In 1895 Leopold Schmidt, a politician and brewer from Montana, traveled to Olympia with the Montana State Capital Commission to observe the construction of the New Washington State Capital Building. During his visit, he was introduced to Olympia’s artesian water. Immediately impressed, he sent a sample to a laboratory where his belief was confirmed, “With this water, I can brew better beer than ever!” The next year, at the foot of Tumwater Falls, the Olympia Brewing Company was born, and until it closed on June 27, 2003, their beer was made with water from the artesian wells, made famous by the slogan, “It’s the Water”.
Life Magazine once said about Olympia Beer, “The secret is simply water…Few such waters have ever been discovered. One of these waters, naturally perfect for brewing, flows from deep artesian wells in Olympia, Washington.” The water has been carbon-dated to be over 3,000 years old and comes from a vast subterranean reservoir called the Tumwater Sand aquifer. The aquifer was formed at the start of the Holocene Epoch, roughly 12,000 years ago as the Vashon Glacier withdrew at the end of the great ice age.
In 1939, a survey of artesian wells in Olympia identified and numbered ninety-six individual wells. The well in the back of our building was designated as Well #80, with an average flow rate of 35 gallons per minute and a constant temperature of 53 degrees. When we were first shown the well inside the building our mission was clear: We had to find a way to bring this amazing resource back to brewing.
Paul Knight, Brewmaster at the Olympia Brewing Company from 1974 to 1997 once said, “I was amazed by the correlation by what we were doing back in the 1970s and what the original brewmasters were doing in the 1800s. We were making very much the same beer as they made in 1896.”
At Well 80, our goal is to follow in the footsteps of Leopold Schmidt, Paul Knight, and all the other pioneers that made great beer from some of the best water in the world.