The History of Tum Water & Olympia Brewing

What do Evel Knievel, Dustin Hoffman, The Blues Brothers, and Clint Eastwood have in common? Olympia Beer. The now defunct brew had a heyday that lasted close to a decade thanks to the brew house that started it all, Olympia Brewing Company.

Olympia Brewing Company – The Beginnings

The founder of the Olympia Brewing Company was Leopold F. Schmidt–a German-born gold prospector and brew master–who in 1895, came to Tumwater in search of a new location for a brewery. He was impressed with a river site near the Deschutes River falls and the artesian spring water there. After receiving stellar water quality reports, he knew would be able to brew better beer than he ever had before.

He produced his first local beer, the Olympia Pale Export in 1896 and establishesd what would become Olympia Brewing Company in 1902, with the slogan “It’s the Water”.


Pre Prohibition

Whatever was in the water must indeed have been fabulous. Schmidt was able to ask double the going price for his brews. Olympia Beer was also shipped to gold rush towns throughout Alaska. It’s estimated that up to 100,000 barrels of beer were produced, and 200 local citizens employed at the height of its popularity. 

Olympia Beer Delivery

Prohibition & After

Unfortunately, 1941 saw the death of Olympia Breweries’ founder and the advent of Statewide prohibition, which halted the production of beer at Olympia Brewing from 1916 – 1933. After a brief trial of keeping things running through jam and juice production, the Schmidt family then ended all production by 1920 and sold their breweries.

After the repeal of Prohibition, the Schmidt family reinvested in the brewing industry in Tumwater. They surpassed their pre-Prohibition production by 1940. The Schmidt family was able to reacquire their old brewhouse in 1964. Olympia Beer remained a popular trademark for many years afterwards, appearing in popular films and music productions.

Its The Water

The Deschutes Valley Trail

The old Olympia Brew House is located along the Deschutes Valley Trail, in the Tumwater Historic District. This trail connects the city of Tumwater, offers gorgeous views of the Deschutes River Valley, and provides access to Downtown Olympia. You won’t want to miss on of the most enjoyable stops along this trail– soon to be added, The Craft District, which is at the heart of Tumwater’s revitalization efforts.

The Craft District

The Craft District is an exciting collaboration between local businesses to create a one-of-a-kind experience with many spaces for retail vendors, restaurants, and other services, all centered around a 2,000-person amphitheater.

In the spirit of Leopold Schmidt, new brewers learn and experiment at the South Puget Sound Community College’s new educational facility located in the District. The SPSCC offers the nation’s first associate degree program in craft brewing and distilling.

The wildly popular Heritage Distilling Company – founded by the Stiefels – has a new location in the District as well. This new location offers a tasting room, cask club, and event space facility. They plan to have a new production facility there as well, continuing the quality brewing traditions of the Tumwater area.

The new Craft Market offers access to some of the greatest boutique artisans in the region and will soon be neighboring additional buildings with restaurants, coffee shops, professional businesses, and multifamily, rounding out the creation of a unique, dynamic, and authentic community district.

Scroll to Top