Olympia Brewery


Paul Medrud, Reporter

One of Olympia’s most well known buildings is the Olympia Brewery, but do you truly know about its history? The origin of the brewery and its eventual long lasting impact on the City of Olympia, from it’s prohibition era rise to its current influence, even the Fire department and even parts of OHS take influences from the Breweries logo. Just how did it get to such prominence in the entire city, being something that most people see Olympia as when they first hear about it.

The story begins with a man named Leopold Schmidt, a successful brewery owner in Montana, his goal is to establish brewing companies in the western states. In 1895 he purchased the land that the brewery is currently built on, which sections of the land were also owned by his Brother Louis. In 1896 he produced the first product by the Olympia name, the Olympia Pale Export. While used in crude Barrels, it was a success and by 1909 he owned all of the major brewing companies in the State of Washington. Producing multiple varieties of the alcohol in the Tumwater Brewery, as well as the popular signs, glasses, and advertisements for the Olympia Brand. Many people at this time were employed at the brewery, making it the largest job creator in the early 20th Century.

Leopold died in 1914, inheriting the company was his son Peter. But at this time was an interesting period in American history, Prohibition. Prohibition triumphed soon after his death and stopped all production of alcohol in the state. The alternative? To sell sparkling apple cider instead of alcohol, it’s production prevented the company from going under, but during World War I all production of Sparkling cider was taken off sale. The last effort was to support the bus system, which later became part of the greyhound bus lines in Washington state. After prohibition the Brewery continued to produce Alcohol and forms of glasses and merchandise until 1964 when they switched location to save money, Olympia is still produced but by another company and the current building is used by the city of Tumwater for possible renovation

But why are we learning about the history of some company that sells alcohol that we aren’t allowed to drink? The answer is less complex than you think, the font that the Olympia Brewery uses is used in almost anything, the fire trucks use the Olympia Brewery font, the school uses the Olympia Brewery font, the city of Olympia is known for the brewery by people outside of the city. As Viscom and Yearbook Teacher Mr Zarate said “The Olympia brewery design is iconic, people knew the font from the beverage, and the brewery was an important employer for many people” Olympia beer is a product sold to many places in the US, and many people have worked at the brewery. It’s influence on the city is large because it was what the city mainly produced, besides being the state capitol the city produced alcohol.Mr Zarate adds to the influence of the alcohol with “Years ago, the cheer team used to use beer kegs instead of the platforms they use now, it was that important”

Sometimes if you go to a restaurant or a store in Downtown Olympia, you can still see the signs and merchandise from the Olympia Brewery, it’s slogan “It’s the water” is prominent. Mr Zarate adds “The design is so prominent, when we redid the basketball court we wanted to use the Olympia Brewery Design, but we were worried about a lawsuit” While you have a long time to be able to drink alcohol, you can still enjoy it’s style and influence on the city of Olympia. It’s a part of the history of Olympia and it’s something to be proud about.