We recently visited the Washington state capital city of Olympia to research trails for our new guidebook, Urban Hikes Washington. While there, we discovered a perfectly-paired beer hike: Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls and Well 80 Brewing. Here's the scoop on what's brewing in Olympia.
It’s the water! Because beer is made up of over 90% water, quality H2O is an essential brewing ingredient. German brewer Leopold Schmidt knew this back in 1896 when he ended up in Tumwater, Washington (just outside Olympia) on a trip to the state capital. Schmidt recognized that Tumwater’s pure, artesian spring water was perfect for brewing. So he built a brewery there. Capital Brewing Company later became known as the Olympia Brewing Company, made famous by Olympia Beer and its unforgettable slogan.
Today, Olympia Beer production has long since left Tumwater (Pabst now brews it in California). But brewing roots run deep in the area. Schmidt’s old brewhouses still stand above the Deschutes River, visible from Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. We enjoyed a very informative tour of Brewery Park, led by Public History Manager Don Trosper. Don led us around the park’s 0.5-mile loop trail, sharing the story of the land and how it became a park.
In 1950, the Schmidt family established the Olympia Tumwater Foundation to give back to the community. They donated 15 acres to the city, and in 1962 Tumwater Falls Park was built in anticipation of the Seattle World’s Fair. Today, the park is located right off I-5 and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
If you’ve ever seen the Olympia Beer logo and wondered where those iconic waterfalls and bridge can be found, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls is the answer. A replica of the famous Olympia Beer logo bridge now stands above the lower falls — a reminder of the impact a brewery (or any local business) can have on its community.
Beer in Olympia Today
A new wave of craft brewers have risen up in Olympia-Tumwater, from Fish Brewing to Matchless and Three Magnets. The new kid on the block is Well 80 Artesian Brewing, which sits over one of Olympia’s 96 artesian wells. After touring Brewery Park, we were excited to try Leopold’s #1 Lager — a scale version of Leopold’s first batch of beer from his original brewery in 1896. Well 80 brewer Paul Pearson teamed up with former Olympia Brewing Company brewmaster Paul Knight, using Leopold’s handwritten notes to bring the beer back to life.
Pearson gave us a quick brewery tour, pointing out well #80 in the brewhouse floor. His beers are brewed with 100% artesian water from the spring below. So. Damn. Cool. Well 80 picks up where Olympia Beer left off, honoring Olympia’s brewing legacy while embracing the future of beer. Pearson is crafting some seriously “well made” beers in the form of experimental IPAs, saisons, and barrel-aged brews. If you care about the history of beer in Washington, you need to check this place out!
There’s something special brewing in Olympia. And over 120 years after Leopold Schmidt founded his iconic brewery, it’s still the water.
Read more about Olympia beer in Brandon's story for Northwest Travel and Life magazine.