Iconic Olympia brewhouse coming back to life in Tumwater

TUMWATER, Wash. -- One of the most recognizable buildings in the Olympia area is the old Olympia Brewhouse in Tumwater.

For years, Tumwater was a company town, and the company was Olympia Beer.

Now the community is trying to breathe new life into the old brewhouse.

“I’ve studied this thing to the point when I walk inside it, I can almost smell the product being brewed, almost hear the sounds of equipment running and people talking,” said Paul Knight, the last brewmaster for Olympia Beer before it stopped operations in Tumwater decades ago.

While he’s studied the old brewhouse for years, Knight never actually worked there. Prohibition in 1920 shut down beer-making in the brewhouse. It became abandoned, and by many, forgotten.

But now there's a plan to reopen it.

“We get inquiries every day about what is going to happen with the place,” said Ann Cook, communications manager for city of Tumwater.

The tower was turned over to the city in 2016, and Tumwater officials then created an ambitious $6 million plan to rehab and retrofit the brewhouse and open it to the public.

“We haven’t gotten past the point where the building can’t be saved,” said cook. “We’ve seen support already in the community to get it stabilized, and then move forward.”

Volunteers helped stop the crumbling bricks with a temporary roof, while also shoring up the walls.

The city is on the fast track, hoping to reopen the brewhouse to the public within the next five to six years. Ideas include a museum, a craft brewery to preserve the legacy, along with restaurants and shops.

Olympia’s former brewmaster Paul Knight can’t wait until the fencing is finally gone and people can return to this icon of a region.

“It’s just sacred ground is what it is.”

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