While this famous Tumwater, Washington company owned other breweries prior to Prohibition, it gained prominence with a single brand produced in this plant. The excellence of its beer has been attributed to the excellent quality of the water – hence their slogan “It’s the Water” – but full credit should be given to Olympia’s founder, Leopold F. Schmidt who’s business model was “Quality First – Quantity Next.”
The original brewery for Olympia beer is across from the Tumwater Historical Park and along the Deschutes River at Capitol Boulevard South East, the city of Tumwater, Thurston County, Washington.
Olympia Brewery was founded by the German immigrant, Leopold Schmidt, in 1896.
On September 18, 1895, The Daily Olympian ran this story:
“LEOPOLD SCHMIDT ANNOUNCES PLANS TO BUILD BREWERY
A deal which has been pending for several days culminated yesterday afternoon in the sale of five and one-quarter acres of land near the lower falls at Tumwater to parties from Montana, who will build a brewery on the property. The purchasers are L. F. Schmidt of Deer Lodge, Montana, and his brother Louis of Butte, These gentlemen have been around the past three days with Alex Drysdale, who negotiated the sale, and after making surveys of the property, estimates of the water power, etc., a satisfactory settlement was arrived at, the sum of $4550 in cash paid to Mrs. Fannie E. Biles, the owner of the property, a deed made out to Schmidt Bros. and placed on record yesterday afternoon.
The land comprises the plat between the Des Chutes and the Union Pacific grade and fronting on the sound. The Tumwater Ice company’s plant is upon it.
It is the intention of Schmidt Bros. to put a brewery and ice plant costing $60,000 on the spot where the tannery now stands or near it, and to make other improvements. They will fill in a portion of the tide flats out to the channel of the river, and build a wharf there in anticipation of a time when the sound between Olympia and Tumwater will be navigable at all tides either by dredging the channel or making a fresh water lake of it by building a dam and locks near the Westside bridge.
Work on the plant will begin next month, shortly after the 16th. On that date L. F. Schmidt will move into the residence on the property to personally oversee the work.”
It was originally named “The Capital Brewing Company” and consisted of a 4 story brew house, an ice factory powered by the Tumwater Falls, a keg and bottling plant and a 5 floor cellar building. The name was changed to Olympia Brewing Company in 1902 and their slogan was changed to “It’s the Water” for their flagship brand “Olympia Beer,” in part to explain why the Tumwater lagers were so good. This was, in fact, the issue that prevented production of the “Olympia” brand at any of his other branches.
The Olympia Brewery was community’s largest private employer for a significant part of the past century and many local residents have their own stories of family member’s experiences working for the Brewery.
Leopold Schmidt died in 1914, just before prohibition forces triumphed in Washington and Oregon. The Olympia brewery group was then lead by Leopold’s eldest son Peter.
In 1916, statewide prohibition, followed by nationwide prohibition, ceased production until 1934. During this time a new Olympia Brewery was built upstream from the site. The original Olympia Brewery eventually closed and now, in a historic state of dis-repair, remains Tumwater’s best known landmark as part of Tumwater’s New Market Historic District, and is listed on the National and Washington Registers of Historic Places.
The Old Brewhouse, seen by thousands of people every day from Interstate, is one of the community’s most iconic structures and it is still today a regional asset with a high degree of cultural and historic value as it serves as the last reminder of the flourishing riverside industries that once formed the heart of the town.
American stunt performer Evel Knievel, inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, was sponsored by Olympia beer during its high time.
Author’s note: you can find the old Olympia Brewery here
The Old Olympia Brewery today:
Images from Web – Google Research