Olympia Brewing Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Olympia Brewing Company
Olympia Beer label 1914.jpg
Olympia Beer label from 1914
Location Tumwater, Washington
Opened 1896
The Olympia Brewery building in 1989

The Olympia Brewing Company was a brewery firm in Tumwater, Washington, USA which existed from 1896 until 1983. It was acquired in the latter year by what would eventually become Pabst Brewing Company. The Olympia Brewery in Tumwater was purchased by SABMiller and operated until its closure in 2003.[citation needed]


Leopold Schmidt, a German immigrant from Montana founded The Capital Brewing Company at Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River in the town of Tumwater, near the south end of Puget Sound. He built a four-story wooden brewhouse, a five-story cellar building, a one-story ice factory powered by the lower falls, and a bottling and keg plant and in 1896, began brewing and selling Olympia Beer. In 1902, the firm became Olympia Brewing Company and chose the slogan "It's the Water" to promote its flagship product. Statewide Prohibition, which began in January 1916, four years before National Prohibition, ended beer making operations. After Prohibition ended, a new Olympia Brewery was erected just upstream from the original, and Olympia beer went back on sale in 1934.[1]

The original brewery that produced Olympia Beer as seen in 2012. Tumwater, WA.

Olympia Beer was a very popular regional brand in the Pacific Northwest for half of a century. It eventually expanded nationwide, repositioned as a low-price lager. During the 1970s, Olympia acquired Hamm's and Lone Star. Olympia Brewing also produced Buckhorn Beer,[2] which had previously been a product of the Lone Star Brewing Company.[3]

Between 1970 and 1980 Olympia faced flat revenues [4] among consolidating nationwide breweries and, in 1982, the Schmidt family, which owned and operated the brewery and company, elected to sell the company. Olympia was subsequently purchased by G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1983.

In 1980, the president of the brewery, a state representative, and a state official were caught engaging in a homosexual act in a public bathroom. [5]

G. Heileman Brewing Company was sold to Stroh Brewery Company in 1996. In 1999, Pabst Brewing Company bought most of the Stroh Brewery Company brands including Olympia Beer.[citation needed]

As with many other regional breweries, ownership of the Olympia Brewery eventually passed through several corporations including Pabst, G. Heileman, and Stroh's, until the brewery was eventually purchased by Miller Brewing Co. For a time, the Olympia brewery took over the brewing of other Pacific Northwest brands as their original breweries were closed one by one, including the Lucky Lager brewery in Vancouver, Washington, the Henry Weinhard's brewery in Portland, Oregon, and even the brewery of its arch-rival, Rainier Beer, in Seattle. In 2002 SAB bought out Miller brewing Co. SABMiller closed the Olympia Brewery on June 27th, 2003 citing the unprofitability of such a small brewery.[citation needed]

Pabst sold itself along with the Olympia label to Oasis Beverages Russian conglomerate, and beer marketed under the Olympia Beer name continues to be manufactured by MillerCoors at a plant in Irwindale, California.[citation needed]

Use of Artesian water[edit]

For many years, Olympia Beer was brewed with water obtained from artesian wells. The company's promotions made much of the use of artesian water in the brewing process. However, the advertisements never explained what artesian water was, preferring to claim that the water was controlled by a mythical population of "Artesians".[6] Once the brewery was taken over by a larger company, the use of artesian water was discontinued, and so was that advertising campaign.[7]

In downtown Olympia, current efforts to preserve the use of artesian water at one of the remaining public wells has been the mission of H2Olympia: Artesian Well Advocates.[8]

Pop culture[edit]

Daredevil Evel Knievel was sponsored by Olympia Beer. Olympia paid a hefty price tag to have Evel sew patches onto his jackets, signs on his vehicles, even stitching "Olympia Beer" onto parachutes attached to his dragster. This was an attempt to take Olympia nationwide.

Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock drinks an Olympia beer in The Graduate (1967). Paul Newman drinks Olympia in the movie, Sometimes a Great Notion (1970). Nearly the entire cast, including Marvin Gaye drinks Olympia bottles, stubbies, cans and tall boys, in Chrome and Hot Leather (1971). A neon sign advertising Olympia beer can be seen in the window of the liquor store in American Graffiti (1973). Clint Eastwood promoted the brand in several popular films, including Magnum Force (1973), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1975), Every Which Way but Loose (1978) (in which his orangutan Clyde also indulges), and Any Which Way You Can (1980). The werewolves of the Colony in the Howling in 1980. Farmer Vincent and his family in Motel Hell(80). Rebecca Balding is seen drinking Olympia in bed in Silent Scream (1980). The Blues Brothers Band drinks $300 worth of Olympia in 'Bob's Country Bunker' (1980) John Denver drinks an Olympia in "Oh, God!" (1977). Signage and cans being consumed are also easily visible in The China Syndrome (1979). The brand was also featured in the movie Friday the 13th Part III (1982) and Airport 1975 (1974). A neon light Olympia Beer sign can be seen in the roadhouse bar in the vampire cult-classic Near Dark(1987) and in the Matt Damon film Promised Land (2012). In the independent B-movie Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch (2005), the teen-age campers and the adult hunters were drinking the brand. Josh Brolin's George W. Bush drinks a barely recognizable bottle of Olympia beer in W. (2008). Bill Hader's character drinks several cans of Olympia Beer in The To Do List (2013). Many of the characters in The Hollywood Knights drink Olympia beer in stubby bottles. It can also be seen in the 1983 American horror/thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name "Cujo". b. Ag Energy Resources Inc. of Benton, Illinois purchased the machinery from Olympia Brewing Co. to make ethanol for motor fuel use.[9]

The second word in American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival's name is derived from an Olympia advertising campaign.[10]

The movie "House of Games" features many cases of Olympia Beer stacked toward the back room. Additionally, an old Mickey Rooney movie, where he has to change a tire on his dad's car. On the street in front of their house, Mickey and his dad remove an Olympia Beer case from the trunk to get to the spare tire jack.

Olympia Beer is praised as one of the top 25 beers in the world in a recent MensJournal.com review article.[11]

Olympia Beer is the title inspiration for The IFBB Mr. Olympia body building contest.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brewery Gems, An Illustrated History of the Olympia Brewing Company (Retrieved on October 25, 2009).
  2. ^ Beer Advocate. What Happened to Buckhorn Beer?, (Retrieved on November 2, 2006)
  3. ^ The Buckhorn Museum. Fact Sheet, (Retrieved on November 30, 2008).
  4. ^ Tri City Herald, Schmidts may lose Olympia beer helm 2/21/1980
  5. ^ The Spokane Daily Chronicle, Three Arrested at Olympia on Lewd Conduct Charges 2/15/80
  6. ^ Kelley Advertising & Marketing: Olympia Beer: A Good Campaign Accelerates the Death of a Brand . Accessed 2008.11.07.
  7. ^ Beer Advocate: Olympia Beer. Accessed 2008.11.07.
  8. ^ "It's Still the Water" Thurston County PUD Report - CONNECTIONS, Summer 2009, Vol. 3, No. 3 - http://www.wpuda.org/PDF_files/Connections/Summer2009final.pdf
  9. ^ "Benton ethanol plant clears hurdles". The Southern. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  10. ^ Bordowitz, Hank (2007). Bad Moon Rising: The Unauthorized History of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated. p. 390. ISBN 978-1556526619. 
  11. ^ http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/the-25-best-beers-in-the-world-20120712
  12. ^ http://mrolympia.com/2014/history/index

External links[edit]