Olympia Brewing Company

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Olympia Brewing Company
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Founded 1896 in Tumwater, WA
Founder Leopold Friederich Schmidt
Headquarters Los Angeles, California
Products Beer
Owner Pabst Brewing Company
Website http://www.olympia-beer.com

The Olympia Brewing Company was a brewery in Tumwater, WA founded in 1896 by Leopold Friederich Schmidt, which existed from 1896 until 1983. It was acquired in the latter year by Pabst Brewing Company.

Pabst is headquartered in Los Angeles, California.[1][2] On November 13, 2014, Pabst announced that it had completed its sale to Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, LLC. Blue Ribbon is a partnership between American beer entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco–based private equity firm.[3] Prior reports suggested the price agreed upon was around $700 million.[4]


The Olympia Brewery building in 1989

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.[5]

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,[6] which had previously been a product of the Lone Star Brewing Company.[7]

Between 1970 and 1980 Olympia faced flat revenues [8] 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. [9]

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 was purchased, along with the Olympia label, by beer industry veteran Eugene Kashper with backing from TSG Consumer Partners in 2014, and Olympia Beer continues to be contract brewed by MillerCoors at their brewery in Irwindale, California.[10]

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".[11] Once the brewery was taken over by a larger company, the use of artesian water was discontinued, and so was that advertising campaign.[12]

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.[13]

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.

Olympia Beer label from 1914.

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.[14]

The second word in American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival's name is derived from an Olympia advertising campaign.[15]

The movie "House of Games" includes a set with cases of Olympia Beer stacked toward the back of the room. In a Mickey Rooney movie from the Andy Hardy series, the title character has to change a tire on his dad's car. On the street in front of their house, Mickey and his dad remove a case of Olympia Beer from the trunk to get at the spare tire jack.[citation needed]

Olympia Beer is praised as one of the top 25 beers in the world in a recent MensJournal.com review article.[16]

Olympia Beer is the title inspiration for The IFBB Mr. Olympia body building contest.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Li, Shan. "Pabst headquarters moving to Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times. May 14, 2011.
  2. ^ Contact from the company's website
  3. ^ DesChenes, Denise. "Pabst Brewing Company Completes Sale To Blue Ribbon Holdings". TSG Consumer Partners. TSG Consumer Partners. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Wilmore, James. "Pabst Brewing Co sale finalised as Eugene Kashper, TSG take reins". Just-Drinks. Just-Drinks. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Brewery Gems, An Illustrated History of the Olympia Brewing Company (Retrieved on October 25, 2009).
  6. ^ Beer Advocate. What Happened to Buckhorn Beer?, (Retrieved on November 2, 2006)
  7. ^ The Buckhorn Museum. Fact Sheet, (Retrieved on November 30, 2008).
  8. ^ Tri City Herald, Schmidts may lose Olympia beer helm 2/21/1980
  9. ^ The Spokane Daily Chronicle, Three Arrested at Olympia on Lewd Conduct Charges 2/15/80
  10. ^ http://www.tsgconsumer.com/news/article/index.php?id=60
  11. ^ Kelley Advertising & Marketing: Olympia Beer: A Good Campaign Accelerates the Death of a Brand . Accessed 2008.11.07.
  12. ^ Beer Advocate: Olympia Beer. Accessed 2008.11.07.
  13. ^ "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
  14. ^ "Benton ethanol plant clears hurdles". The Southern. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  15. ^ Bordowitz, Hank (2007). Bad Moon Rising: The Unauthorized History of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated. p. 390. ISBN 978-1556526619. 
  16. ^ http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/the-25-best-beers-in-the-world-20120712
  17. ^ http://mrolympia.com/2014/history/index

External links[edit]