Saving the Old Brewhouse, one owl at a time

The Old Brewhouse (built in 1906 for gravity brewing) was home to the early Olympia Beer production, which began over 120 years ago in Tumwater. Preserving this iconic structure is important to our heritage. It’s the foundation of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center, which builds on the legacy of brewing by creating a destination for people to connect the past brewing tradition and experience the future of craft beer, cider, and spirits.

barn-owlOne of the most iconic buildings in the state, the Old Brewhouse was donated to the City of Tumwater earlier this year (2016). The building is in rough condition and needs some immediate attention. With help from the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, a group of volunteers is planning to install emergency weatherization measures (roof and window coverings) to protect the structure from further decay. But before this building is sealed up, a pair of barn owls who have used the tower as their nest for the past few years needed new nesting habitat.

First, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist confirmed the identity of the owls. Barn owls nest in the spring, therefore autumn and winter are good times to encourage them to find new places to rear their young.


Former Olympia Brewing Company brewmaster and volunteer, Paul Knight, mounts one of four new barn owl boxes near the Old Brewhouse

Next, volunteers from the Old Brewhouse Foundation constructed several owl boxes to serve as alternate nesting habitat. The boxes were designed with instructions from Cornell University (find them here). With permission from the property owner, the volunteers selected the best spots around the Old Brewhouse site and mounted the boxes this week. Four new nesting boxes now adorn trees on the property and will make great alternatives for nesting owls next spring.

The future of the Old Brewhouse

The City has applied for grants to fund a portion of the first phase of the Old Brewhouse rehabilitation. Additional monies will need to come through other grants, foundations, and private sources. The total cost to restore the Old Brewhouse is estimated to be $6.5 million.

How will the Old Brewhouse be used in the future? The six-story structure could be a viewing tower, a museum, a model gravity brewery, or a combination of uses. The answer will ultimately depend on  development of the remaining buildings on site, trail and road access, and a community conversation.

Learn more about barn owls  and the Old Brewhouse.

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