Antique Planes and Artisan Spirits Landing on March 11 – Washington Made Spirits Soar Again At The Olympic Flight Museum

Antique Planes and Artisan Spirits Landing on March 11 – Washington Made Spirits Soar Again At The Olympic Flight Museum

The Washington Distillers Guild will be holding the Second Annual South Sound Spirits Gathering at the Olympic Flight Museum on Saturday, March 11, 2017. This is a 21+ event, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., open to the public to enjoy spirit samples from 20 Washington State distilleries.

Tumwater City Administrator John Doan says, “We are excited to again be home to the South Sound Spirits Gathering. Washington’s spirits represent the bounty of the state, and skill and creativity of craft distillers. We invite everyone to come experience the spirits of Washington along with the hospitality of Tumwater.”

The Olympic Flight Museum will create a unique backdrop for the tasting, with several of the distillers on hand to answer questions about their products, the distillation process, and where the industry is heading. Washington Distillers Guild President Steve Stone says, “We are excited to showcase the variety of Washington spirits to the South Puget Sound community with the help of the City of Tumwater. We received such strong support from the surrounding communities last year that we had to make this an annual tasting event.”

In addition to the March 11th tasting, the Guild has organized the South Sound Distillery tour to take place March 10th. Tickets are available for an additional $25 and transportation is provided.

Bottle sales will be available, providing guests the chance to take home favorites as well as some less accessible Washington spirits, with a portion of the tax sales to benefit the Washington Distillers Guild. Lyft will be promoting SAFE RIDES for the event as well. New Lyft members may use the code: SAFERIDESSSG17 for free credits. Proceeds support the Washington Distillers Guild.

Ticket Sales begin on 2/10/2017 for the Second Annual South Sound Spirits Gathering at

Last year was a sold out event, so please plan ahead! Space is limited!

The support of the Olympic Flight museum and the Tumwater Lodging Tax Fund makes this event possible. Sponsoring hotels include Best Western of Tumwater and TownePlace Suites Olympia. Please contact the hotel to book.

For further information and sponsorship opportunities, contact Holly Robinson, Events Chair at Washington Distillers Guild,, 206-512-7896

Contact information for the general public:

Cider apples have terroir, too

Across the country, industrious entrepreneurs are creating unique craft beer, cider, and spirits with amazing stories. These beverages are really agricultural products and the source of their raw ingredients (apples, barley, wheat, or hops) is critical to the flavor profile. Producers of these craft beverages have discovered what farmers have long known. Like grapes that make great wine, these raw ingredients have a terroir – a unique set of characteristics related to climate, soil conditions, and farming practices that translate to unique characteristics and flavor profiles of beverages. This is true for apples too.

The owners of Aaron Burr Cider in rural New York State have proven that the source of their fruit is paramount to the uniqueness of their product. This husband and wife team collect cider apples by gleaning wild apple trees. It’s a labor of love that creates premium cider.

Watch Aaron Burr Cider’s Hard Cider the Hard Way story:cider-apple-have-terroir


Why are local grains important?

The Cascadia Grains Conference asked why local grains are important? Grains have unique flavors and characteristics, based on the region and conditions in which they’re grown. For producers and consumers of craft beer and spirits (and chefs, foodies, etc.), the expansion of local grains creates a robust palette to create and experience unique flavors, colors, and textures in food and beverages. Local grains are important to our economy and the future of craft beer and spirits. View the Why Local Grains? video.


PRODUCTION OF SMALL GRAIN CROPS – wheat, barley, oats, and rye – has been a key feature of farms in Western Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia since the fur-trade era of the mid‐1800s. Today, these crops and alternative grains (e.g. quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat) are grown in rotation with high‐value fruit, vegetable, and bulb crops, as well as on pastures and haylands. In addition to their economic value to the farmer, these crops have important agroecological functions on the farm, including reducing nutrient leaching, increasing soil organic matter, breaking disease and pest cycles, and providing on-farm feed sources.

CONSUMER DEMAND for local grains, whole grain products, and alternative and gluten-free grains has increased tremendously over the past few years. Farmers and processors have been responding with expanded and diversified plantings, differentiated products, and efforts to develop new supply-chains. Still, developing localized markets west of the Cascade Mountains is not easy as the Pacific Northwest grain economy is focused on a small set of market classes (e.g. soft white wheat) produced mainly east of the mountains for export to international and national markets. A primary challenge is the lack of critical handling and processing infrastructure, which has been moved, dismantled, or repurposed for non‐ agricultural uses. Also, the generational knowledge of growing grain has been lost in many corners of our region.

● Farmers learn about grain production, connect with scale‐appropriate buyers, and learn strategies on increasing demands for cereals used for artisan breads, brewing, distilling, and poultry and livestock feeds.
● Processors & end-users get an inside look into grain production, quality, and brokering relationships to get the grain you want and need.
● Investors, brokers & local government officials get the scoop on rising investment and policy opportunities.

Register today!


Local WSU Extension strengthening agriculture connections in Thurston County

Posted on behalf of Washington State University (WSU) Extension of Thurston County.

We envision a vibrant farming community, delicious fresh local food and beverages, an interlinked economy of producers, processors, brewers, distillers, bakers, restaurateurs, and practical agricultural research and education. The agriculture program at the WSU Thurston County extension office is proud to work on these issues with a diverse group of partners and organizations in South Puget Sound.

In 2017, the WSU Extension agriculture program in Thurston County is enthusiastic about several initiatives:

Join us at the 2017 Cascadia Grains Conference (January 6-7)

Once again WSU extension is working with a diverse, talented group of partners to put on the Cascadia Grains Conference. Our local office is coordinating the  “Economics of Grain” panel discussion on Saturday, January 7; and an equipment track gathering on Friday, January 6, for which we’re assembling a full-scale array of grain production equipment, and four expert grain producers to talk about equipment and how-to’s for establishing a grain enterprise in western Washington. Two other great options for Friday are the brewing and distilling tour, the hands-on baking workshop, and the pairing dinner at the Schmidt House. Register at

Craft brewing and distilling barley trials proposed

WSU Extension submitted a grant proposal to evaluate barley varieties for the craft brewing and distilling industries to support community-wide efforts to establish a Craft Brewing and Distilling Hub in Tumwater. If funded (keep your fingers crossed), we’ll utilize a breeder-extension-farmer-craft brewer/distiller collaboration to evaluate barley varieties for organic production and value-added processing. We hypothesize that unique flavors exist among the diverse germplasm in the WSU barley breeding program that will be of interest to craft maltsters, brewers and distillers. Nine barley breeding lines and/or varieties will be evaluated for valuable agronomic and end-use characteristics important to maltsters, brewers, distillers and farmers.

Small Farm and Ranch Management Class begins January 11

We’re very excited to offer this quarter-long class, January 11 – March 22, which provides practical information about whole farm planning, ecologically-based, diversified production systems, and alternative marketing techniques. Students will gain knowledge of the practical aspects of sustainable small acreage production systems for a wide variety of enterprises. The course involves guest lectures from local farmers, field trips, as well as classroom instruction. Students will develop a whole-farm plan during the class. Course instructors Lydia Beth Leimbach and Stephen Bramwell have over 25 combined years of experience in professional farming and farm production teaching. Register on our website.

More research and education initiatives!

Other initiatives we are working on for 2017 include farmer workshops (topics such as hoop house construction), a rotational grazing research initiative to co-manage for critical species and livestock production, farm nutrient management planning, and others. For updates, you can sign up for our e-newsletter updates (contact, or visit our Facebook page ( or visit WSU Thurston County agriculture program website (

Turn the pages of “50 Images from the Archives” to unfold a brewing legacy

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation published an online book with 50 Images from their archives, featuring a sample of photos from the Olympia Brewing Company and the founding Schmidt family.

50 Images from the Archives



Click image to view “50 Images from the Archives.”


You’ll find Tumwater’s first “Artesian” well and more photos and story captions about building a brewing legacy. Thanks to our partners at Olympia Tumwater Foundation for sharing gems from their archives! We’re working together to Bring Brewing Back!

The work was funded in part by the Thurston County Heritage Grant Program. More images will be available to the public in 2017.

Contact the Olympia Tumwater Foundation at (360) 943-2550 for more information.

A new program is brewing

Tell anyone in the Northwest that you are from Olympia and they usually connect it to the Olympia Brewery and historic brewhouse.  And even though they no longer operate, they have set Thurston County apart as a center for brewing and distilling.

wa-state-ranksPhenomenal growth in the craft beer, cider, and spirits industries has led to a lot of local buzz. Washington State, a national and global leader in these areas, provides an ideal location to further grow these industries. And just like any industry boom, education is needed to support the new workforce and funnel new jobs into the local economy.

That’s why SPSCC is excited to bring a new program with three areas of focus to our South Sound community: Craft Brewing and Distilling.

What has SPSCC been doing?

Preparing to launch a world-class educational program in Fall 2017

SPSCC has worked with the community and a board of industry advisors to build a program outline for Craft Brewing and Distilling (which also includes cider-making). The program outline was endorsed of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges in Nov. 2016 and our team is now continuing the collaboration to develop curriculum for the new program, which should wrap up in Spring 2017. Cider Making and Brewing studies are set to launch in Fall 2017 with Distilling to follow one year later in Fall 2018.

Developing state-of-the-art craft beverage facilities

Every new program needs the space to learn and complete labs in. SPSCC, in collaboration with the City of Tumwater, is seeking a public/private partnership to develop the facilities needed for education, business incubators, and industry support. This space is forecasted to created 662 jobs locally with ripple effects across agriculture, supply chain and business sectors.

Offering non-credit classes to the community

In addition to program-building, the college has been building relationships with local craft beverage makers and gauging community interest by offering non-credit classes in brewing and distilling classes for more than a year.  Upcoming classes include:

Learn more about our progress

Stay up-to-date on program development and additional milestone achievements.  Follow this blog and receive email updates when we’ve got something great to share.

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.


Wannabe winos and aspiring distillers alike will find something to explore with a variety of tasting rooms, tours and classes around Thurston County. While plans brew for the recently proposed Craft Brewing and Distilling Center spearheaded by the City of Tumwater in partnership with South Puget Sound Community College (more information here), chart your tasting tour with some of the ideas below. Leave the driving to the experts with a custom tour by Lifestyle Valet. For those who choose to self-tour, don’t forget to find a driver!

  • Blind Pig Spirits recently set up a tasting room in downtown Olympia to sample it’s five small batch products ranging from Apple Pie Moonshine to Single Malt Vodka. Tasters can take it a step further with the Moonshine 101This hands-on workshop teaches distilling basics and includes a batch of booze and a t-shirt.
  •   Sandstone Distillery in Tenino pairs distillery tours and tastings of its artisan spirits with a side of local history inspired by the region’s Sandstone quarries. Given the Bourdon family’s longtime roots in this region and also in honor of the industry for which the business is named, distiller John Bourdon cold-filters his Vodka through fractured sandstone. The result is a clean, crisp spirit with a true connection to its source. Make sure to ask for a peek of his new 1940’s era tank that’s currently being restored to its original glory. It’s a great story of local history coming back to life as told by KING 5 – watch for yourself at this link.
  • Situated conveniently in the Lacey Libation District, Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs serves up sips of its handcrafted organic liqueurs infused with flavors of herbs and fruit. With nearly 20 different flavors of small batch, organic goodness, tasters will find a variety of liqueurs to sample ranging savory sage or fennel to sweet rose petal or honeysuckle.
  • Fish Brewing Company in Olympia recently received the “Best Beer in the World” for Fish Tale Ale’s Beyond the Pale at the World Beer. Stop in to sample this award-winning ale, and choose from 15 other artisanal breweries on your South Sound Craft Crawl. This tour begins with a map of participating breweries that will stamp a special “Craft Crawler’s Course” passport at each stop. Maps may be picked up at the Visitor Information Center (103 Sid Snyder Avenue), in addition to each brewery throughout the south sound. A full list of breweries and printable map and passport can be found at
  • If sipping fine wines is more your pace, don’t miss the South Sound Wine Trail. From the fancy prohibition-era tasting room at Medicine Creek Winery to Stottle Winery’s sleek spot, the six vintners on the trail offer award-winning sips and a unique northwest experience. Click here for a map that will help chart the course.

 Thurston County is truly becoming a craft lover’s paradise. Stay tuned for more updates and additions to the craft culture.





CRAFT is revitalizing our community

The craft movement is helping to bring brewing back to Tumwater—the home of Olympia Beer for more than a century.

Redevelopment of the former Olympia Beer brewery in Tumwater is a City priority. Supported by a broad cross-section of the community and facilitated by many partners, the City of Tumwater has led efforts to move toward the vision of a revitalized brewery and district. The strategy has been to break the project into smaller elements (bite-sized pieces), remove barriers, and catalyze investment and reuse of the industrial complex that sits in the heart of our community. The entire site encompasses over 1 million square feet with historic, cultural, and industrial significance. Here’s an update on a few of the many moving parts to the brewery redevelopment project.

Our strategy

The Brewery Action Plan is a strategy developed in 2011, based on extensive community visioning, which has been updated regularly to reflect accomplishments and changes in conditions relating to infrastructure, ownership, priorities, and funding opportunities. Find it on the City website at

Preserving our heritage

trail-and-brewhouseOne of the most iconic structures in Washington State, the Old Brewhouse is a landmark that stands as a reminder of our brewing and industrial roots. The structure itself was donated to the City earlier in the year. A group of volunteers is working on plans to install emergency protections—roofing and window coverings—to weatherize it and reduce the rate of decay. The City has applied for grants in order to fund a portion of the first phase of 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.

Creating public access and trails

Trails bring recreation opportunities and add options for getting around the community. The City is actively seeking funding to build the Deschutes Valley Trail to connect Pioneer Park to Historical Park and eventually the brewery site. A section of the trail through Historical Park was completed this year. An additional section will be constructed next year. An easement across the historic brewery site was acquired this year as well, providing one more connection for our future regional trail system.

Paying homage

Brewing was the lifeblood of Tumwater for decades. The craft beverage movement is the future. The Craft Brewing & Distilling Center will support the growing craft beer, cider, and spirits movement. The  “hub” will provide education and training for aspiring entrepreneurs and their staff, business incubators to help more business launch, and complimentary business that connect elements and expand the supply chain. Follow the stories and activities of partners on our website at See how we’re helping to bring brewing back to Tumwater.

Teaching “craft” — South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) has developed programs to teach brewing, distilling, and cider-making, as well as skills to grow strong businesses. These emerging craft beverage industries are in need of specialize training, and what better place than Tumwater, known for almost a century of brewing. SPSCC will work with private developers to build a teaching facility in Tumwater. The location will be announced in the coming months. For now, you can register for a wide variety of recreational and introductory classes. Check out their website to register.

Business incubators — Thanks to a grant from the Washington State Community Economic and Revitalization Board (CERB), a consultant team is helping evaluate a business incubator project to facilitate start-ups and scale-ups, specifically for makers of craft beer, cider, and spirits.

Stay tuned as this story continues to unfold…

What wine can teach us

How a five hour drive to wine country is helping us expose the critical role of education in craft beverage making.

img_2433We recently traveled to Walla Walla, Wash., for a chance to meet with representatives from Walla Walla Community College’s Enology & Viticulture program.  A staple in the explosion of the region’s wine industry since 2001, Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) offers degree programs for wine enthusiasts and future vintners and viticulturists, and has become an inspiration for the craft brewing, distilling, and cider making programs in the works at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC).

Thanks to our WWCC hosts Melissa Thiessen and Jess Gilmore, our thirst for knowledge was quenched at College Cellars, the college’s tasting room and home of the Enology & Viticulture program.  We walked away with the confidence that we’re making the right steps at SPSCC—and with three key lessons that we’re ready to put to work in Thurston County.

1. Introduce non-credit classes before degree program launch to gauge community interest.

img_2424WWCC was quick to identify the importance of offering non-credit classes to see what level of interest the community has in different areas of craft beverage arts.  For example, WWCC offers certificates and degrees in Wine Business, Fermentation Sciences, Viticulture, and transfer AAS degrees.  But they also offer wine appreciation and wine tasting classes to community and visitors to the region.  Our hosts recommended offering 2-3 non-credit classes per quarter, a good fit for them, and that non-credit courses involve a chance to taste the beverages and have a lot of fun.

Strategically, we’re on track and doing most of this already.  Upcoming non-credit classes with community partners are helping us fine-tune program details and curriculum, including ‘So You Want to Start a Brewery?’ with Top Rung Brewing Company, ‘Brewing Science for the Home Brewer – Dark Beer’ with Fish Brewing Company, and ‘The Language of Whiskey’ with The Whiskey People.  We also take advantage of meeting more local brewers, distillers, and cider makers and learning what they’re looking for from future employees.

2. Maintain strong relationships with community partners and other college programs as for-credit educational programs develop.

 img_2428A great part about a community college launching a craft beverage program is that it already offers programs that closely relate to and support the new program.  WWCC shared the close relationship between their Culinary and Enology & Viticulture programs for dinners paired with their wines.  They also shared the importance of connecting to community agriculture and statewide alliances and guilds, and having a strong and active advisory committee.

From business to science to culinary, there are many obvious intersections between existing SPSCC programs and upcoming Craft Brewing, Distilling, and Cider Making programs.  We intend to leverage the outstanding cuisine of our Culinary Arts students with the craft beverages we develop in our new programs, offering paired dinners, tastings, and events for our community.  We also value the relationships we’ve been developing with local brewers, distillers, and cider makers, as well as the Washington Brewers Guild, the Washington Distillers Guild, and the Northwest Cider Association.  Finally, we’re lucky to have passionate staff and faculty that are ready to see this program to a successful launch with the help of community connections and our partners with the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center.

3. Education is critical in preparing a region for tremendous growth and economic impact.

img_2420WWCC received grants in 2006 and 2011 to evaluate the economic impact of the industry on the regional economy, totaling an impressive $96 million in 2011.  Currently conducting another study, the college’s economic impact projections are pointed at upwards of $300 million.

WWCC shared this—and we share this now—because it is important to have the data that identifies the areas of growth.  We strongly believe that the impact WWCC made in its region can be replicated in Thurston County in craft brewing, distilling, and cider making.

In fact, a recent feasibility study estimates that the creation of a craft brewing and distilling center in Thurston County would create 662 jobs and put $101 million into the local economy.  But it starts with the education that SPSCC will provide through its new programs and education will be the backbone of the growth.  We’re proud to be the ones serving the community in this capacity.

Learn more about our progress

Stay up-to-date on program development and additional milestone achievements.  Follow this blog and receive email updates when we’ve got something great to share.