The news headline read: “Former Olympia Brewery Attracts $24.9 million bid”. This is the amount it would take to get this empty complex of buildings into the hands of another seller. It has been abandoned by its parent company, the large tanks dry and empty since 2003, after a long history of brew making that spanned most of the 20th century.
I’m not a beer enthusiast and never have tasted Olympia beer, even though I grew up in Olympia and attended high school only a few miles away. The brewery was most definitely a part of my daily experience simply because the brewing hops could be smelled from the high school parking lot and sometimes all the way into our classrooms, the pungent fermentation odor penetrating the air for miles when the wind was right.
The brewery was a tremendously successful industry that counter-balanced Olympia’s economy which depended on ever-changing state government office positions, the rapidly fading logging and saw mills, and diminishing farms and fishing operations. Somehow the beer business seemed recession-proof, but even Olympia beer eventually moved away from its founding brewery along the Deschutes River, leaving behind the fabled water that supposedly made the beer so special.
Even the classic old brew house, built originally before Prohibition, stands in disarray down river, covered with moss and ivy and slowly deteriorating.
Although my family were teetotalers, any time we had out of town guests, one of the first places we would take them was on the Brewery tour. We would walk through all the buildings, following the pipelines carrying the brew which then sat in the large copper storage tanks visible through huge windows. The end of the tour was always the same: the guests “of age” would get to sample a beer along with my father while my mother took the youngsters for a walk in Tumwater Falls Park, along the Deschutes River just below the brewery. It was always my favorite place to go, especially during the fall salmon run. Some wonderful photos are provided on this blog: http://olympia-daily-photo.blogspot.com/
The water of the river always ran so clear and the falls blustered with mist. It was clear why the original brewmeister from Germany settled his brewery in this spot and said “It’s the Water!” as the company slogan. There could not have been a better place.
Even if beer is not my “cup of tea”, I sincerely hope the Olympia Brewery will find an owner with a vision for how these buildings and this picturesque spot can be used for the benefit of the community for generations to come. The water truly is what makes this place special.