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.
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.
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.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.