Brewing an industry through innovation and partnership

How does a community create a dynamic and vibrant economic sector that enables local businesses to thrive, provide jobs and opportunities, and puts itself on the map as center of excellence, attracting visitors and customers from around the region and world? Create a unique business ecosystem to foster growth and innovation in a focused industry.

The Thurston Craft Brewing and Distilling Innovation Partnership Zone (Craft Brewing IPZ) was created in 2015 to help this community do just that. A designation through the Washington State Department of Commerce, the IPZ helps the region create an environment to grow the craft brewing and distilling industry. A number of partners – Thurston Economic Development Council, Washington State University, South Puget Sound Community College, City of Tumwater, Port of Olympia, as well as several local existing brewers and distillers and other community partners – have joined forces to foster a world-class industry right in our own backyard.

The partners have created a ten-year vision for IPZ activities, which include:

  • Establishing a craft brewing and distilling center
  • Creating training certifications and/or curricula in craft brewing and distilling at SPSCC
  • Establishing a cluster of successful producers and marketers of craft beers, ciders and distilled spirits
  • Fostering a network of local producers and farmers who grow the raw ingredients used in the products

The goal of the partners that participate in the IPZ is that these activities will help to create a nationally and internationally recognized regional brand for craft beers, ciders and spirits that rivals “Florida Oranges” or “Swiss Cheese.”

People looking to start in this industry, and businesses wanting to grow, will find a plethora of support activities – non-credit classes and curriculum through SPSCC, a partnership-based communications strategy and platform to share the stories of our success, technical training for businesses to improve their operations, an identified supply-chain for local grain producers, as well as many other things. To learn more about the Craft Brewing IPZ, please contact the Thurston Economic Development Council at 360-754-6320.

Grains conference focuses on local agriculture, west of the Cascades

Great grains are the key to premium craft products. The Cascadia Grains Conference brings together farmers, processors and end‐users, as well as investors, researchers, brokers and local government officials to support rebuilding a grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The two-day conference will explore value-added enterprises, including brewing and distilling, baking, and other food uses, as well as animal feed. The 2017 Conference is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, January 6 and 7.

Day 1: Friday, January 6, 2017cascadia field trip 2016-2.JPG

The afternoon field trips feature three tracks: brewing & distilling tours (including the historic Olympia Beer brewery), baking, and an equipment track. Registration will be open soon on the event website.

Day 2: Saturday, January 7, 2017

Attend workshops, networking activities, and experience great foods and craft beverages that showcase Cascadia grains. There are special sessions designed specifically for brewers and distillers.

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


Registration is now open for the 5th annual Cascadia Grains Conference,  held at South Puget Sound Community College. For information and to register, go to:

Together, we tell the stories of CRAFT!

Amazing things are happening in our community and across the State to advance the craft beer, cider, and spirits movement. Washington is poised to use this CRAFT movement to create a ripple effect that grows jobs, return on investments, and thriving communities. Together, we’re doing our part to support that growth by creating a Craft Brewing & Distilling Center. This hub builds on Tumwater’s legacy of brewing to benefit our Thurston County community and CRAFT.

We’ve created a BLOG (and website)—that you can follow—to keep up with the exciting activities, investments, programs, and events that grow CRAFT and the hub. We’re telling the stories of real people in our community and beyond, that are taking amazing and innovative actions to make great craft beverages, to grow heritage grains and specialty agriculture, create new markets, expand entrepreneurial jobs and to connect their communities through CRAFT.

Private business and public agencies—South Puget Sound Community College, Thurston Economic Development Council and the Center for Business & Innovation, and the City of Tumwater, for starters—will share stories about how CRAFT and the Craft Brewing & Distilling Center are making a big impact that ripples across the economy. Revitalizing the former Olympia Beer brewery and restoring the iconic Old Brewhouse in Tumwater are the genesis of the partnership and those stories will be shared here too.

Follow the BLOG

Visit our website at and follow the BLOG to learn how you can be a part of growing CRAFT and help our community continue to thrive.

Distill, My Brewing Heart

Building education in craft brewing, craft distilling, and cider making

In 2015, South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) and numerous community partners recognized a huge opportunity for regional growth—we have the potential to become a nationwide leader in the craft brewing, cider, and distilling industries.  With more than 250 craft breweries and 100 micro distilleries in the state, we’re already right at the top for concentration of breweries and distilleries nationwide.

Washington state—and Thurston County in particular—is uniquely positioned to have a meaningful impact on all aspects of these industries.   You’ve probably already heard talk of renovating historic buildings and constructing new facilities, but the first—and arguably most important—step is to ensure that our community is educated in the business, craft, and potential reach of these industries.

Enter SPSCC: already a trusted resource for Thurston County’s educational needs.  SPSCC has been part of the conversations since day one and we’re ready to share the behind the scenes work we’ve been doing to ensure that our community is educated for the rise of distilling and brewing in Thurston County.

What we’ve been learning

In order to provide the needed education, we had to learn quite a bit ourselves.  Let us share some of what it will take to make this a success in our community.

Washington State already has a successful model: Walla Walla
What wine has done for Walla Walla, craft brewing and distilling can do for Thurston County.  Since its inception, the Walla Walla IPZ Wine Cluster has generated more than 2,000 jobs in wine production and wine tourism and more than $230 million dollars in regional earnings, and has grown overall employment in the region by 11% at a time when the state as a whole saw only 1% job growth.  They did it by starting with a strong educational program led by the Enology and Viticulture programs at Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University, adding in a collection of community partners who had common interests (through shared supply chains, labor pools, and inter-industry trade), and a focus on taking actions that benefited the entire industry cluster.  The result? “Walla Walla = Wine.” It is a critical part of the region’s identity.

Thurston County will see a significant positive economic impact
DSC05497“Olympia = Beer” doesn’t just have to be a notion of the past.  Thanks to a rich history of brewing success, strong agricultural roots (especially grains and hops), a booming food production core, demonstrated community support for entrepreneurship and business development, ever-increasing tourism, and a robust supply chain of everything from barrels to graphic designers, Thurston County would need to outsource very little and would enjoy a tight local network to support this industry.  In fact, a recent feasibility study estimates that the creation of this regional cluster would create 662 jobs and put $101 million into the local economy.  With those results, Thurston County could cement itself as a world-class hub for these small businesses to share ideas, build their businesses, and build their workforce.

How SPSCC is moving forward

While we’re excited about the impact we’ll see once this industry growth is actualized, there’s a lot of work that goes into development, funding, and educating the community.  SPSCC is moving rapidly developing the needed education.

theexperienceweb-32While we haven’t implemented for-credit education quite yet, SPSCC is offering a wide array of non-credit classes. Classes are presented in partnership with local craft brewers and distillers.  These businesses have stated that demand for their products is far out-pacing their ability to supply it.  They’re getting involved so they can be part of educating the next generation of brewers and distillers, office staff, machinists, and food scientists that will soon be members of their teams and industry community.

SPSCC is rapidly moving forward with planning for curriculum, instruction space, and staffing for our craft brewing, cider, and distilling education options.  Brewing and Cider programs are forecasted to launch in fall 2017 and Distilling will follow one year later, all pending State Board approval.

To align with a fall 2017 program launch, SPSCC is actively considering locations for lab-focused course instruction.  We’re looking for facilities that are close to the heart of Thurston County and meet the size and equipment requirements to house these programs.  Our longer-term vision, however, is to build or renovate facilities on campus or in combination with community partners through the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center.

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.

Master Distiller sees value in Craft Brewing and Distilling Center education program

“As a professional distiller and the proprietor of a single malt whiskey distillery in Seattle, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges in acquiring the necessary knowledge to improve my work; I had to leave the country to get that education. In my opinion, the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center has the potential to not only service the thriving brewing and distilling communities in the Pacific Northwest who wish to push themselves to the next level, but provide educational opportunities that rival or even exceed the caliber of the existing global programs.”

—Matt Hofmann, Master Distiller, Westland Distillery

City of Tumwater

The City of Tumwater is a founding partner of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center, with primary interest in catalyzing redevelopment of the former Olympia Beer brewery located in the heart of Tumwater. The City continues to convene partners to advance local and regional efforts to revitalize the brewery, create a resilient economy around craft beer, cider, and spirits that benefits communities beyond Tumwater.

The City of Tumwater holds the vision that the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center hub offers a unique opportunity to grow and celebrate the art of craft of brewing, distilling, and cider-making in a collaborative environment, at a location where Northwest brewing earned its reputation for quality over a century ago. The pinnacle of this hub will reside in the beautiful and historic heart of Tumwater where the cascading falls of the Deschutes River meet the southernmost tip of Puget Sound. The site is adjacent to Washington State’s Capitol with visibility and access from Interstate 5. The hub is positioned to generate:

  • A talented and innovative workforce and new jobs
  • An expanded craft beverage industry that benefits the local and regional economy
  • Sustainable local farming opportunities
  • Economic development and museums to support cultural and eco-tourism
  • An attractive destination that honors history and culture of indigenous people, American settlers, and the evolution of craft beer, cider, and spirits
  • Infrastructure and environmental enhancement to revitalize and restore the core of Tumwater

Visit our website:


John Doan, City Administrator,, (360) 754-4120

Heidi Behrends Cerniwey, Assistant City Administrator/Brewery Project Manager,,  (360) 754-4128


South Puget Sound Community College

Center for Craft Brewing and Distilling

South Puget Sound Community College is a founding partner in the revival of the region’s craft brewing and distilling industry.

Graphic that describes the economic impact of the brewing and distilling industry in Thurston County. The graphic includes agriculture, business, education, retail, travel and entertainment, finance, transportation, manufacturing and construction, and wholesale. The total impact is the addition of 662 local jobs and 101 million dollars into the local economy.For SPSCC, this opportunity is rooted in providing education to build the workforce that will be the backbone of this growth. This means not only developing ground-breaking curriculum that is specific to the science and art of brewing and distilling, but also leveraging existing curriculum in fields such as business administration, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and more to support every aspect of this industry.

While continually working with local and regional stakeholders to ensure a strong infrastructure, supply chain, and job opportunities are in place, we are primarily focused on developing state-of-the-art curricular offerings that will position our graduates to not just work in the industry, but to lead the industry.

This program will lead to long-term, living-wage jobs for hundreds of people in our local community and thousands throughout the region.

What is SPSCC currently doing?

spscc-doing-1    spscc-doing-2    spscc-doing-3


Summer 2016

  • Development of minimum space requirements and assessment
  • Establish advisory committee for program(s) development

Fall 2016

  • Prepare Program Approval Request (PAR) for the State Board (SBCTC) for Brewing, Cider, and Distilling programs

Winter/Spring 2017

  • Develop for-credit Brewing and Cider program curriculum
  • Recruit faculty for Brewing and Cider program

Fall 2017

  • Launch for-credit Brewing and Cider programs

In 2018

  • Develop Distilling program curriculum*
  • Launch for-credit Distilling program*

*Contingent upon SBCTC approval of the Program Approval Request

How you can get involved now

SPSCC currently offers classes that introduce people to craft brewing and distilling through partnerships with local craft producers.  These classes help people to connect with the legacy of brewing through tours of the Old Brewhouse site and create recreational opportunities to educate consumers about craft beer, cider, and spirits, and the art and science of the craft.  Find these classes on our website at

SPSCC provides training to a talented, creative, and diverse workforce across trades and disciplines.  Through a partnership with the Thurston Economic Development Council, we operate the Center for Business and Innovation and offer business development training, mentorship, and services to entrepreneurs. SPSCC work closely with industry partners to establish and customize programs in to meet the needs of those industries.  We are part of a college network in Washington State with 34 partners that collaborate and share resources to strengthen today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.


Noel Rubadue
Dean for Corporate & Continuing Education
(360) 754-7711 ext 2011

Thurston Economic Development Council

The Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) provides regional services to enhance the economic fabric and vitality of Thurston County. The Thurston EDC provides a mix of programs and projects that supply entrepreneurs, small businesses, firms, and partner organizations with comprehensive and innovative services to support their growth and the strengthen diversity of the local economy. The Thurston EDC administers the Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) that connects local brewers, distillers, and cider-makers with connections to workforce development, industry-specific training services, and research institutions to grow strong businesses and markets around craft beer, cider, and spirits. Through the Center for Business & Innovation (jointly operated with South Puget Sound Community College), local entrepreneurs are supported with services and resources to achieve their first success – or their next success.

Center for Business & Innovation (CB&I)
Celia Nightingale, Center for Business and Innovation, Director
(360) 754-6320

Thurston EDC
(360) 754-6320

Washington State

Washington State Department of Commerce designated a Craft Brewing & Distilling Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ). This partnership was developed to advance craft brewing, distilling, and cider-making in the region. It is strong on education and workforce development, entrepreneurship, industry, research, and public partners to accelerate economic advancement and innovation. Spearheaded by the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC), plus South Puget Sound Community College, School of Food Science at Washington State University/University of Idaho, the City of Tumwater and a platform of local brewers, cider-makers, and distillers. The application was supported by the cities of Olympia and Lacey, and the Port of Olympia. The work of the IPZ is based in industry. Programs are developed around customized industry needs, and more importantly, the business behind it. Find more about Washington State’s Innovation Partnership Zones.

WSU Extension

For over 100 years, Washington State University (WSU) has been connecting with you, your neighbors, and your community through our Extension programs. Every day, Thurston County Extension works to extend the university’s knowledge—addressing real-world issues to help find new opportunities for our farmers, natural resource managers, families, young people, and business leaders to become successful and thrive. WSU Extension Thurston County is the agricultural advocate for the Craft Brewing & Distilling Center Hub.

WSU Extension Thurston County provides research-based information and educational programs to farmers, consumers, decision-makers, and others involved in the South Puget Sound food (and beverage) system. WSU Extension is a founding partner in the Craft Brewing & Distilling Center Hub in Tumwater and Thurston County, Washington.


Thurston County’s farmland is rapidly disappearing. Between 2002 and 2007, the acreage of actively farmed land has dropped nearly in half – from 74,420 acres to 38,718 acres. Since the mid 1950s, when Thurston County was primarily farmland, the County has lost over 75 percent of its working agricultural lands.Though the land area dedicated to agricultural activities has been steadily eroding, agricultural production it is still of significant importance to the County’s economy. The total market value of agricultural production in Thurston County is about $118 million from 1,288 farms, with crops accounting for approximately 42% of the total and livestock and poultry the remaining 58% (U.S. Census of Agriculture). These figures are greater than that of all adjacent counties.

Programs and Classes

Find all the local initiatives like farmer workshops (topics such as hoop house construction), craft brewing and distilling barley trials, a rotational grazing research initiative to co-manage for critical species and livestock production, farm nutrient management planning, and more on our website. WSU Extension Thurston County was a key partner in developing the Cascadia Grains Conference, hosted in our community since 2015.


For updates, you can sign up for our e-newsletter contact ), or visit our Facebook page ( or visit WSU Thurston County agriculture program website at

Stephen Bramwell, Extension Director and Agriculture Faculty
(360) 867-2161