Pabst Brewing Company, has decided to discontinue the production of Olympia, which used to be one of the leading beer brands in the Pacific Northwest for half of a century and even gained nationwide distribution in the 1960s and 1970s.
The beer brand is part of Pabst’s large portfolio of legacy beer brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Lone Star, Rainier, Stroh’s, Old Style and Schlitz. When Eugene Kashper, a Soviet immigrant and American entrepreneur bought Pabst Brewing Company in 2014, he had the idea to revive many of the old American beer brands. He was very successful with Pabst’s main brand Pabst Blue Ribbon which won the "best large brewing company of the year" award at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015. Last year the company announced to bring Schaefer Beer, another legacy beer brand, back to its traditional location in New York City (inside.beer, 23.9.2020)
“While we’ve spent several years trying to bring Olympia Beer back home to be brewed locally, we’ve also witnessed a growing decline in its demand,” the company posted on its Instagram page. “Sadly, we have not been able to find a solution to the challenges posed by the reduced beer sales and have had to make the difficult decision of temporarily pausing production of Olympia Beer,” the statement continues.
Olympia Brewery was founded in the town of Turmwater, Washington by Leopold Schmidt, a German immigrant in 1896. After the end of prohibition, Olympia beer became very popular in the North-West and eventually expanded nationwide in the decades to come. In 1983 the Schmidt family sold the brewery to G. Heileman Brewing Company from La Crosse Wisconsin. In the following years the Olympia brand and brewery passed through several hands until the brand together with many other legacy beer brands was bought in 1999 by Pabst Brewing Company. The brewery in Turmwater, however, stayed with Miller Brewing and was closed down in 2003.
Olympia was best known for its slogan of, “It’s the Water” which stated from the early 1950s and which referred to the brewing water which was obtained from artesian wells. However, when production was moved away from Turmwater, Washington, the use of this water was discontinued.
In 2019 the company was accused for false advertising . “Pabst Brewing Company, LLC is falsely creating the impression in the minds of its consumers that its Olympia beer products are exclusively brewed using artesian water in Washington, when in fact, the beers are now brewed in a mass-production brewery located in Los Angeles County, California,” the plaintiff wrote in the lawsuit. As a consequence Pabst had to change its advertising for Olympia.
Last year, Pabst teamed up with the distillers Ray Watson and Lesa Givens. Together they built a distillery in Tumwater, less than 10 minutes away from the old and closed Olympia Brewery. The new distillery launched Olympia Artesian Vodka in March but due to COVID-19 the project was delayed.
The first sales later the same year were encouraging, which means that for the time being the Olympia brand will live on as Vodka. Pabst leaves it open if Olympia as a beer brand will also come back.
“We are proud that Olympia’s story will continue in Tumwater at Olympia Distilling Co., helmed by life-long residents and master distillers from our region, and we remain hopeful that we can bring our beloved beer home someday,” the Instagram page reads. “We are dedicated to carrying on Leopold Schmidt’s legacy and ensuring that Olympia’s story lives on for many years to come.”