Do you believe in Artesians?
In 1895, a German brewmaster named Leopold Schmidt chose a site at the foot of the Tumwater Falls as the location for his new brewery. It had everything that he needed: access to saltwater shipping, electrical power produced by the water falls on the Deschutes River, and most importantly, underground artesian springs of pure water that was perfect for brewing beer.
Tumwater's original historic brewhouse was designed as a 7-story gravity brewing facility. Schmidt was revolutionizing beer making in the US – bringing his German beer school knowledge to America. He used yeast intentionally to make consistent product, a practice that wasn’t well-known in the States at the time. Schmidt also used a gravity brewery system to create his product. The building itself contributed to the brewery process – beer traveled from the top of the building and went through the various brewing stages as it made its way closer to the ground. Their first beer, Olympia Pale Export, was siphoned by hand from wooden barrels, bottled and placed on the market October 1, 1896. The slogan, “It’s the Water” was created in 1902. Olympia Beer was the first beer to be bottled with metal caps rather than corks – allowing for pasteurization and the ability to ship it greater distances.
The Historic Brewhouse remains a regional icon to this day and the City of Tumwater is dedicated to its preservation and protection. The importance of the structure was recognized in 1978 when it was placed on the national register of historic places. It is seen by tens of thousands of people every day from Interstate 5 and is one of the community’s most iconic structures. The Old Brewhouse influenced the design of dozens of new buildings in the region including Tumwater's City Hall, Fire Station, and the Timberland Regional Library in Tumwater. In 1995, the brewhouse was added to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s ‘Ten Most Endangered Properties List’ and since 2004, the building has remained on their ‘Watch List.’
In its prime, the Olympia Brewery was a tourist destination. Some accounts provide that the company gave tours to 100,000 visitors each year. Nearly 250,000 toured the brewery in 1962 during the World's Fair. The tasting room was most certainly a primary attraction.
Today the Old Brewhouse stands as Tumwater’s most important architectural landmark. In 2016, the City of Tumwater acquired the brewhouse from a local developer. Working with community partners, the City is quickly finalizing plans to stabilize the structure and beginning to formulate options for future activity at the site. The brewhouse is a symbol of the crucial role the Olympia Brewing Company played in the history of Tumwater.
Revitalizing this community asset is a City and community priority.