & Artesian Vodka Instagram page…
Olympia Beer was founded in Tumwater 125 years ago, it’s a storied historic beer, intertwined with the history of our region. In 2020, we established Olympia Distilling Co., distilling our award-winning Olympia Artesian Vodka back in Tumwater. We were proud to be breathe new life into the brand and open a new chapter for Olympia in the region, one that started with us bottling hand sanitizer for our community during the covid pandemic and ending the year winning two gold medals and Washington State Vodka Distillery of the Year.
It is not our intention to stop there, and our vodka was always meant to complement our beer. But while we’ve spent several years trying to bring Olympia Beer back home to be brewed locally, we’ve also witnessed a growing decline in its demand. Sadly, we have not been able to find a solution to the challenges posed by the reduced beer sales and have had to make the difficult decision of temporarily pausing production of Olympia Beer. We remain committed to finding the best solution to keep brewing Olympia Beer in the future.
We are proud that Olympia’s story will continue in Tumwater at Olympia Distilling Co., helmed by life-long residents and master distillers from our region, and we remain hopeful that we can bring our beloved beer home someday. We are dedicated to carrying on Leopold Schmidt’s legacy and ensuring that Olympia’s story lives on for many years to come.
Back in August 2015, we visited and toured the dilapidated brewery that was the original home of Olympia Beer in Tumwater along the Deschutes River. Here are a few photos from this visit.
I toured that brewery in 1962 when “Oly” was a major brand on the whole West Coast, and the brewery was bright and gleaming. The beer’s slogan was “It’s The Water” which referred to the nearby spring from which it was brewed. After the brand name was sold and it was brewed elsewhere, the beer became ordinary and I no longer bought it. I’d love to have it brewed again with “the water.”
The Pabst Brewing Co. bought the Olympia Brewing Co. (which at the time also owned Theo. Hamm and Lone Star) in 1982, at the same time Heileman bought Pabst, kept some breweries and brands and, to avoid DoJ anti-trust regulators, immediately spun off a new Pabst, which included the Olympia brand and the Tumwater brewery.
It was in 1999, during the dividing up of the Stroh & Heileman portfolio of brands by Miller and Pabst, when Pabst sold the Tumwater to Miller, which closed it in 2003.
J. Kidden thanks for the history. I also (like Barret Hansen) toured the Tumwater brewery as a kid – 3rd grade field trip from Madison Elementary school in Olympia in ~1981. I loved the machines and conveyors; t was very inspiring! Eventually I became a mechanical engineer. Hmmm. I won’t miss the beer though.
I am a second generation Olympia Beer drinker from Oregon. In my family and circle of friends “Oly” is still a favorite. Many times traveling up I-5 to the Seattle area, we would stop and tour the Olympia Brewery. I hope this is not the end of Olympia Beer. I suggest that with just a modicum of marketing, Olympia Beer could once again become a big seller….especially if it’s brewed with “The Water”.
I agree “Its the Water” lets bring it back! I love Oly beer i have been drinking it for years.. Its been hard to find.. Grocery Outlet has kept it alive for me.. Most people who see me drinking it say ..Wow i didnt know they still made it…
So i think we can bring it back with a little word of mouth and some sponsors i would invest..
I can’t believe Oly has been discontinued, in my area both BevMo and Total Wine even have it in the cold box because it sells. Olympia is great beer for golf, fishing and tailgates. Unfortunately the big beer distributors control large chains and entertainment venues. Safeway, Costco, Walmart and every ballpark you get the same selections, bud light, Coors light, bud light lime, modelo, Stella and Luganitas IPA. They even removed Old Style from Wrigley Field because of league wide contracts requiring all mlb parks to sell same approved beers with exception of limited local IPA stands or pubs.
Hope Oly returns in the near future!!
My last supply of Olympia came from Cheyenne, WY. I live in Burlington, IA. Talk about hard to get. I hope they don’t just shelve the brand and forget about it. I need my Oly.
In the mid 1970’s Oly was the beer that fueled the branding of a zillion calves in Montana. First beer break during our brandings was about 10:00 am. Next was noonish when we’d wash down those fresh Rocky Mountain Oysters with that golden Oly. We were the summer ranch hands, mostly college kids who thought we had died and gone to heaven, working for $75 a week plus room and board in Paradise Valley and Tom Miner Basin south of Livingston, MT. The rancher we worked for used to say,”I can get more work out of a bunch of college boys with a couple of cases of Oly than any other rancher in this valley.” We proved him right too! The movie Rancho Deluxe with Jeff Bridges and Jimmy Buffett was filmed in the places mentioned above in 1976. This past year I was rummaging through my old photos from those days and Oly is in a lot of them. I told my wife of 36 years, “I can’t make it 1977 again, but I can go out and buy a 12 pack of Oly and remember the taste of it all.” The only problem here in the college town of Bozeman, MT is the students strip the shelves of Oly so fast you can’t always get it. See ya in the beer aisle.
I went to college in Lacy Washington and most Fridays, after class, we would head to the Olympia brewery to start the weekend off with a few beers after the tour. My father went to the same school and did the same thing. That’s where I learned the trick! But back in his day they where allowed to have as many beers as they choose. We where limited to 4. Still, a great start to a weekend during College. I live on the east coast now and Olympia was the go to beer on a hot day at the beach.